While filming in Greece may conjure up images of beautiful sandy beaches and Cycladic landscapes with sparkling white buildings with blue domes, international producers are finding that there is so much more the territory has to offer. It combines sea, mountains, vast stretches of lands and archaeological sites. From medieval old towns to snow-capped Mount Olympus to volcanoes on Nisyros, Methana and Santorini, locations are varied and vast. The quality of light in the country is also a big attraction for film and television crews, with nearly 250 days a year of bright sunshine making it possible for crews to take advantage of long, light days.
Millennium Media producer and production manager Rob Van Norden, known for his work on Angel Has Fallen and Rambo: Last Blood, is currently shooting Antonio Banderas and Kate Bosworth noir thriller The Enforcer in Thessaloniki. The script sets the film in Miami and this major city in northern Greece is proving to be a good stand-in for the project. Millennium and Nu Image’s Nu Boyana Film Studios, the Bulgarian production hub that’s housed projects such as the Expendables franchise and The Hitman’s Bodyguard, is preparing to set up a new studio in Thessaloniki dubbed Nu Boyana Hellenic.
Van Norden tells Deadline all about the allure of lensing in the Hellenic Republic.
DEADLINE: What’s the attraction to shooting in Greece?
Van Norden: The tax rebate is certainly the biggest draw, but the more we’ve scouted and seen what northern Greece has to offer, the clearer it is that there are a lot of different looks here and we can make all types of movies in this region.
DEADLINE: What are local crews and infrastructure like?
Van Norden: The local crew base is still small. We’ve found a good group of intelligent and dedicated filmmakers here and we have local Greek trainees in every department of our movie, from locations to accounting to the grip department. Our hope is the more movies we make here, the stronger the local crews will become and soon there will be enough qualified people in Thessaloniki alone to produce several big movies at the same time.
DEADLINE: Millennium/Nu Image is keen to invest in infrastructure there with this new studio in Thessaloniki you are building. Why are you doing this and why in northern Greece?
Van Norden: The rebate is one reason. The other reason is that Northern Greece is very close to Sofia [in Bulgaria] where we have our studio Nu Boyana Film Studios. We have grown that studio over the years into one of the busiest studios in Europe. With time and cooperation from the government of Greece, we believe we can do the same here. Being close to the studio in Sofia allows us to supply people and gear quickly for the specialty equipment that Greece doesn’t have yet. In time, the Bulgarian studio will supply less and less and the Greek studio will be able to function completely independently.
DEADLINE What are Covid protocols like? Does it feel safe?
Van Norden: We make it as safe as possible with masks, distance and constant testing. We are still obligated to use the same protocols mandated by the screen actors guild. That means the sets have special rules about who can interact with actors and where crew can move freely and when. There is a feeling that Covid is ending soon and most of our cast and crew is vaccinated now, but it is not over yet and we must do everything we can to maintain a safe work environment. Our obligation as filmmakers and employers is to make sure no one comes to work without Covid and leaves with Covid. It takes constant vigilance.