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Inside the Industry

Inside the Industry

All That Acting – interview with Sav taj glumac casting agency team

In order to help their colleagues to find the perfect role and present themselves in a best way in front of the cameras, actresses Anđela Stamenković and Aleksandra Sirkić established casting agency Sav taj glumac whose talent pool gathers not just Serbian actors, but from the region, too. With plenty of enthusiasm, knowing how gifted our artists are, they talked us about online casting processes revealing do they see virtual environment as a threat or a chance for the acting profession.

Can you tell us more about your team? What services do you offer as a casting agency?

The core of Sav taj glumac are two of us and then number of dear associates and colleagues we partnered on number of projects and who are our first choice or people to call when we need external help. Since we positioned ourselves as a casting service, there is enough room in our database for everyone–from A-list actors to newcomers, as well as for all other talents film industry is looking for. We provide complete casting service, which means finding the right actor for certain film, TV series, performance, TV commercial. Extras and models are signed up from colleagues who run fashion agencies or agencies for extras.With each new assignment our data base grows, especially the pool of natural talents in music, dance, sports is constantly expanding and our email inbox is always active no matter if there is an open casting call or not.

Because of the lack of agents, we are expected to mediate between productions and actors until the first day of filming. On our last project we were even asked to assist the director during the preparation and shooting and sort of replaced a 2nd AD, which was unusual but gratifying as we really enjoy the process of working with actors

You did casting for Bollywood blockbusters, European and US feature and short films, but advertising agencies, too. What kind of talent does Serbia or the Balkans have to offer?

We find Serbia and the whole region as everlasting source of different looks, eyes, hair and skin types, features that can represent almost entire world. Our experience in casting covers a wide range –from advertising, that is not always as attractive for casting directors, but it is important in gaining experience how to find quick solution in unexpected situations.We participated in casting for RTL’s remake of TV series "Winetu" (original was also shot in former Yugoslav territories) and latest film by the great Terence Malik "A Hidden Life". We feel so lucky for having the opportunity to work with respectable artists from both West and East, such as Vicky Sadhana, leading Bollywood casting director who shot "Uri: A Surgical Strike" in Serbia. Bollywood has a special place on our casting agency’s map because their requirements are usually very challenging and provide us with the opportunity to promote many different talents from our data base, both from the region and international

Each year there is one hundred new actors graduating in Serbia, which means there is great inflow of new talents and we already spotted some who have the potential to build world class careers. Zooming out from Serbia to the region, the situation becomes even more exciting. We think that we are a very talented part of the planet,but every talent needs support and chance to get visible,maybe by establishing certain union and specialized legal representation offices.

img_9521What do you enjoy more: working with established actors or be the ones to discover new talents?

When an actor embodies the professional attitude, it is completely irrelevant in what point of his/her career he/she is at the moment. Since our famous actors are usually busy with ongoing project or belong to theater groups with constant rehearsals, it seems that finding new talents is what we enjoy more. Again, we are extremely happy when there are opportunity to work with some of our famous actors like Branka Katić or Darko Perić (Helsinki from "Money Heist").

How does a casting's process look like in the times of pandemic? Did actors manage to get used to online castings, self-tape etc?

Pandemic has definitely forced us to switch the casting process to online which usually includes self-tape and video calls as means of communication and presentation. It is nothing new and is already a common practice when it comes to international cast coming to shoot here, or international project in general. Our actors use self-tapes and participate in online castings when they are out of the country but when they are here, it feels like they appreciate our assistance and prefer coming directly to our office. Obviously that will have to change in these circumstances and actors should master the technique of self-tape presentation as well as online casting in order to stay on the map and catch up with the changes that are coming.

Which  foreign productions you worked with and what are their impressions about our talents? 

We have worked with productions in region and around the world. Our impression is that in the end they are always very satisfied with the choice of actors. For example, the project we have been working on last months, actually during the pandemics, is short film "Tête de brique" by French actor Alexis Manenti that will be shot in Belgrade in the fall. We did almost the entire casting process online and then the director came to see the short listed candidates live. He was very satisfied with the selection and the choice of talents, especially because we were looking for younger actors in age between 12 and 18. Our collaboration will last during the preps, as well as the shooting.

img_3413Are you in touch with other casting directors abroad? How do they deal with these complicated times when covid-19 virus seriously changes filming process?

We are in touch with many colleagues abroad and follow their work through social media. We noticed their commitment during the pandemics while trying to make each casting less difficult,as it was possible in those tense circumstances. They were all trying to encourage actors to improve and develop their online expression skills and teach them how to present their talent better. Some have developed digital casting platforms so that the whole process takes place online, others are encouraging actors to record self-tape monologues about isolation and pandemics and shared it on their Instagram profiles in order to promote those actors. This is also important to encourage actors and creatives to stay positive even when they can’t do the essential part of their being–perform on the stage or in front of the cameras.

You have organized trainings for actors on self presentation, online casting and how to excel at casting in general. Do you plan something similar with the current pandemics that have increased the demand for online presence?

Our “Acting in front of the camera” workshops are something we hold so dear. In fact, the idea of starting casting agency was born during one of the workshops organized by Serbia Film Commission with Beatrice Kruger who ran the workshop. We realized that our actors need to learn more and improve acting in front of the camera and on-line self presentation, and so we created one and two-day program for groups of up to 15 people, including young actors or some still in drama school. After a while they come back to us telling how workshop helped them and skills they got were crucial for them to be successful at castings and to have better self-presentation in general.

In times like these actors need help, guidance and encouragement more than ever to continue with their careers and Sav taj glumac will try to provide them all assistance necessary to sustain. There is so much going on via zoom lectures and online workshops. And although we believe live energy and presence are indispensable, the advantage of such workshops is the possibility of connecting lecturers and participants from different parts of the world when physical contact is not recommended, so knowledge exchange is perhaps more accessible than ever.

