CYPRUS: Jiu Jitsu is make-or-break film for Olivewood project

A Hollywood film starring Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage to be entirely filmed in Cyprus is seen as a test case for whether the island can become a destination for world-class cinema productions.

With Cage sprinkling some Hollywood stardust on Cyprus, the island seems destined for stardom, however, sources close to the industry see the film as a make or break for the future of an ambitious scheme to attract in big-money productions.

Si-fi film Jiu Jitsu marks the launch of Cyprus’ film industry dubbed as Olivewood, however, the future of the project depends as much on the success of the film itself as does Cyprus keeping to promises made through the Film Incentive Scheme.

The Euros 25 mln Jiu Jitsu headlining Cage was attracted by Cyprus’ newly introduced scheme to give the local audiovisual sector an investment boost.

The Cyprus Filming Scheme was designed by the government, and approved by parliament, to become an important investment driver by drawing the big names, and the cash, of the cinema world.

On offer are tax rebates and credit, with the most attractive incentive being a maximum 35% reimbursement for nearly all expenses made in Cyprus. It covers hiring local filming crews to renting portable toilets and recruiting animal actors.

The state scheme cover rebates worth EUR 25 mln per year, with officials aiming to use the entire budget.

Reimbursements will be made upon completion of the filming and confirmation that taxes have been paid and an auditor’s review that the money spent is eligible expenses, then the producer is reimbursed.

An official Cyprus source told the Financial Mirror: Hollywood is keeping a close eye on us, waiting to see how the film scheme will work in practice. If we pull it off, which we feel certain we will do, then we are really set for stardom.

He admitted that major studios are a bit concerned over whether the incentive scheme will be successful with Cyprus keeping its end of the bargain.

As officials have said, there is no need for concern as the agency (Invest Cyprus) is there to cater to filmmakers needs throughout the filming process on the island.

The source said that it is important to note that the producers of Jiu Jitsu kept their side of the bargain, complying with criteria which included the hiring of people active in the country’s local audiovisual industry.

When the scheme proves to be credible, then we are certain that we will have acclaimed producers and filmmakers lining up. We have absolute confidence not only in the scheme but also in what Cyprus has to offer the film industry.

The production has hired more than 60 people active in the local industry, from actors to screenwriters and costume makers.

Jiu Jitsu’s budget is average compared to other Hollywood film production. We expect to attract films which will have a budget double than that of Jiu Jitsu.

Show me the money

A Cyprus audiovisual industry source said that it is imperative that the scheme works as it will be a game-changer not only for Cyprus’ film industry but also for the island’s economy.

He argued that just a tour at the state fair is enough for someone to understand how much money is flowing into the local economy.

These productions will need actors, cameramen, directors, producers and screenwriters who are familiar with the realities of the island, the source said.

Film production requires the engagement of resources and other ancillary professions like drivers, accountants, lawyers, hotels, taxi drivers, plumbers, carpenters, extras of all kinds, technicians, painters, constructors, taxis, car rentals, electricians, caterers the list is endless, the source added.

He said a successful Olivewood will give new drive to the industry and the economy.

Development of the film industry gives rise to new investment opportunities such as the building of infrastructures such as studios, exhibition and conference centres, media distribution centres, editing and sound suites, production services equipment, and many other opportunities.

Countries like Romania and Hungary have reshaped their economy entirely by attracting big investments for their film industry. Cyprus is ready to jump on the bandwagon with all its inherent advantages such as the good weather, proximity to many neighbouring countries with diversified civilizations, good connectivity, good communications, good hotels.

Jiu Jitsu’s renowned director Dimitri Logothetis said that he has already got the green light for his next movie to be filmed in Cyprus titled Man of War.

However, Logothetis and the rest of the production team which includes Martin Barab and Cypriot Film Industry Consultant Chris Economides, all struck a note of caution.

At a press conference last week Barab said: This motion picture is a test case referring to the future of the film incentive scheme and attracting more productions in the future.

Barab addressing a packed conference room at the Hilton Park in Nicosia told a mesmerized audience: I have six more movies behind this one, citing stars like Gerard Butler, Bruce Willis and Keanu Reeves. These are $50 million movies.

He said none of these films would be coming to Cyprus until the government honours the certificate that induced us to come here with Jiu Jitsu.

Independent film producer and cinema consultant, Chris Economides, also part of the Jiu Jitsu team struck a cautionary note.

People are watching us, to see how this is going to fly, warned Economides, the ‘people’ in question being producers of other Hollywood films. Should the scheme fail, it’d be impossible to revive it, added Barab, warning that the incentives had to be shown to be working as advertised.

Barab also pointed to flaws in the regulations, including the requirement that a film had to be shot entirely in Cyprus in order to be eligible, which limits producers unnecessarily.

Representing Invest Cyprus at the event, CEO Michalis Michael reassured producers that everything would go as promised, the producers said they would not be here if they did not have faith in the scheme and the people running it.

Source: The Financial Mirror