A complete guide to the Adriatic's top filming destinations from Kras Gancev, Producer at Bunker
For the first instalment in a new feature series, LBB’s Jake Otley shines a light on some undiscovered gems in the world of production. The Locations Spotlight will provide those in production services with a platform to promote stunning locations that draw in productions from around the world. In this first edition, LBB turns to Croatia, a land where rugged mountains meet fertile plains, and where everyone from Game of Thrones to Coca-Cola are cashing in on the versatile locations.
Kras Gancev, Producer at full-service production company Bunker, has been working in the local market for 13 years, and knows that Croatia has enough to offer to service any production.
LBB> Croatia has been leading the charge of Eastern European locations for years now. How would you pitch Croatia to those haven’t yet come to shoot in your region?
KG> Within just an 80-mile radius, Croatia really covers all kinds of landscape and climate. We’ve got a massive Mediterranean coast, mountains, lakes, rivers like the Danube, plus lots of locations that can double for places throughout middle and eastern Europe, Tuscany, Cote d’Azure and many more. Beyond the urban locations, we have various seascapes, and more than 1000 islands.
LBB> Sounds like you have every base covered. What does Croatia lack?
KG> We lack cityscapes, especially business locations. For example, one cannot shot New York here or any city with a bunch of skyscrapers. But the stunning nature, historical architecture as well as local, specific architecture make up for it.
LBB> Where specifically would you say attracts the most attention?
KG> It’s Dubrovnik. But the region of Istria, which is a Tuscany look-a-like, and the island of Pag, which is very popular for car commercials, are also attractive. Dubrovnik remains the biggest asset to Croatian production, but there are myriad other great and unique locations.
LBB> Climate is always a critical consideration for any production. When’s the best time for people to hop over to Croatia?
KG> The best time to shoot in Croatia is between late March and the end of October. Before and after it’s more like winter with no greenery. But the Croatian winters are very gentle on the coast, so it is possible for more ambitious scripts to be shot in this period. We shoot lots of ‘spring-time’ commercials in the winter in the coastal towns but also in continental cities.
LBB> Now to the serious stuff. Getting your permits and visas in order is vital for any travelling production. What’s the deal in Croatia?
KG> Well, there are no working permits or visas for EU citizens. Citizens from European countries which require working permits for Croatian citizens must also apply for working permits in Croatia. But this procedure is very simple and fast for all countries worldwide. So, no matter you if are from Argentina, South Africa or India we can provide working permits. Also, if you have a Schengen Visa you can enter Croatia without additional documents.
LBB> What about the infrastructure in Croatia? Is there easy access to high-level cameras and kit, casting, crews, studios etc.?
KG> Based on experiences with Games of Thrones, Robin Hood, Mamma Mia, Star Wars, Diana and many more, we can always provide high level gear. We can also outsource equipment from Munich, Budapest, Vienna... All of these cities are in the vicinity of Zagreb, where most of the productions are based.
LBB> Bunker have been servicing the local industry for years. What would you say has been your biggest production in Croatia to date?
KG> I would say that the production service we provided for a Coca-Cola Worldwide TVC. We worked with the production house Argentinacine from Buenos Aires, the agency David, who are based in Miami, while the spot was directed by was Martin Romanella. We also serviced Pan-African and Pan-Asian versions. It was a complex international job, but a total pleasure to work with all the crew, agency, production, and director. The spot was shot in Sibenik, a coastal city, and featured one of the most popular magicians in the States, Justin Flom, who was performing miracles on the set.
LBB> Beyond the climate and infrastructure, are there any dos and don’ts people should be aware of?
KG> There are no limitations at all. There is no danger from terrorism and we are very, very production friendly country. There are no bad experiences with locals - at least I haven’t heard. So, you can work absolutely relaxed and focused on your job. What’s more, the whole of Croatia is covered with highways, so you can have a pleasant journey to any location. There are also enough airports to shorten the time of travelling.
LBB> What would be your number one tip to any coming to Croatia to shoot a campaign/film?
KG> For the filmmakers it is good to know that since January 2012 Croatia has offered a tax rebate for film and television productions made in Croatia. Project can derive a benefit of up to 20% of their qualifying expenditure.
For commercials producers I would assure them that they would get the highest level of production service, at least from our production company.
LBB> Where would you suggest a foreign production stay while they are in Croatia?
KG> In Zagreb, there are classic exclusive Hotels like the Esplanade, Sheraton, Hilton, Westin…. But also there are very very good four-star star hotels and developed network of boutique hotels and Aibnbs. The region of Istria is full of amazing and exclusive hotels, especially the town of Rovinj. Producers can also rent Tuscan-style villas if they are in such mood.
LBB> Where are the best bars/restaurants? Any hidden gems you could suggest?
KG> The best restaurants are spread all over the country. Depending in which region we shoot I always recommend the best possible options, knowing almost all of the best places. We have restaurants with Michelin star and Michelin recommendations. There are all types of food and fancy and local restaurants. I personally prefer local restaurants and by experience most of my foreign production colleagues agree with me.
LBB> Any other tourist recommendations?
KG> Beside Dubrovnik and Istria I’m trying to send our clients, people from the agencies and production houses, to Croatian islands. I think, except renting a sailing boat, this is the best option to spend a summer. From the island of Hvar, which is one of the top 30 destinations in the world, there are other islands like Vis (currently is occupied by Mamma Mia crew), Lastovo, Sipan, Korcula and many others. National parks, most of them are UNESCO heritage are also great destinations. City of Opatija is one of the oldest tourist cities in Europe, it looks like Cannes or St Tropez. Part of the feature Diana with Naomi Watts was shot here.
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