At the moment we aspire to digitalize our casting data base and create software which will allow actors to post content on their profiles directly and for the producers and directors to see and contact desired actors on-line. We’ve also become more aware that industry is shifting to virtual production and new type of content production, where we see the opportunity for many colleagues who are currently out of the work to advance their skills and discover new talents.

 

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All That Acting – interview with Sav taj glumac casting agency team

In order to help their colleagues to find the perfect role and present themselves in a best way in front of the cameras, actresses Anđela Stamenković and Aleksandra Sirkić established casting ag...

When Art of Filmmaking Meets Video Games – interview with Ana Uzelac

Ana Uzelac considers her job to be the perfect combination of filmmaking and video games. She is the supervisor and co-founder of the Bunker VFX studio - specialized in the production of cinematics. We had an amazing opportunity to hear more about this studio and get familiar with all creative processes which stand behind the titles such as Phageborn, Pagan Online, Heroic Magic Duel, Crusader Kings 3 at the previous editions of CGA Belgrade Conference. Their latest trailer for the Outlast game got great reviews and certainly announces another successful project of this studio. Since many Serbia Film Commission members are entering the world of gaming, bringing the knowledge they collected in film production, we asked Ana to share with us her experience and enthusiasm in merging these two industries and explain how the pandemics emphasized creativity in creating CG content.   

What was your switch to remote work like? How much the organizational structure was challenged by WFH in delegating tasks and your internal communication? Can you describe this shift in your work routine and if you encountered any challenges? 

Switching to remote production was certainly a challenge, having in mind the fact that our complete production is 3D, organized through a very clear system and studio pipeline. The first week was especially hard. I really have to give credits to all our artists who dealt with their own challenges in one hand and succeeded in making significant improvements themselves on the other, so that after that first critical week we went back to our “well-oiled machine” spirit. Communication was good and clear; we daily controlled each other’s  tasks and helped if there were problems, difficulties and doubts. During the first week we made separate communication channels for chat, calls, creative decisions for each project so nobody was overwhelmed with unnecessary information.

Work from home, as we all now know is not easy, but it taught us to be better organized and skills we got we plan to apply generally in our job, no matter if it is remote or not. We are still working remote, so the whole team can be safe.

Speaking of external factors, we’ve always worked remotely with our clients, so in that aspect there was no change. And again, we turned the whole situation into a nice experience, as always. 

Was it hard to maintain a team spirit during the pandemic? We know that Bunker crew has its own Instagram channel. Have you made some personal top lists of best movies, games, tutorials or similar?

I wish, but we didn't have time for that. We worked a lot, and that was the thing that maintained high team spirit. Using Discord channels for chatting, sharing tutorials and even frustrations – when we had them helped. That's also part of our team story and makes us family.

img_3411Over the last period, most of live action productions had to be stopped and productions have been returning to film sets only now and under restricted rules. What is the future of the CG industry in your opinion and have you noticed any new trend in content production? Has the pandemic changed the number of projects you’ve been hired on?

I believe that a lot of the production will be switching more and more to full CG content. When it comes to Bunker VFX Studio, the pandemics hasn't changed the amount of work we have, as full CG is what we mainly do, be it game trailers or videos, but I did notice we got more requests for projects that needed a quick solution for switching from live action to CG, thus bridging the impossibility of real on set filming when they hadn’t had another option.

During the quarantine, Bunker produced a trailer for The Outlast Trials that you released a breakdown recently and included remote motion capture. Can you tell us more about the process. What was the hardest part? What have you learned? There are lots of talks about remote shooting, do you have some advice or insight to share?

That’s true. Working on the Outlast Trials was great pleasure and we enjoyed during the process of working on it. The premiere was couple of weeks ago and it has already achieved great results. We feel much satisfaction knowing that our work is appreciated and warmly accepted among gaming audiences which usually have high expectations.

In this case, the biggest challenge was organizing motion capture shooting with only one man in the studio, during the most rigorous time of lock-down. I have to use this opportunity to express my gratitude to our friends from the Faculty of Dramatic Arts and their Laboratory of Interactive Arts Branko Sujić and Pavle Dinulović, who performed many different characters using Wi-Fi mocap suit, and since we previously made quite precise preparations, watching them remotely on cameras and monitors was easy. The next thing that could become a little bit harder was assembling scenes in light, meaning we could have problems while making animations, final assets, simulations and rendering preps. By that time we got so well organized working remotely, that we finished everything and continued working remotely even when lock-down was lifted.

We are planning to develop our own small mocap studio, which will be set for remote production, in case we can’t gather in the studio. With the experience we had I believe we will be able to set it up soon and produce complete remote mocap shooting within the studio with the option for clients to take part remotely in the shooting. We learned how important good preparation is and it always brings great results – having precise measurements and actors' mise-en-scene set up precisely as per the animatic, with enough rehearsals that can be even done remotely – as a result we get the shooting where we can just enjoy and let the process roll. We can’t wait to start the in-house system, but until it happens, we continue working with our great colleagues who are already experienced in remote production and did it well so far.

img_3585The number of projects that connect film and gaming industry is growing. You are primarily known as studio that focuses on high end full CG production in video games and now you are embarking on the production of your first animated short film. What knowledge from games you plan to include in this?

For us gaming trailers are perfect match of the art of filmmaking and video games. In these short formats we use classical cinematic language to tell the story a video game. Even if it is fully computer generated we go through all film processes for a short format of just few minutes. In fact, this is the most beautiful challenge in producing a gaming trailers.

To create an animation film was our wish for a long time since we started. A film that would offer modern and educational content for kids, speaking the language of their generation and teaching these things we believe they are interested in. This is a new challenge that we look forward with excitement. It is directed by Lazar Bodroža and written by Mihailo Tešić with working title “Someone”. The short teaser that precedes the feature-length film will be finished very soon and we can’t wait to share it with the world.

