Interview with Chris Marcich, Head of HAVC: 2021 Is Shaping Up as Boom Year for Productions in Croatia


    ZAGREB: Croatia is again becoming an attractive filming destination, following the year of the pandemic. FNE talked to Chris Marcich, head of the Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC), about dozens of new projects that are being filmed or announced.

    Chris Marcich, credit: HAVCFNE: Service productions in Croatia are restarting, a new project is announced almost every week. How many international films and TV series have been filmed in Croatia in 2021? How many are currently filming?

    Chris Marchich: The year 2021 is shaping up as a boom year for productions in Croatia, with at least eight domestic feature films, several minority coproductions, and some 20 international projects, of which six are now shooting or have been shot. We expect to be working at full capacity this year and are laying the foundations for expected future growth. There is pent-up global demand for high-end content and we intend to help meet it.

    FNE: What anti-epidemic measures are in place for international film workers coming to Croatia? Are there any additional incentives, having in mind higher production costs due to the measures?

    Chris Marchich: We take all the necessary precautions to ensure a safe working environment for film crews, in close consultation with the producers and our public health authorities. Minimum recommended safety standards are in place and are frequently exceeded. We also facilitate entry procedures for our international partners. All of this is taking place against the backdrop of a continuously improving epidemiological picture. As for additional costs, they form part of the local spend eligible for our cash rebate programme in the case of international productions.

    FNE: How many new projects will have been announced by the end of 2021? I know it’s hard to make such predictions, but what are the chances for filming to be disrupted again if the numbers of Coronavirus cases start growing after the summer tourist season?

    Chris Marchich: With the pace of vaccinations in full stride we expect that the effects of the Coronavirus will at last be tempered. Indeed, we have vaccinated our film workers on a priority basis thanks also to the support of our Minister of Culture and Media. That being said, our recent experience shows that shooting can be managed in a safe environment even if there is a worsening of the situation in the autumn of 2021.

    FNE: In 2020 Croatia expected to reach a record local spending by international filmmakers, but in the end very few projects managed to be filmed. What is the final balance? Do you have any financial projections for this year?

    Chris Marchich: After a very promising start, production slowed considerably in 2020 reaching just over 25% of the record-breaking levels reached in 2019. All indications for 2021 suggest that we will pick-up where we left off in 2019. We have intensified our support for domestic productions. We are seeing more exciting projects combining quality minority coproductions with our Filming in Croatia programme. I hope this is a harbinger of future trends that combine our incentives and strengthen our own creative production capacity.

    FNE: Blaženko Boban, the Prefect of the Split-Dalmatia county, has recently admitted he was personally involved in the arson that destroyed the set of the American horror film The Omen in 2005. What is the climate for international productions in Croatia now? Could anything like that happen again?

    Chris Marchich: We are in the middle of local elections. The prefect was clearly grandstanding and playing to his conservative base in his public statement that stunned many of us. As the then mayor of a small town, he actively opposed the shooting of horror scenes of The Omen on the site of a sacral cemetery. At the time, he seized upon an act of arson on the stage to get his point across. How much he knew and when is a matter of conjecture and is under investigation by the police. His posturing is far from indicative of the welcoming environment we have nurtured for foreign investors in Croatia. The facts speak for themselves.