MPs were up in arms on Tuesday when discussion in a House committee revealed a BBC production on Cypriot migration to the UK is to be filmed in Malta instead of the island as it will cost less to do so.
During a meeting of the House Education Committee, Greens MP Giorgos Perdikis said this was because the government does not give incentives to attract film productions to Cyprus.
Perdikis said that the committee heard that a BBC production on the immigration of Cypriots in Britain, is to be filmed in Malta.
“Pissouri and Eptagonia will move to Malta because the film company decided that the cost is lower in Malta,” Perdikis said.
“The great minds”, he said, who manage the country give incentives to entrepreneurs, and contractors, but not to film productions.
According to Chairwoman of the Directors’ Guild of Cyprus Alexia Roider, the production in question is a feature film co-produced by the BBC and a Hollywood studio, with a script by a Cypriot living in the UK and directed by Jason Connery, son of Scottish Academy-award winner Sean Connery.
“A large part of the movie is set in Cyprus, and the producers asked our government for information on what facilities and incentives it offered to make a movie here,” she said.
“They were told nothing could be offered, so they decided to shoot in Malta instead.”
After the meeting, which discussed the possibilities of boosting local film productions and making Cyprus a film productions centre, MPs called for more measures that could attract such activities on the island.
The committee heard that a joint study by the Commerce and Education ministries said offering incentives for film productions in Cyprus could bring in more than €50m in four years.
AKEL MP Pambos Papageorgiou, who had proposed the issue for discussion along with Perdikis, said other European countries that have introduced measures to attract film productions had seen positive results.
Our country, Papageorgiou said, with its natural but also man-made surroundings is a better choice than other destinations for film productions. What is needed, he said, “is to give emphasis to the sector and to set up an office to serve film productions, to provide direct and indirect incentives”.
He added that film productions will also boost “the tourism product of the country”.
There is interest for productions in Cyprus, Papageorgiou said, and what is needed is for decisions to be taken, and to also carry out a promotional campaign for Cyprus in this industry.
As regards incentives, he said that other countries give up to 25per cent of costs in the form of tax refunds, and it would benefit the state as “it will anyway not be disbursed from funds already available”.
Roider, who was present at the committee session, told the Cyprus Mail that the issue of promoting international film productions in Cyprus is being discussed on the basis of a comprehensive plan prepared by the Education ministry in collaboration with various stakeholders and industry experts.
“Over the last two or three years we have been trying to convince the relevant departments, at the Finance and Commerce ministries, of the potential of strengthening the film industry in Cyprus,” she said.
“The plan includes a host of actions, including tax incentives, boosting appropriations for film productions, and creating the local equivalent of a Film Commission, like in other countries. And I have to say, theCommerce ministry was very supportive at the Education committee session, arguing for increasing the annual state subsidy of the film industry from €1 million, when theatre gets €6.5 million a year.”
At the moment the closest Cyprus gets to an office dealing with foreign film requests is the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), which requires the movie scripts for approval, before giving the green light. In the case the script calls for an abandoned site, however, producers are required to contact local authorities and police themselves to arrange for the site to be vacated. Cyprus is also lacking the legal framework governing such endeavours, resulting in the absence of any sort of financial incentive. The only grant one could have for filming comes from the coffers of the Education ministry, which favours local productions and doesn’t deal with projects of Hollywood proportions.
As a result, Cyprus’ best known film credits are an indie movie from the 1970s starring Raquel Welch – called Sin – and an ill-fated attempt by legendary comedian Peter Sellers called “Ghost in the Noonday Sun” in 1973. The movie was such a failure that Sellers decided to shelve it in post-production, only for it to be broadcast more than a decade later in 1984.