Our experience in CG production of gaming trailers has taught us how to successfully operate CG production in general, and how to design a pipeline that will now also serve for the animated short film. We are not always in a position to impact creative decisions in game trailer, so I think animated film is a great opportunity for all our artists to give their bests kills and ideas. On the other hand making feature length of high quality is something we’ve never done before, but step by step – we have the will, the plan and we strongly believe in our capacities to do it. There will be tears occasionally, I am sure. To get somewhere, we need to do things we are not certain of how they will turn out, otherwise they won’t be called challenges, but when you have a plan and strong motive, you are more likely to succeed.

img_3494A lot of people used quarantine for learning new skills. Have you acquired any new skills, software or tools? Is there an educational channel, podcast or anything you find inspirational to recommend to your younger colleagues?

The production itself and our job motivate us to constantly learn new softwares, tools and gain new skills. We believe that it is essential in order to be successful in what we do and make progress professionally. In that sense, the quarantine hasn’t changed anything that we were not doing before. Each of our artists continuously develops himself/herself and his/her knowledge through various online courses and conferences, excellent books and websites dedicated to cinematography, light, anatomy-of course depending on his/her specific interest. I noticed that many young colleagues have made great progress in completing the variety of their skills, many of them have moved to an advanced level. That is not depend on software, but on someone’s personal motivation in self-improvement.

On the other hand, I am very glad if this situation left some space for people to discover which area they are interested in, to study more or learn some new skills. That's how you should always do, regardless of whether you are in quarantine or not, and I  advice our younger colleagues to be curious and to investigate! Even, when times are hard, which in Serbia we often had, if you are interested in something – dive into it.

Outlast 3 Breakdown by Bunker VFX animation

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When Art of Filmmaking Meets Video Games – interview with Ana Uzelac

Ana Uzelac considers her job to be the perfect combination of filmmaking and video games. She is the supervisor and co-founder of the  MORE

Behind the scenes of The Revelation with Tuna+Icon

salomon-spotOne of the latest inspiring works coming out from locations in Serbia is "The Revelation" a short film directed by Salomon Ligthelm and featuring music of Scottish band Young Fathers. It stands out for its aesthetics and energy so well visualized through peculiar socialism manner. It came to life as a bi-product of director's visit to Serbia during his work on Lexus RX commercial that Stink Films produced in collaboration with TUNA + ICON. Tuna Fish Studio is led by veterans of high end creative works in advertising and through merger with Icon Romania established one of the leading production service companies in Serbia, also part of the Global Production Network. Together, they’ve continued to provide high quality service production in Serbia and Balkan region.

This project inspired us to dive behind the scenes with their production team.

While shooting TVC for Lexus RX, Salomon Ligthelm got inspiration for his short film "The Revelation". How did it happen? In the credits, he made special thanks to different photographers, one of them being Vladimir Milivojević Boogie.

Generally speaking, directors are always feverishly looking for some new locations to inspire them. For Belgrade and Serbia, it is the perfect chance to attract various projects and offer lively spots, which have never been shown on screen.

Since the moment it was decided to shoot the Lexus RX project in Belgrade, Salomon asked us to present to him locations, not only intended for the project we’ve been working on, but also our own selection of authentic places that can be inspiring in different ways. In addition to the desire to realize his project in one of the East European countries, we think that the locations presented were crucial for his decision to shoot "The Revelation" in Belgrade. Nevertheless, the cooperation we had with the production house Stink from London and the trust that was built thanks to it, allowed us to execute the project as a joint effort, bypassing the traditional production-service production relationship. We were especially happy that a large part of our creative team, not only the production crew, was also engaged in the project.

The film was shot on 35mm and 16mm film in just 16 hours. What was the prep like? How demanding was for the production to complete the whole process in just one day?

The answer to this question depends on the generation asked. Until recently, all TVCs in Serbia were shot on film. In that sense, besides the budgeting and challenging logistics, we were glad to be reminded how working in that format looked like, on the other hand it was asked of us to follow the creative directive. Knowing that they only had one day of shooting, Salomon and DP Guillermo Garza from the very start depended on the second camera and our DP Aleksandar Košutić for support.

What inspired you most to work on this project?

Our production is mostly focused on the advertising industry which usually follows already established criteria. Music videos give you a certain liberty, thereby the creator’s passion is strongly felt, which further elevates and transpires. Salomon`s determination to shoot in Belgrade together with the local creative crew were more than enough to motivate everyone in the production team to work devotedly. Costume designer Suna Kažić, production designer Tamara Tričković and Milica Jokić as line producer gave huge contributions to this project.

It is part of our mentality to respond emotionally to others’ emotions and as a result we give even more than our best.

We are constantly putting the light on Serbia’s locations, infrastructure, film crews… How do you, as a production company, perceive this kind of creative work which exceeds service production?

Most of our team members have gotten involved in service production just recently. We all have a creative production background and this kind of collaboration is, in fact, an ideal circumstance for us.

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Behind the scenes of The Revelation with Tuna+Icon

One of the latest inspiring works coming out from locations in Serbia is "The Revelation" a short film directed by Salomon Ligthelm and featuring music of Scottish band Young Fathers. It stands out fo...

SLAVIŠA IVANOVIĆ, STUNT COORDINATOR: RISK – WE FACE IT, DANGER – WE DO IT, STUNTS – WE LIVE IT

img_1658The most wanted Serbian stuntman Slaviša Ivanović has done more than 150 international and domestic productions, working not only with the biggest names of Serbian film industry, but also the world’s most famous cinema stars such as Pierce Brosnan, Ralph Fiennes, Salma Hayek… Slaviša and the entire team of Serbian Stuntmen Agency are among the best stuntmen in the world, gold medal winners at every international competition and even absolute winners in every category at the 2014 world championship. He was so kind to share with us his exciting career story where we discovered if he ever feels scared while doing dangerous scenes and what you should do in case you decide to become a stuntman.

