15 May New incentives for film and TV makers are in production
Panos Kouanis, President and CEO, EKOME, describes how the agency is supporting local and international audiovisual industries through COVID-19
Greece has won plaudits for its management of COVID-19. Why do you think it has been so successful and how do you think this will impact the country’s reputation?
The Greek government made an incredibly swift response to COVID-19, which saw restrictions in place even before the coronavirus reached the country. Since then, the government has worked closely with the public and private sector, ensuring protocols and standards are in place that will not only see the country through to a fast recovery, but it could also be one of the first countries in Europe to welcome tourists back to its shores. As a result, this return to “normality” has given Greeks a new sense of pride and reminds them of what can be achieved when we act in solidarity. I believe it is a very strong message and boosts our morale as we try to cope with the negative results of the crisis.
Lockdowns across the world have had a radical impact on life as we know it. In your opinion, what are the main lessons humanity can learn from the coronavirus crisis?
The main lesson to learn from this crisis is that, in our constant effort for economic development, we should never forget the essential—which is the fact that, at the end of the day, we are still humans living together on earth. In that respect, we should focus more on protecting life and what is vulnerable, such as nature and our public health system, and on creating a safe environment in the workplace as well as for our families and loved ones.
The Greek government has seized this opportunity to roll out new digital initiatives. What involvement has the National Center of Audiovisual Media and Communication (EKOME)—the Greek agency responsible for promoting all sectors in the audiovisual industry—had in any of these and how has COVID-19 affected the agency’s services in general?
In spite of the lockdown, from day one we remained operational by applying both teleworking and in-situ work when required, following all the strict health and safety rules introduced by the government. EKOME staff made sure that all applications for films, TV series and videogames, and payments from the financial incentive schemes for production companies continued uninterrupted. In addition, the forms and documents required for the submission of applications were redesigned in order to meet the government’s newly introduced criteria for digital forms and certificates.
We also worked with all levels of government to communicate about digital resources available for the creative industries, such as the new government initiative #DigitalSolidarityGR, which enables remote working, education and entertainment for citizens through the provision of free or lower-cost digital services and products from institutions, individuals and companies. EKOME actively participates in this initiative and a series of other online actions designed to enhance the visibility of stakeholders in the sector. I should also mention that we continuously support measures introduced by the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports that includes an emergency fund of €15 million targeted at creators for the development and subsidization of digital culture projects.
To what extent is the audiovisual sector affected by the coronavirus crisis and what are you doing to mitigate this shock? Is there any updated information that foreign producers and investors should know about Greece and the incentives offered by EKOME, including rebates and tax credits?
According to international reports, the film industry is the third-most affected industry in the world in terms of the pandemic crisis, after travel and tourism, and transportation. Greece is no different, as all productions stopped and all planned productions for the period from March to the end of the summer were either postponed or canceled. As I’ve said, EKOME has remained safely operational from day one, despite the lockdown. We tried to help production companies deal with project delays and regulations, convened online meetings with key industry players both in Greece and abroad—mainly in other European Union countries and the U.S.—in order to assess the developing situation and propose a course of action. Our main target was helping Greek professionals active in the sector to withstand the economic implications and adapt to the new reality that the COVID-19 pandemic has provoked, especially because most of them are freelancers.
Among EKOME’s proposals were the creation of schemes to enhance the release of films through online platforms and the establishment of emergency funds to cover costs of freelancers, cast and crew. We are also trying to set up, in collaboration with the producers’ union PACT and other professional unions, a special training program for professionals in the industry that will involve re-skilling and up-skilling for below-the-line crew. Currently, we are focusing on two main issues: to set up safety and hygiene protocols for productions shooting in Greece as soon as possible and to improve the financial incentives we offer: the cash rebate and the tax relief. For both, we are in advanced discussions with the responsible government ministries and the professional unions and soon we will introduce measures.
Is there a positive side to the coronavirus crisis in Greece?
The successful treatment of the crisis and the fact that we are gradually returning to “normality” gives Greeks a new sense of pride and reminds us of what we can achieve when we act in solidarity. I believe it is a very strong message and a boost to our morale as we try to restart our lives and the economy. The crisis also highlighted the need for our economy to be more self-sustainable and shifted focus to what is most essential in our lives, such as protecting the environment and having a strong public health system. Finally, during the pandemic, a series of practical digital services was introduced by the government for citizens—a very important achievement and a legacy that will be further developed in the months to come.