Location guide for filming in Croatia


Overview

Croatia has been growing in popularity as a filming location over the last few years. Great locations, hard-working crews and low production costs are all reinforced by a government-backed incentive programme that came into effect in 2012.

The process of shooting in Croatia is made easier by the Croatian Audiovisual Centre, which was set up in 2008 to “stimulate a successful, vibrant audiovisual industry.” Its remit ranges from supporting production, distribution, exhibition, marketing and promotion, to professional training and supporting the national film archive through public subsidies.

As explained below, Croatia is particularly popular with commercials producers but has also seen a major boost from the arrival of HBO’s fantasy TV series The Game of Thrones. Series 4 of the show was one of the first productions to take advantage of the new incentives referred to above.

In terms of the macro-economic picture, Croatia has just about returned to growth after three or four years in recession. It has also recently joined the EU, which means business links with the rest of the continent should improve. It wants to adopt the Euro, but there is no set timeframe on when that will happen.

When it comes to the cost of shooting in Croatia, Emerge Film Solutions says: “On average Croatia costs 10% less than Czech or Hungary for old world looks and 20% less than Italy for Mediterranean looks. The Croatian Kuna offers a favorable exchange rate (but) the need to travel all local crew and equipment from Zagreb can add significantly to costs.

Domestically, the country is not especially bureaucratic, but there are some labour law issues that producers find unhelpful and are lobbying to change. It’s also wise to avoid popular locations in the height of summer because they are packed. This makes it harder to secure the necessary film permits.

Recent Productions

Croatia is a popular destination for commercials producers because of its great locations and low costs. High-profile campaigns shot here include Lynx’s Even Angels Will Fall, which used Split to double for an old-fashioned Italian town.

Swiss home furnishings supplier Pfister also used Croatia to double for post-war rural Italy in its commercial Journey. The key locations in that ad were the towns of Buzet and Lovrec.

While commercials producers are regular visitors, the biggest story in recent times was HBO’s decision to use Dubrovnik as the backdrop for King’s Landing in its fantasy series Game Of Thrones. HBO first visited Croatia for Season 2 and returned for Seasons 3 and 4. For Season 4, it added locations around Split.

Film highlights include Peter Greenaway’s 2012 film Goltzius and the Pelican Company which shot in Croatia during 2011. A Dutch-Croatian-French-British co-production, it was supported by The Croatian Audiovisual Centre and Eurimages among others.

Other films to have been shot in Croatia during the last decade include Carlo Gabriel Nero's The Fever (2004), starring Vanessa Redgrave and Angelina Jolie, and Richard Shepard’s Hunting Party (2007), starring Richard Gere and Terence Howard. The UK mini-series Casanova (2005) also filmed here.

Permits

No official permission is required for feature film shoots or any other type of production other than permission from the owner or the authority responsible for the location in question. However all productions filming in Croatia are obliged to register with HAVC by filling out the standardised form, which can be obtained from HAVC or downloaded from the following link:www.havc.hr/filming_registration_form.

HAVC recommends teaming up with a local production company “as local know-how of policies and procedures will greatly reduce the time spent on preparing and executing your project”. A Croatian partner can also help with obtaining funding, sourcing production services and providing local knowledge/contacts.

Tax breaks / incentives

The Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC) was set up in 2008 to help stimulate the local production industry. Under CEO Hrvoje Hribar, it is widely acknowledged to have done a good job of promoting and stimulating the country’s production sector while also encouraging more inward investment.

The HAVC’s efforts were boosted in 2012 when Croatia’s Parliament greenlit a 20% cash rebate aimed at film and television productions made in the country. TV genres covered by the incentive include documentaries, animation and TV drama.

In terms of the numbers, the minimum local spend per project is €300,000 and the maximum qualifying spend per project is €3m. The HAVC adds the following detail: “The benefit is based on the cost of Croatian cast and crew working in Croatia, as well as goods and services purchased in Croatia up to a maximum value of 80 per cent of the overall budget spent in Croatia.”

The rationale for the incentive was to keep Croatia competitive with its Central and Eastern European rivals. It was designed in partnership with the HAVC & the Croatian Producers’ Association. In order to be eligible, foreign producers are expected to work with a Croatian co-producer and satisfy a cultural test.

Studios

The Jadran Film Studio is the most famous studio. Founded it 1946, it grew to become one of the biggest and most notable studios in central Europe during the 1950s and 1960s, hosting around 145 international productions including Orson Welles’ 1962 adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial. Things have been quieter since then but it is still a valuable part of the Croatian film and TV industry, offering five sound stages and various other buildings/offices.

Aside from Jadran, HAVC says: “In addition to a few smaller studios, there are a number of ware- houses and open lots throughout the country that are regularly adapted by local production companies for large-scale shoots.”

Jadran has some post-production facilities but companies still generally prefer to do their post outside Croatia. Budapest in Hungary and Vienna in Austria are nearby alternatives.

Locations

Croatia is a beautiful country that has not yet been over-used by the international production community. Highlights include the coastal cities of Dubrovnik and Split though the entire Adriatic coast is beautiful and distinctive.

Aside from the coast and beaches, other features include castles and palaces, cobblestone streets, snowy mountains, remote forests and rivers. For lakes and waterfalls there is Plitvice Lakes National Park. In terms of architecture, there is a mix of Roman, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque, as well as 19th century Austro-Hungarian architecture and eclectic post-WWII design.

When it comes to logistics, capital Zagreb is the main production centre so crew, equipment and talent need to travel from there. From Zagreb, beaches are a 1.5 hour drive and it’s possible to go from coast to mountains in around four hours. Dubrovnik is a six-hour drive from Zagreb but there is the option of a 40 minute flight.

Croatia has around 1,400 km of motorways (mostly toll roads) connecting Zagreb to other regions. The major motorways are A1, connecting Zagreb to Split and A3, passing east–west through NW Croatia & Slavonia. As for climate, expect hot, dry summers and cold, humid winters. The coastal regions have a Mediterranean climate while the mountains see a lot of snow during the winter.

Equipment

Croatia has a good infrastructure, offering video cameras, sound, lighting and grip equipment. There are also equipment rental houses with experience in domestic and international productions. A good example is Zagreb-based Tuna Film. If kit isn’t available locally it can be brought in from Germany.

Crews are talented, reliable and efficient and there is a growing range of skills available within the country according to the HAVC: “With the influx of international productions, Croatia’s offer of experienced English-speaking assistant directors, actors, cinematographers, production and costume designers, key technicians, animators and location managers is on the rise. There are also a number of local casting agencies whose comprehensive databases contain detailed profiles of talent and extras of a wide range of looks, skills and experience.”

Croatia also has a lot of companies that can service productions. A few names includeEmbassy FilmsVal Produkcija and Kabinet, which mainly specialises in commercials production. Embassy’s recent credits include the before mentioned Game Of Thrones. Another company to keep in mind is Red, which has offices in Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Albania.

It is not unusual for service providers in the region to be able to offer production and location services which cover multiple Balkan countries.

Climate

Mediterranean climate along the coast line with mild winters and hot sunny summers. The fine weather during summer is sometimes interrupted by occasional thunderstorms which increase in frequency from south to north. Autumn and winter rainfall can be quite heavy. Continental climate inland with the more mountainous regions having a cooler climate


With the support of the Eurimages Fund of the Council of Europe






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