How did your career start and why did you decide to work as a stuntman? What was your first film?

My stunt career began when I started training aikido with legendary Serbian trainer Željko Božić, who was already working as a stuntman with one of the best established stuntman Sljavoljub Petrović Zvonce. Soon enough, Željko recommended me to train with Zvonce and he introduced me to the world of action and stunts. My first job was on a student movie, and after that I worked on a project that was never completed, but as soon I wrapped my first feature film ‘Premeditated Murder’, everything that followed is now a part of  a beautiful journey that is my filmography.

Are there any specific skills, virtues or characteristics someone has to have in order to become a stuntman? Have you ever felt scared while doing a scene or refused to do it? Was there anything you couldn’t do?

The criteria Zvonce established in the Yugoslav Stunt Association referenced  the way stunt work was done in  the US and is still being nurtured by the Serbian Stuntmen Association today, who is in charge of accepting and training new candidates. Each candidate must have a master degree in martial arts or hold a gold medal at the international competition in sports which have no ranking system. After the candidate passes the three day recruiting, there is a trial period of four months, after which the candidate becomes a student of  an official stunt training for the next  three years. Without this, no one can obtain the title of a professional stuntman . We chose stuntmen who are not attracted by danger, but skill, trained to perfection that goes beyond sporting requirements.

When it comes to fear, I am actually most afraid of the fact that I am not afraid of anything, unfortunately. That’s why I’ve never refused to shoot any scene. There were stunt scenes that weren’t realized due to the lack of budget needed for the performance, usually specific equipment or materials that were necessary to perform a stunt in a way that is safe.

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How big is the team of Serbian Stuntmen Agency Team and how can someone  become a member? What is the difference between Serbian Stuntmen Association and Serbia Stuntmen Agency?

Currently, there are 30 active stuntmen in Serbian Stuntmen Association. Twenty of them are universal stuntmen with skills in at least 12 specialties, and ten specialists. There are one coordinator and three assistant coordinators. To become a member of SSA, it is necessary to complete the training organized by the Association through its professional department. All our members are multidisciplinary athletes, European and world championships medalists, sometimes even participants in medieval tournaments. The entrance exam is always in September and we would like to expand the membership to other cities in Serbia. The difference between the Association and the Agency is the same as between the football federation and a football club. The Agency recommends stuntmen to production companies and organizes trainings, while the Association is in charge of training new stuntmen, advancing skills of existing stunt teams, in the country and as well as abroad. Association also promotes and protects the stunt craft in Serbia, in addition to cooperating  with other national stunt associations and international organizations.

While working in pre-production on the third season of ‘Seal Team, Mike Massa paid us a compliment, stating ’that stunt in Serbia is the most beautiful combination of American detailed preparation and Russian daring stunt.

Can you describe to us from start to finish your stunt preparation process, from coming up with an idea to the final performance?

Like any other crew member, I start by reading the script, then I  talk to a director, and the production in order to agree upon  material and technical resources, and the budget. When our stunt plan is approved, we work on the choreography and equipment preparation in coordination with other departments that are necessary for the scene. We do our rehearsals in the stunt exercise hall and later on the set. Sometimes we even film the rehearsed stunt sequence with a proposed camera movement, which is followed by the  real performance with the necessary protection measures.

What was the most dangerous scene you’ve ever done?

Driving a Lada cabriolet at the 2014 World Competition in Russia with an explosive placed under my seat, which I was supposed to activate during the ride and blow myself up in the mid-air–which I did. The explosion threw me about three meters up in the air, burning As I landed and started to get up, I was still burning, nevertheless I quickly reached the extinguishing point. I walked away without a single scratch, but the sound of the explosion rang in my ears for three days. We won in all categories that year.

International Stunt Academy in Russia has honored you with the special academic title,  which put you in the company with the likes of Jackie Chan, Steven Seagal and Arnold Schwarzenegger. What does that title mean to a stuntman?

The honorary recognition and the title is the highest ranking position a stuntman can have, and it means that I am allowed to train or “produce” internationally recognized stunt coordinators. Prior to it, I trained stuntmen who worked in the positions of universal stuntmen. Furthermore, not only did the title enable me to become a member of the Russian Prometheus Academy, but it also helped me  raise my membership to the highest level in the Hollywood Stunt Academy, where I am one of the voting members for the Taurus Awards.

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Did it change something in your carrier?

Immense benefits, as well as the opportunity to establish an internationally recognized stunt academy, as up until that point we have only had an internationally recognized stunt school. Thanks to it, all current and future students of the Serbian Stuntmen Association can acquire world-class skills.

You worked on the most successful Serbian productions, but on Hollywood and Bollywood films, too. Can you compare the work with colleagues from the US to stuntmen from Russia?

Work experiences are different. American colleagues prepare detailed and elaborate preparation of a stunt sequence, and do a risk-averse type of stunt. The Russians have basic preparation while performance is the so-called “hard” (or daring) stunt. Stuntmen from different countries come to Serbia and perform stunts, but unlike some of them we are regular participants in the world stunt competitions. Among SKA members there are a dozen medal winners. There are teams doing risk-averse stunts, despite not being  stuntmen. They shouldn’t be mixed up with professional stuntmen as global standards in stunt training and its safety measures are widely acknowledged among industry circles.

img_4652How did you organize your activities during COVID-19 pandemic?

After the outbreak, we replaced the film set with volunteer work in the municipal center for the assistance to vulnerable groups, working on the distribution of humanitarian aid. In general, the SKA team is known for being involved in various charity activities. In my professional career, I have never had more than four days off, and the situation hasn’t changed even in a time of pandemic. As many crews are out of work at the moment, we’ve also established a stunt fund in order to provide certain support and income to the members of our community. As measurements loosened by the end of April, we‘ve returned to training, and now we are ready to continue with previously halted projects.

