Cyprus tries to lure for­eign film­mak­ers to ‘Olive­wood’

… but struc­tural is­sues re­main, tax in­cen­tives still un­clear

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - CYPRUS - By Ma­sis der Parthogh

The is­land’s film in­dus­try may still be in its in­fancy, but a new scheme to lure for­eign film­mak­ers and in­vestors to Cyprus could, hope­fully, pay off if the state finds the right bal­ance be­tween fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives and lo­cally avail­able ser­vices and in­fra­struc­ture, del­e­gates at a Ni­cosia con­fer­ence heard this week.

The in­ten­tion of the or­gan­is­ers of the first Cyprus Film Sum­mit, hosted by the govern­ment’s in­vest­ment pro­mo­tion arm, In­vestCyprus, was to an­nounce a pack­age of mostly tax mea­sures to a group of pro­fes­sion­als from the au­dio­vi­sual sec­tor, and at the same time to wine-and-dine them in or­der to show po­ten­tial lo­ca­tions for film shoots.

A lo­ca­tion of­ten re­ferred to at the con­fer­ence was the moun­tain­scapes and seascapes, many dot­ted with the char­ac­ter­is­tic olive trees, thus giv­ing birth to the is­land’s new name, ‘Olive­wood’.

“Cyprus has sig­nif­i­cant and unutilised po­ten­tial as it tries to come into the spot­light of the global film in­dus­try,” Fi­nance Min­is­ter Har­ris Ge­or­giades said in his key­note speech, say­ing that the first step in launch­ing the ‘Cyprus Film Scheme’ was a set of grants and tax breaks.

The min­is­ter said that the scheme is cur­rently in par­lia­ment and should be ap­proved by the end of the month. It in­cludes a cash re­bate as well as a tax credit of up to 35% on qual­i­fied cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture, a VAT re­fund and tax al­lowance for in­di­vid­u­als and the im­port or use of equip­ment.

“Cyprus is one of the fastest grow­ing economies in the Eu­ro­zone, and our ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy has shown that a bal­anced bud­get can be achieved through pro-growth poli­cies, not aus­ter­ity,” Ge­or­giades said.

An­ge­los Loizou, Chair­man of the co-host Cyprus Tourism Or­gan­i­sa­tion, added that “we boast of hav­ing a nat­u­ral film stu­dio,” through­out the is­land, and that the record 4 mil­lion tourists ex­pected for this year “can’t be wrong.”

The scenic lo­ca­tions, good con­nec­tiv­ity and mild weather through­out the year were also pro­moted by other speak­ers as be­ing key at­trac­tions to Cyprus, but once the panel dis­cus­sion at the con­fer­ence opened the floor to the pro­fes­sion­als in the au­di­ence, it showed that the is­land still has a long way to go if it wants to im­i­tate the suc­cesses of ri­val des­ti­na­tions such as Malta, let alone in­dus­try lead­ers Bri­tain.

De­spite the clear ab­sence of many lo­cal pro­fes­sion­als in the au­di­ence, vet­eran TV and film pro­ducer Chris Econo­mides, broad­cast guru Munro Forbes and film maker An­dreas Pantzis tried to elab­o­rate on do­ing busi­ness in Cyprus and how the cin­ema and broad­cast in­dus­try has evolved in the past two decades, by high­light­ing their own ex­pe­ri­ences on over­com­ing ob­sta­cles.

Forbes, a con­sul­tant to Sigma TV, said that he is also in­volved with the Cyprus Me­dia Academy, a train­ing cen­tre for as­pir­ing broad­cast pro­fes­sion­als with short cour­ses, mostly vo­ca­tional, em­pha­sis­ing the need for more ed­u­ca­tion in or­der to pre­pare the pro­fes­sion­als needed by the in­dus­try.

This need was also high­lighted by Peter Dun­phy, a film pro­ducer, tax and fund­ing ex­pert, who brought the ex­am­ple of how the Bri­tish Film In­sti­tute (BFI) co­op­er­ates di­rectly with uni­ver­si­ties in the UK in or­der to cater to the in­dus­try’s needs.

Lef­teris Eleft­he­riou, the head of the film unit at In­vestCyprus, an­swered a bar­rage of ques­tions that ranged from pro­vid­ing one-stop-shop so­lu­tions for film com­pa­nies, tax write-offs, cash in­vest­ments and li­ais­ing with state ser­vices on is­sues such as visa and cus­toms clear­ance, cross­bor­der co-op­er­a­tion and shar­ing or util­is­ing Euro­pean grants.

From his ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in other coun­tries, Dun­phy added that be­yond the tax in­cen­tives, the three most im­por­tant fea­tures for the in­dus­try over­seas were lo­ca­tions, avail­able fa­cil­i­ties and skilled lo­cal tal­ent, and fi­nan­cial in­fra­struc­ture, that in­cludes ac­cess to fi­nanciers and in­vestors.

Mem­bers of the au­di­ence were also keen to see if they would be el­i­gi­ble for tax breaks or could utilise the in­cen­tives im­me­di­ately, with pro­duc­tions in the pipe­line as early as in 2019, rang­ing from an­i­ma­tion to TV se­ries, and wanted to know if there could be co­op­er­a­tion with for­eign crews, or us­ing lo­cal crews in over­seas as­sign­ments.

Eleft­he­riou con­cluded that In­vestCyprus was quite flex­i­ble and that the in­cen­tives an­nounced were not nec­es­sar­ily carved in stone, adding that he would like to hear of more sug­ges­tions on how to ex­pand the scheme and make it more at­trac­tive to for­eign pro­fes­sion­als.

But some ba­sic cri­te­ria were nec­es­sary, such as estab­lish­ing a lo­cal com­pany or a phys­i­cal pres­ence, as well as meet­ing the “cul­ture test” to be de­ter­mined by a panel of tech­nocrats who would rule if the pro­posed project would have an im­pact on the Cyprus econ­omy or would even pro­mote Cyprus.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Cyprus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.