The panel will discuss recent productions in Greece and how the Greek culture and new infrastructure aided in the telling of their stories. In addition, advantages, challenges as well as future possibilities of foreign film production will be expanded on. "With the recent success of MAMMA MIA! and the recently released MY LIFE IN RUINS, starring Nia Vardalos, the Greek culture is making its way to the mainstream through the art of filmmaking," said Angeliki Giannakopoulos, Festival Co-Founder and Director.
"Greece is experiencing a rise in tourism this summer which is being attributed to the success of last summer's hit MAMMA MIA! Audiences enjoy seeing the images of Greece and the unique personality of the Greek people. The LA Greek Film Festival is delighted to encourage more productions there." MY LIFE IN RUINS director Donald Petrie adds, "Greece was an amazing place to shoot a film from the breathtaking locations, to the warm and welcoming attitude of both the Greek government, and the people."
Over the years, Greece has attracted the interest of various international producers who have taken advantage of the country's old culture, unique light and beautiful landscape. These films include BOY ON A DOLPHIN (1957) starring Sophia Loren and Alan Ladd, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961) with an all-star cast that included Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn and Irene Papas, THE LION OF SPARTA (1962) by Rudolph Maté , ZORBA THE GREEK (1964) with Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates, SUMMER LOVERS (1982) starring Peter Gallagher and Daryl Hannah, BIG BLUE (1988) directed by Luc Besson and starring Jean Reno and Jean Marc-Barr, and the Academy Award-winning Italian film MEDITERRANEO (1992).
Greece is an integral part of the European Union and has a visual wealth of natural landscapes in regions like Thrace, Epirus, Thessaly , the Greek mainland, the Peloponnese , Crete and the picturesque islands in the Aegean and the Ionian seas. Many of these locations are blessed with historical monuments and traditional architecture. There are no large studios in Greece, but the country now offers a modern infrastructure for handling international film productions, experienced crews and service companies.
The Greek Film Centre provides conditional funding for cinema productions in Greece, which are co-produced by Greek producers. The Greek Ministry of Tourism also conditionally supports foreign productions. A VAT (value added tax) rebate system is currently being implemented in Greece. Citizens from EU countries as well as countries with which Greece has signed double-taxation treaties, qualify to enjoy the benefits of these agreements.
Guest of honor Kostas Markopoulos was recently appointed Minister of Tourism, after an active career in politics and in the medical profession as a thoracic surgeon. He is a member of the Greek Parliament's National Defense and Internal Affairs Committee and Permanent Social Issues Committee.
Nia Vardalos (writer/actor), who made filmmaking history with the success of her independent film MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING (2002). The movie was nominated for an Academy Award® for best original screenplay. Vardalos' other credits include the television series My Big Fat Greek Life, CONNIE AND CARLA (2004) and the recent release MY LIFE IN RUINS, which was partly filmed in archaeological sites in Greece.
Sanford Panitch, who is currently the President of Fox International Productions, a division of 20th Century Fox that produces and acquires local language films all over the world with strategic focus on markets with rapidly expanding local market share. He previously served as the President of Filmed Entertainment for New Regency Enterprises. He has supervised over 75 feature films such as JUMPER, DAREDEVIL, and the highest grossing movie in New Regency's history MR. AND MRS. SMITH. Prior, Mr. Panitch was Executive Vice President of Production at 20th Century Fox where he worked on the highest grossing movie of all time TITANIC.
Phedon Papamichael, who is a top Hollywood cinematographer and director. He has worked with directors such as Oliver Stone, Wim Wenders, Jon Turteltaub, Alexander Payne, Nick Cassavetes, and Diane Keaton. Some of his cinematography credits include W. (2008), 3:10 TO YUMA (2007), THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS (2006), WALK THE LINE (2005), THE WEATHER MAN (2005), SIDEWAYS (2005), IDENTITY (2003), MOONLIGHT MILE (2002), PATCH ADAMS (1998), MOUSEHUNT (1997), PHENOMENON (1996), and UNSTRUNG HEROES (1995). Papamichael recently completed his fourth feature as a director, ARCADIA LOST (2009), starring Haley Bennett, Nick Nolte and Carter Jenkins, which was filmed entirely in Greece.
We look forward to the results of this panel discussion. There is a wealth of Greek Something talent in the film industry and we believe that this is a great way forward for Greece to showcase it's most exportable product, the breathtaking beauty of our homeland along with it's unparalleled history and culture. Quality films made in Greece for international audiences, let's call them Global Greek films, can only enhance our image abroad, and we greatly look forward to seeing more such films in future. It goes without saying that in order for this to happen, the investor-repellant bureaucracy and the red tape required must be reduced to a minimum - the minimum that is necessary to ensure that all ancient sites are preserved and not exploited harmfully, either physically or commercially!