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SLAVIŠA IVANOVIĆ, STUNT COORDINATOR: RISK – WE FACE IT, DANGER – WE DO IT, STUNTS – WE LIVE IT

The most wanted Serbian stuntman Slaviša Ivanović has done more than 150 international and domestic productions, working not only with the biggest names of Serbian film industry, but also the world...

FINDING LOCATIONS, LANDING HELICOPTERS AND EXPLODING FILM SETS

We are launching Inside the Industry section to share experience and offer insight into the production development and chance to hear it from people who worked on biggest project filmed here, both foreign and domestic. To start the story, we chose to speak to professionals most relevant for locations in Serbia – scouts and production designers. The location department is still carving within production teams in Serbia as productions grow, so we chose two of our members Stefan Todorović, location manager and Nenad Ždero, production designer for joint interview. To jumpstart the conversation, we asked them the obvious question - what are their 5 favorite locations in Serbia.

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Stefan: For this occasion, I choose locations which are attractive for filming, interesting and challenging for me in a certain way. Those are: Old Mountain (Stara planina) - since I prefer shooting in nature to city conditions, I always get thrilled with its landscapes and beauties of its nature - mountain tops, abandoned villages, lakes, waterfalls and forests. Speaking about villages, there is another location at Old Mountain I really love - the stone village of Gostuša, very cinematic place with unique architecture. Most of the houses have preserved the authentic look from a few decades ago, which can be quite interesting, especially for filming; Tara Mountain - its famous lookouts, stunning Perućac and Zaovine Lake, interesting roads and tunnels, meadows ...; New Belgrade "Blocks" - an authentic part of the city that offers dozens of possibilities but also eternal complications during filming, and Vratna Gates in Eastern Serbia.

Nenad: Scouting combines two things I love most - photography and being outdoor exploring hidden places and new locations. My choice for 5 best filming locations in Serbia are: Old Mountain (Stara planina), because its nature is so vivid, providing many different unpredictable experiences; Royal Complex (Stari i Beli dvor) – luxurious buildings in which each room tells new story from our history; Turkish Bath – oriental heritage, so exotic, surprisingly placed in Belgrade Downtown; Deliblato Sands – full of diverse landscapes and at the same time mystical; all abandoned factories – places always ready for new adaptations where I can let my creativity spread around.

Which project was your biggest challenge? Which location was hardest to adapt to your creative ideas?

Nenad: Certainly, most challenging for me was working on the Bollywood production Baaghi III, mostly due to the size of the project and its complexity. Ambitious goals were set at the beginning, as well as high expectations based on the previous major successes of the first two parts. Preparations were done remotely - Indian crew had already started filming there, while here, we were at the beginning of prepping in Pančevo. The biggest challenge for me as a production designer was the adaptation and transformation of the Pančevo Glass factory into a Syrian village with streets, squares, interiors on the 4000m2 lot. It took a lot of creative work and ideas to make it as an authentic place in Syria, but with the support of the local production company Clockwork Film Production, already experienced in working with Indian productions, and the incredible dedication and professionalism of the construction team Mega decor, everything was easier to accomplish.

Baaghi 3 turned out as another in a series of extremely successful Bollywood blockbusters shot in Serbia. You had quite a big playground there. What was the size of your team and tasks that you achieved for this project?

Nenad: That's right, Baaghi III has made tremendous success in India, and I am personally very proud of that, although it was hard to work on such a big project and co-ordinate different units and their tasks. My production design team was quite large, sometimes counting up to 70-80 people on set. During prep, three production design studios were working in parallel and succeeded to build Syrian village on a total area of 4000 m2 in just three months.

Stefan, how was it placing the new season of the Seal Team into Belgrade streets? Were Belgrade authorities ready to support production team in every aspect, and which requirement was hardest to supply?

The whole process was really interesting, considering that the requirements of the production were quite complex from the very beginning. We participated in the realization of four episodes and the fact that the first episode and the story is actually taking place in Belgrade, was supposed to "open" the third season, got as all very excited with a fair amount of pressure and organizational challenges. At first location scouting with production team, we heard so many ideas that sounded like nobody from the city government will ever let us bring them to the screen. The craziest among them was the idea to land a helicopter on Nikola Pašić Square in front of the National Assembly and shoot some sequences of chases and turning cars there, too. Indeed, Belgrade City authorities had so much understanding for what we wanted to achieve and during shooting provided us all necessary logistical support and coordination.

How many people were in the Location Department of the Seal Team crew?

Location department consisted of four people, but we had huge help from people who worked in other production departments.

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Nenad, how would you describe Serbian production design and art department and why they are jewel in our crown? Is there something new in the department that world should know?

Serbian film industry, thanks to our glorious production history, as well as great success of local production companies working on foreign projects filmed in Serbia, is becoming recognized worldwide. I certainly think that apart from the VFX, our biggest asset is the production design sector. It is a sector with decades of knowledge and craftsmanship and experience on the domestic and international scene.

Are we ready for some big Hollywood project? What would you like to do next?

Nenad: We are well on our way to bringing some huge project to happen, thanks to our capabilities and capacities, but I feel we don’t have enough resources yet to bring out some Hollywood blockbuster. Maybe this is something I would love to do next, but before that I would very much enjoy taking part in some SF project.

Stefan: I think that our crews could handle serious Hollywood projects, considering the experience of a large number of domestic film workers. It is quite common situation for foreigners who come to film in Serbia for the first time to be surprised by the attitude towards work and professionalism of our teams. I guess it has something to do with the prejudices they have for many reasons, unrelated to our work. Speaking from the position of location manager, I would like to work on an action movie because of the challenges such projects offer.

