“Olivewood”, Cypriot open-air studio for blockbusters
Nicolas Cage, master of jiu-jitsu, who fights an alien at the foot of a cliff near Nicosia, a balloon ballasted Americans running out of gas off Limassol: welcome to the Cypriot cinema sets of ” olivewood. ”
“Since Cyprus is an open-air studio, why not stimulate the interest of a billion-dollar industry?” Justifies Michalis Michael, president of Invest Cyprus, a Cypriot organization charged with attracting island foreign producers.
The Cyprus Government has allocated an annual budget of € 25 million to Invest Cyprus, providing for measures such as tax credits or the reimbursement of 35% of Cypriot land expenditures. The goal is to attract 70 million euros of investment from foreign production companies.
A selection committee in which the Ministry of Tourism is represented decides on cinematographic projects eligible for these aids, which are among the most advantageous in Europe.
Olive groves, heavenly beaches, “mountains that evoke mythology”, “incredible” food – especially traditional yoghurt, according to American actor Nicolas Cage: the island of Aphrodite arouses praise among the teams of the first two selected films, “Jiu Jitsu” and “SOS: Survive or Sacrifice”, shot in July.
Since the establishment of the scheme in June 2018, after years of failed attempts, all candidate projects, namely three Americans and one Cypriot, have been approved and two more are under discussion.
Invest Cyprus is well aware of the lack of infrastructure, but believes that it is compensated by the short distances between the varied landscapes of the island.
For Martins Rozitis, director of the Cypriot company dedicated to “SOS: Survive or Sacrifice”, this lack is real and “we suffer, but people are very enthusiastic and rental companies are starting to provide the necessary equipment.”
Behind him, four actors, two Americans, an Indo-British and a Cypriot, repeat their role against the sea, on a blue background, hanging from a crane in the balloon of a balloon … imported from Russia.
Cyprus has “not yet the infrastructure, but we brought it with us”, relativizes Dimitri Logothetis, producer and director who grew up in Los Angeles. “We create our own studios wherever we go,” he says, pointing to the tracking carts installed for the filming of the final “Jiu Jitsu” scene.
And the situation may change: Mr. Logothetis points out that “Bulgaria and Romania had nothing a few years ago”, but today these two countries have “huge studios”.
Cyprus has the advantage of being affordable, says the producer. In Hollywood, the 24 million euros budget film he turns “would not have been enough.”
After considering a number of Eastern European countries with attractive financial conditions, he finally decided to put his camera in Cyprus after a tour of the island organized by Invest Cyprus in the autumn, attended by dozens of others foreign producers.
And “little films”?
For Cyprus, the interest in attracting foreign production companies is multiple.
On the one hand, the island benefits from job creation.
On the other hand, Cypriots are getting the opportunity to train on filming, reports Diomides Nikita, from the film department of the Ministry of Education and Culture. On the one of “Jiu Jitsu”, the team is 65% native to the island.
“To go further, we would need schools (…), but also studios, not only for big productions, but also for small films,” tempered filmmaker Longinos Panagi, a member of the guild committee Cypriot directors.
He regrets that the “Olivewood” plan was not preceded by investments in sustainable infrastructure.
His fellow countryman Marios Piperides, winner at the Tribeca Festival in New York in 2018 for “Smuggling Hendrix”, hopes to apply to Invest Cyprus by the end of the year for a feature film he produces. .
Previously, it has been able to benefit in Cyprus only aid from the Ministry of Education and Culture, whose grant budget is 20 times lower than that of Invest Cyprus.
“There will be a complementarity of the two devices,” says Nikita, of the ministry. “But we will always need more money to promote European cinema.”
Sitting in an armchair in the capital’s only auditorium regularly screening independent films, Mr Piperides hopes that “Olivewood” will stimulate Cypriots’ interest in the 7th art and not just the blockbuster.
Yet this is the last category of films that Invest Cyprus targets, large productions with budgets of 35 to 50 million euros … incommensurate with the projects of Cypriot cinema (1.3 million for “Smuggling Hendrix “).
Witness the forthcoming filming in Cyprus by Dimitri Logothetis, conquered by the island and its financial benefits: an action film written by the scriptwriter of “Fast and Furious”, a franchise to 5.3 billion euros.