Selling Serbia is not always easy, and it is a real challenge to successfully do it in front of film studio directors who are deciding in which country to film their next high-budget film, television project, advertisement or other production. Miloš Đukelić, a young director and owner of “Red Production,” along with around twenty fellow producers and film industry colleagues, is part of “Film in Serbia”, an initiative of USAID’s Competitiveness Project.
What is “Film in Serbia,” and why did you get involved?
“Film in Serbia” is an attempt to collect and present information that shows the comparative advantages of Serbia as a filming destination and serves as a guide for anyone interested in coming here to film. Anyone considering working in Serbia just has to visit www.filminserbia.com to see how the industry is organized, as well as gather information regarding prices or what possible locations look like. One would learn that it is a European country very close to all European centers, that it is a Central European country with a strong Mediterranean influence, where there are influences of Oriental architecture, Central European architecture, modern European architecture and something which can be referred to as socialist architecture. All of this forms a picture of what to expect when you come here to film. This project is very important both to Serbia and for me as a producer. That’s why I was very glad to join in. Collaboration with “Film in Serbia” isn’t a short term affair for me. We don’t plan to quickly get some job and take the money. I don’t believe in the concept of “Take the money and run” or “Trash for Cash.” I think it is a total mistake to look at things short term. I’m relatively young – I should be in this business for another 30 years. Also, honestly, it is totally unbelievable for me that USAID is willing to fund such a projectthis. That’s fantastic.” Nobody came to me and said: “You have to do this”. It’s all of my own free will. I didn’t know anyone from USAID until they called and said: “Let’s meet up, we have a project “Film in Serbia.”
With USAID support, you and your industry colleagues took part at the Locations Trade Show in California, where Serbia was presented for the first time. What feedback did you get from the producers of big American movie and television studios?
My impression is that they are all interested because saving money is a major theme worldwide. Their job is to find new things, solutions and to be better than their competition. They are interested in the appearance of locations, the service fees and the way things are done here in Serbia. Their questions mostly had to with the degree to which the industry itself is developed, what they can expect, how professional people are – and there is always the question, especially with films, regarding tax incentives offered by the state in order to film here…. The attendance by the Minister of Culture at the promotion of the site “Film in Serbia” was very telling that the state understands that it has to work on that.
Note: The first results of this trip can be seen by the fact that three scouting visits and location searches are being planned for the production of feature films and/or commercials this summer. In the past two years, Serbia has served as a location for international productions such as Endgame Entertainment's Brothers Bloom and RAI's Einstein by Liliana Cavani, Europa Corp's District 13- Ultimatum and Berlinale Film Festentry Human Zoo by Rie Rasmussen. Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus is scheduled to start shooting in Belgrade in spring 2010.
How do you sell Serbia abroad? How do you make Serbia stand out from all the countries that have the same goal – to have the next Hollywood extravaganza filmed in their country?
Whenever I spoke with foreigners, I had to explain to them who and what we are and that nobody would deceive them or shoot them, and that, on the contrary, people here are very courteous, open, that there is a tradition of collaboration with the world. , that we are not a typical Eastern European country that was isolated for so long, that we are used to a modern, global design. Now, when I want to explain these things to someone, I can say: “Visit www.filminserbia.com - you have the information you need there for starters, if you need something more we can provide it. I always try to say three sentences they will remember: I tell them it is very affordable to film here; that we are a Central European country with influences of the Mediterranean, the Orient, and Slavic cultures; and that when you sit down at any café, everything is just as it is in the West. I also tell them that we are often able to achieve even the impossible.
Nevertheless, the trade shows in which you took part are specific, intended for film producers. Serbia is a small country, how can it persuade the film industry? How can it compete?
We are interesting, we have certain distinctions. If nothing else, we differ in energy and contrasts. Actually, I mostly explain to people that we are a country of contrasts. We have intelligent people with interesting ways of thinking. Foreigners are fascinated with the food and nightlife when they visit. European cities don’t have floating clubs right next to one another, one playing gypsy music and the other playing techno. I think we are the last European adventure. European cities – Vienna, Budapest and others are more or less alike. If you offer similar work conditions, but at the same time there is more excitement, you have a winning combination.
Serbian film makers with Catherine Oxenberg at Dan Tanas restaurant