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FINDING LOCATIONS, LANDING HELICOPTERS AND EXPLODING FILM SETS

We are launching Inside the Industry section to share experience and offer insight into the production development and chance to hear it from people who worked on biggest project filmed here, both for...

INCENTIVES: VISION FOR CREATIVE INDUSTRY – INTERVIEW WITH ANA ILIĆ

ana-ilicSenior Advisor to the Prime Minister for Creative Industries and Tourism says that thanks to the Incentive programme, production in Serbia increased 162% in 15 months!

 

How do you evaluate the results achieved after three years of introduction of incentive programs for film and audiovisual production? Your former role as film commissioner was the strongest voice for introduction of cash rebate for filmmaking.

As Film Commissioner, I began lobbying for Film Incentives in 2009 and since it was finally introduced in 2016, I’m delighted to report that the Serbia Film Incentive programme has proved more successful than even I could have hoped.  In just the first fifteen months, from April 2016 to June 2017, the total value of inbound production in all genres was € 23,1 million. The total amount of qualifying production Serbian expenditure (i.e. qualifying for the incentive) was € 18,9 million and the Serbian Incentive rebated RSD 467.509.098 (€ 3.8 million).

Feature film production alone increased over previous year total productions by 54%. Eleven TV commercials also qualified for the programme – and the Serbia Film Incentive remains one of the only programmes to include TVCs globally.

Importantly for government, our research showed that 61% of production expenditure in Serbia is spent with small business suppliers in the value chain. 39% was spent on direct labour (independent crew). The incentive program created 2254 project-based work opportunities, equivalent to 104 full time jobs.  The whole programme has offered such strong ROI, and has been so efficiently managed, that the rebate was increased to 25% for the 2019 year and the available budget doubled.

How closely do you collaborate with film industry now? What are usual demands that foreign film producers have for Serbian Government? What can they expect from you in the future? 

The Serbian film sector receives unprecedented levels of support from our Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, who has been an enthusiastic champion of the Creative Sector, and has made the creative and digital industries, as well as education, her main policy focus. Therefore, I remain very much involved in the industry, and attuned to its needs. Having said that, the very success of the Serbia Film Commission means that most international enquiries are handled and dealt with before they ever come to me, but unusual locations remain a key request, since we have the experience and opportunity to facilitate access to some of the most important government owned properties in the country. Beyond immediate production requirements, there’s obviously growing demand for post-production services and also for film studios, and from the Prime Minister’s cabinet we continue to meet with investors and interested parties to find ways to attract investment in these areas. And we are constantly alert to opportunities to fine-tune the film incentive programme so that more films can spend more money in Serbia.

Are there any auxiliary legislation that you have put in place or plan to introduce in order to facilitate filmmaking environment?

From January 1st of this year, there is a so-called "IP Box” incentive, which is a lower taxation regime that applies to revenues from any intellectual property created in Serbia. The new tax regime covers not only patents but the works of authors such as movies, music, games, books etc. Tax on those revenues is just 3%, which is 80% lower than the regular 15% corporate income tax (CIT).  Any companies earning revenues in Serbia from feature film sales are therefore subject to an extremely low CIT regime, and the profits can be used for new projects. Additional recent changes to the CIT law provide a much better treatment of investments into culture and promotion which should incentivise the private sector to invest more in art, films and other creative endeavours through sponsorships and donations. 

The budget for film industry is constantly increasing together with the budget for incentive program. Do you expect higher demand in the near future? What are next steps and plans of this Government regarding investments and support to film industry?

Under this government, we have seen the total budget for film production increased 50 times from what it was six or seven years ago. This includes the fund for Serbian content production as well as the incentive program that’s applicable to both local and international productions. It is especially gratifying to see that the program also hugely benefits local content production. We’ve seen amazing expansion of Serbian film and TV series production in the past couple of years - not only because the government funds are significantly higher but also because production standards have grown and crews are more sophisticated. The ultimate goal really is to give Serbian film and TV industry much bigger visibility globally, to enhance international co-productions for Serbian stories and to enable our actors and filmmakers to be recognised and work around the world.

But in spite of our increased financial support, we’re not interested in competing in a race to the bottom with incentives; there will always be competing destinations willing to offer more. So instead of simply continuing to raise the percentage of rebate, or cutting the qualifying threshold, our main priority has been to ensure the ongoing improvement of the quality of the programme. By that I mean focusing on internal operational issues so that rebate applications are assessed and paid out swiftly, or by fine tuning the thresholds to target business where we as a country want it. 

Additionally, we’ve been keen to ensure that there are sufficient goods and services and depth of crew available in the country that film budgets can be spent on. We now need to train more people to work in film crews to cater to the demand. That’s why we supported the Serbia Film Commission and its Film Skills Academy which provided training for cameramen, production managers, film accounting, budgeting and planning in Movie Media Software, VFX producers and the like, resulting in more than 120 additional trained crew. 

We are also keen to support the development of post- production facilities and production studios since what is on the ground now is often occupied and there is definite need for more capacity. For these kinds of investments, the Government can provide a combination of incentives, depending on the potential investor’s concrete plan. 

The newly established platform “Serbia Creates” aims to globally represent Serbia as a country of innovations and creative people. How did you recognize film industry in that concept? Which segment of our film industry is now recognizable in the world?

We are aware that Serbia’s international reputation is unfortunately sometimes linked to events of the past. We realized that there needed to be a new narrative, a new way of talking about Serbia that recognised both the country’s cultural heritage and its ingenuity, innovativeness and creativity. Serbia Creates allows us to do that in a flexible, transparent and open way. And therefore Serbia Creates Film obviously sits comfortably alongside Music, Contemporary and Performing Arts, Technology, Gaming, Fashion, Design, Architecture and a whole range of other creative sectors, where Serbians themselves are doing great things and earning recognition all around the world. I believe we’ve succeeded in changing awareness of Serbia from just a little known destination to a viable, exciting creative partner for the production of films. And through our Serbia Creates Ambassadors programme we’ve also placed an additional spotlight on Serbian actors who’ve reached the very top of their fields, like Stefan Kapičić in Hollywood or Miloš Biković, who’s a superstar in Russia. We will continue to do that with a number of other filmmakers.

