Serbia is stepping up efforts to build its reputation in international filmmaking
Diverse landscape, varied architecture and experiences crews are advantages
Films shot in the country include "The November Man" and "Coriolanus"
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What do you do if you want to film the iconic story of Phileas Fogg, the intrepid Jules Verne character who takes a bet to prove that a man can circumvent the globe in 80 days?
Sure, you can follow Fogg’s trail around the world and start shooting in different locations – or you can spend most of your time in Serbia.
Starring Pierce Brosnan as Fogg, the 1989 TV adaptation of Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days” was mainly filmed in and around the Balkan country – then part of Yugoslavia. Thanks to its diverse landscape and impressive architecture, Serbia represented a total of 18 countries in the mini-series, while the city of Belgrade served as the backdrop for seven world cities.
“[Serbia] has a very long tradition of film making,” says Ana Ilic, executive director of the Serbia Film Commission. “Back in the 1970s and 1980s, there were so many huge co-productions that were made here.”
And now, filmmakers are taking notice once again as Serbia steps up its efforts to raise its profile as an important player in international filmmaking.
From medieval castles to jagged mountains to modern cityscapes, it seems that every corner and crevice in Serbia can make the cut in Hollywood. International hits shot at least partly in the country include the film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Corolianus,” starring Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler, the 2012 period thriller “The Raven,” with John Cusack, while recently Pierce Brosnan returned to the country too to film spy action thriller “The November Man.”
“Serbia has done some really great productions in recent years,” says Ilic. “It has proven to be a really good competitive high-quality service filming destination – it is quite hot now.”
‘Serbia, NOT Siberia!’
Serbia’s renewed focus on building an impressive reputation in international movie production is benefiting several local industry players. One of them is film producer is Andjelka Vlaisavljevic, who is matching her movie-making savvy with a meticulous approach to budgets to win more and more big budget films.
She says that it wasn’t always that way.
“They would say, ‘Siberia,’ no way, we are not going there, it’s cold!’ And so, it’s like ‘no no no, it’s Serbia!’ [You] can you imagine what the reaction to Serbia was,” jokes Vlaisavljevic, founder of Work in Progress Productions.
“That’s changed completely now,” she continues. “The buzz is out that here it’s not just very good crews and all that, but it’s a good time that you have working in Belgrade. And again, everybody has such a low expectations when it comes to us, then they get pleasantly surprised and so they like it here.”
But it’s not just movie producers taking advantage of Serbia’s bid to emerge as a key force in international filmmaking.
Bojan Peric is a Serbian actor who’s found success at home, and went on to appear at “Lockout.” He says he’s proud not just of his own accomplishments but of the talent and skill of the crews and production teams he works with.
“During all those bad times that happened in the past an industry that did not fall back was the film industry,” he says.
“That’s important for the culture of the people and I believe that a country makes its image through culture.”