What is the position of film industry in Serbian creative industry? Can good example of incentive program in film industry affect or even apply somehow to other creative industries?

The film industry, and in particular the film incentive programme, is a shining example of good policy, implemented well. The results speak for themselves and the job creation and small business development all along the value chain provides concrete benefits for the Serbian economy and society. The two key organizations – the Serbia Film Centre and the Serbia Film Commission work very well together and with the supportive Ministry of Economy that provides the incentives, the President and Prime Minister personally, the industry is very well established and has great potential for further development.

But it’s also true that the lessons from the film sector are replicable in other creative industry subsectors. From an economic perspective, incentives can help remove some of the more contentious issues of funding, such as complaints of favouritism and nepotism, and they allow for a very simple relationship between funder and fundee: if you spend this, we will refund that. It allows partners to plan and cashflow better, and ensures that money is spent and documented ever before government refunds a cent. And while there is obviously a need for a cultural funding programme, the parts of the Creative Industries that don’t have a historic heritage value – gaming, VR and AR, or major events for instance – can be readily supported through such methods. We are constantly looking for models that will allow us to provide incentives to other subsectors.

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INCENTIVES: VISION FOR CREATIVE INDUSTRY – INTERVIEW WITH ANA ILIĆ

Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister for Creative Industries and Tourism says that thanks to the Incentive programme, production in Serbia increased 162% in 15 months! How do you evaluate the result...

91 days at the Outpost 2 – interview with Dean Devlin, Electric Entertainment

outpost-photo-credits-aleksandar-letic-for-balkanic-media-2Dean Devlin from Electric Entertainment explains how Serbia quickly became the obvious home for Season Two of The Outpost because they provided world class facilities at PFI Studios, low costs of production and most importantly a competitive rebate on production spend.

When was the first time you heard of Serbia as a possible filming location and what was your motivation to come here? What was the key factor in deciding to move “Outpost” from US to Serbia?

We relocated the show from the US for Season Two and had scouted a few other countries before deciding on Serbia. When we met with producer Jonathan English from Balkanic Media, who is based in Serbia we quickly saw the benefits of bringing the show there.

The entire season of 10 episodes was shot in Serbia, including the postproduction. What was your experience with Serbian crew and local companies so far?

All of Season Two has been shot in Serbia which comprises of 13 episodes in total. The majority of post-production took place here. We were working with a team of four editors, a post production supervisor and several assistant editors in Belgrade. In addition, the entire Editorial staff were all local Serbians. We were doing sound editing and visual effects with Fried Pictures in Belgrade, who were handling about half the entire VFX on the show. There were many more people on the crew who are Serbian as well. We’ve also hired two local directors to do four episodes plus another Hungarian director. We were truly impressed by the talent and experience of local people we met in Belgrade. There is an established film industry and people really know their craft there. We’ve ended up being a large production with about 150 people in the technical shooting unit plus cast and another 50 – 100 extras per day. The whole production was based at PFI Studios which is a great facility and also had a backlot available for us to build a large exterior set. We were based at the studios for approximately 8 months and also shooting on location in and around Belgrade. The production has been shot for just over 18 weeks, 91 days.

What is the biggest advantage of filming THE OUTPOST in Serbia? Has it influenced the creative process and looks of the new season in any way?

Shooting in Serbia had a tremendous impact on the production value and entire look of the show. We were thrilled with the results we have seen since early cuts of some episodes. In Serbia, we’ve been able to achieve a level of production scale and polish that made The Outpost look like a new show. Everything form the sets, costumes, props, cinematography, and lighting made the whole production look fantastic.

outpost-photo-credits-aleksandar-letic-for-balkanic-mediaDo you see area in which Serbia film industry can improve its performances or how local governments can support film industry more?

So far we were very satisfied with all the support we’ve received. The process of applying for the rebate was straightforward with all the companies involved from Balkanic, to Crow RS who was handling the rebate, to yourselves at the Commission and even support from the Prime Minister’s office has been instrumental in helping us to establish and run a very smooth production. Training continues to be a key area that we would like to help more with, as more and more projects come to Serbia, creating more skilled labor is key. With Balkanic we established a trainee program for the production and have in total about 25 trainees employed on the show across different departments. Otherwise the overall support has been extremely good.

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91 days at the Outpost 2 – interview with Dean Devlin, Electric Entertainment

Dean Devlin from Electric Entertainment explains how Serbia quickly became the obvious home for Season Two of The Outpost because they provided world class facilities at PFI Studios, low costs of pro...

REMOTE TEAMS THAT WORK LIKE CLOCKWORK – INTERVIEW WITH VICTOR PEREZ

You worked as a VFX Supervisor with Crater Studio on the project The Invisible Boy: Second Generation. What was your experience in working with Serbian VFX artists? How do you rate the creative and organizational cooperation with them?

I am going to say it was kind a flawless. I don`t find truly any difference between working with Serbian, US or UK artists... They are up to the level of any other studio in the world. It was really pleasant because they were delivering what I was asking in the timing I was asking. Could that be better? The communication was really fluid and easy, even when I was working from the distance and I never experienced that doing the production, it was really easy. Totally approved, I would like to work with the team again in the near future.

How do you see VFX industry in Serbia? Is it developed enough and what we can do better? What can be the biggest advantage of Serbian VFX artists and studios that could motivate international production companies to hire them?

I worked only with Crater, and since I went to CGA Conference I learned few things.Government should push towards making the national VFX industry to be known because it is a very good industry and you guys have clearly very good professionals. Maybe I`m naive with that, but instead of searching from companies to work outsourcing from them you should invest into searching of new directors, a new production companies which are maybe starting to create interesting projects, so you have to hunt projects.

You were a key note speaker at CGA Belgrade Conference 2018. What was your main impression of the event and community? Have you had a chance to meet with new interesting talents?

I wasn`t expecting that well organized festival since it`s the second year, but it was very well organized,with amazing speakers, so it was actually–unexpected. I saw an amazing group of young people very willing to learn and to get in touch with international panorama of visual effects so that is great. I think you have the talents and the interest, you just need to cultivate it. That`s obvious,let`s say, to grow the industry. This kind of events are really important to the community of VFX  industry because you`re going to put in touch people. Many guys there asked me about my work and pitches and I met plenty of talents. 

You gave talk on the most debated issue in the industry –“VFX in independent films: Low Budgets and Big Ideas”. Is there an easy way to it? Have you discovered some new recipe since November 2018?

There is never an easy way. If yes, everybody would do that, and thank God it`s not like that. It depends on project and director. You need to educate your directors when you are working on independent project. If you work with Steven Spielberg he will educate you.So the easiest way is to work with them from the early days. I think that independent films are really interesting as a market because they are going to constrain you to focus on the story since you don`t have money to spend on anything that is not useful for the story. I like that but there is no easy way to do that. VFX supervisors need to best storytellers, that is the main thing. In the end of the day everybody that is working on the film is a storyteller and we can`t limit ourselves to work on pixels.

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REMOTE TEAMS THAT WORK LIKE CLOCKWORK – INTERVIEW WITH VICTOR PEREZ

You worked as a VFX Supervisor with Crater Studio on the project The Invisible Boy: Second Generation. What was your experience in working with Serbian VFX artists? How do you rate the creative and o...

SERBIA – PERFECT FOR BUDGET WITHOUT COMPROMISING ON QUALITY

With the introduction of no-visa regime for stays of up to 30 days, Serbia has become the new go-to destination for Indian filmmakers in Europe. But not just for that! Shiva Ananth, Bollywood film producer (Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, Soorma...), explained us in this interview that locations, crews and good prices, are also playing key rolls for his colleagues while deciding to shoot in Serbia.

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What was the key factor in deciding to film in Serbia? What is the biggest advantage of filming here?

In each of the three films we've shoot in Serbia we had special requirements. For one we needed to film in an airbase with active fighter jets. For another we needed to cast paraplegic athletics. We wanted untouched natural locations for the third. We could find them all in Serbia and the biggest advantage was all of it was affordable. We're not Hollywood you see. So the numbers matter a lot. And Serbia was perfect for our budgets without compromising on quality.

What was your favorite production department while making your film? Can you share some certain impression about working with Serbian crews and production company (Clockwork Film Production)?

Both the production and art teams from Clockwork were excellent. The locations, day to day planning, vehicle and food management, equipment rental... Everything was planned ahead and the plans were executed as promised.

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How did you cooperate with Serbian production designers?

The art team always matched our expectations whether in terms of creating new sets or to match what we had already filmed in India. Over the course of the three films I've earned the trust and friendship of the Serbian crew which I'm am very proud of.

Did you have good cooperation with local companies and institutions?

Yes. Through Clockwork we had access to all local companies and institutions right up to the very top; including the army and various City councils.

What is your favorite location you filmed in Serbia and why?

Novi Sad. The city and the people are so lovely. I'll always remember Serbia and Serbians this way –warm, friendly, beautiful and accessible. Like Novi Sad.

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SERBIA – PERFECT FOR BUDGET WITHOUT COMPROMISING ON QUALITY

With the introduction of no-visa regime for stays of up to 30 days, Serbia has become the new go-to destination for Indian filmmakers in Europe. But not just for that! Shiva Ananth, Bollywood film pro...

SCOUTING BELGRADE WITH GEORGETTE TURNER

Location manager Georgette Turner visited Belgrade last year when she was tutor of SFC Training for Location Managers and Scouts. On this occasion she succeeded to explore Belgrade quite good, so we asked her to tell us which locations she loved most and which project would she place on the bustling streets and forgotten buildings of Serbian capital.

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Can you share your impression while scouting in Serbia?

My scouting was very concentrated around the Belgrade area. What I didn’t expect to find just outside the city were the most incredible farms and factories set on hillside which were very cinematic. The undulating hills just outside the city would work very well for a movie with multi country locations. Belgrade itself could double for most European cities and there are also locations with American influence so there is a lot of variety here.

Any particular location that you would like to come back and shoot?

For the Brutalist and Art Deco locations were my favourite. A lot of our sites here in the UK have been developed so it was really satisfying so see such history.  The Guard House in Topčider were of particular interest to me. You could certainly see a big car chase or stunt sequence take place here. 

What are the two most important tasks that a site has to have to be a successful filming location?

It was really important to see the infrastructure in Belgrade. The crew being so accessible especially with Budapest being just a few hours away manning if you had a huge picture you could easily crew, the hotel facilities within the city are excellent so I was assured there would be enough local accommodation to put up crew, the studio being so close helps so that there is weather cover if needed and the lighting stores on site - knowing that plant is already there is good. 

What is your experience working with young location managers during Film Skills Academy? What are three personal or professional characteristics you appreciate the most?

The young location managers on the course were so talented and well rounded. I was so thrilled to have such a strong and intelligent bunch of young people. They really wanted to learn new skills but there understanding of all departments was impeccable. There was even a production manager on my course who wanted to understand more about location managing and techniques that are applied. Everyone turned up every day, no one was late and as a class they were so concentrated- I also learnt a lot from the experience. 

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SCOUTING BELGRADE WITH GEORGETTE TURNER

Location manager Georgette Turner visited Belgrade last year when she was tutor of SFC Training for Location Managers and Scouts. On this occasion she succeeded to explore Belgrade quite good, so we...