Lika Mezvrishvili - "Georgia is indeed highly attractive for international productions"

Hello Lika. First of all, I would like to thank you for giving your time for the interview. Obviously, the first question is about the Georgian cash rebate program. 

Why was the rebate launched in Georgia?

Lika : The development of creative industries and in particular film industry is high on the agenda of the Government of Georgia.  We believe that film industry is an engine that creates ripple effect on jobs and innovation in other sectors of economy not only at the time of the production, but also after the film is released, in the form of Film Tourism – a growing phenomenon worldwide.Georgia has a potential to become hotspot for international production. The country has a lot to offer to filmmakers – from business friendly environment to modern infrastructure, from diverse climate zones and landscapes to unique mixture of different architectural styles, from experienced local crew to film – friendly society.   Film in Georgia is open for both international and local productions. The main objective of the rebate is to attract international projects to the country that eventually results in the knowledge spillover, experience sharing and enhancement of standards in the local film industry.

How does the rebate work?

Within the scope of “Film in Georgia” we offer both financial and non-financial assistance. Financial assistance envisages 20-25% cash rebate on qualified local spend for international and local production companies. There is an online application process and no content requirements for the initial 20%, while additional 2-5% requires a production to meet the so-called “cultural test”.  The main idea of the “cultural test” is to give international productions incentive to promote Georgia as destination and enhance the benefits for the local film industry.When it comes to the non-financial part we assist productions with location scouting, procurement of permits and communication with various stakeholders.The process is designed to be straightforward and fast. We did our best to make the rebate as competitive as possible.

Why do you think international productions should be interested in coming to Georgia to shoot?

Lika Mezvrishvili – Head of “Film in Georgia”

Georgia is indeed highly attractive for international productions, I will list the main reasons that distinguish us from other countries. First of all, Georgia is a relatively small but very diverse country in terms of architectural styles, climate and landscapes. You can shoot snow caped mountains and sunny beaches in one day. While unique and captivating fusion of medieval and modern architecture with Asian, European and Soviet styles  as well as the diversity of landscapes makes it possible to double here Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Eastern Europe among many other countries.Moreover, Georgia offers foreign producers business-friendly and safe environment with flexible labor market, low taxes and lower prices across the board compared with similar locations in  Europe. Country has modern infrastructure with well-developed roads and rail system, several local airports connecting different parts of the country and 3 international airports with flights from major European cities.  Georgia’s efforts to become one of the easiest places  to work, do business, travel and of course make films have been achieved and reflected in major international rankings – we are # 9 in terms of ease of doing business according to the World Bank Group and 3rd safest country in Europe according to Numbeo.The launch of “Film in Georgia” and extensive international campaign implemented by Enterprise Georgia had a very positive impact on the number of international projects shot in Georgia. Financial and non-financial assistance offered to both international and local productions, easy to apply system and no content requirements for initial 20% make the rebate very competitive. Last but not the least, Georgia has a very film-friendly Government and society in general.

Can you sum up 2017?

Georgia is a relatively untapped location when it comes to filmmaking, which on the one hand is a challenge that we are successfully overcoming, but on the other hand gives us very good opportunity to establish reputation of a perfect shooting location. We understand the importance of international marketing for putting Georgia on the map for foreign productions. In 2017 we participated in major industry events in LA and London where we presented Georgia and the rebate. During the visits  we organized meetings with major studios, independent producers, location managers and other industry players (NBC Universal, Fox, Sony, Walt Disney Studios, HBO, Lionsgate, Netflix, Annapurna Pictures, Lucas film, Pixar, Amazon Studios, etc..) where we introduced filming potential of our country. We always encourage Georgian production service companies to join us and establish necessary contacts.Besides international outreach, we are involved in the capacity building of local film industry representatives. We initiate training and masterclasses to introduce best international practices and facilitate knowledge and experience sharing. For example, in 2017 we organized film production crash course for local production managers conducted by New-York based producer Rebecca Rivo.We are trying to be flexible and adjust the requirements of the program to the industry needs to make it as beneficial and effective as possible. In 2017 we reduced the number of distribution countries from 3 to 1 (outside Georgia) for Commercials, Feature Films and Music Videos As of today, Film in Georgia has 10 international projects in the portfolio. Out of 10 projects we currently have in our portfolio 4 are Indian feature films, some entirely shot in Georgia.  5 are Georgian-European co-productions, staring such renown actors as Costas Mandylor and Golshifteh Farahani. Georgian- German-French co-production “My happy family” by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross premiered at Berlinale and was screened in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition section of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, distribution rights were purchased by Netflix. 1 is US production “Halo of Stars” by Anthony Lucero starring Lily Collins, Holliday Grainger and Stacy martin. Film is to be released this year. It is worth mentioning that we have already rebated 3 projects.

What are the plans for 2018?

  “Film in Georgia” team plans to continue active promotion of the rebate on international arena, that includes participation in main industry events, meetings with major studios, location managers and independent producers, as well as FAM tours to Georgia in order to introduce filming locations and existing relevant infrastructure in the country to the key players of the UK and US film industries. We, also, plan to continue activities directed towards the enhancement of knowledge and skills of the representatives of local film industry.  For example, at the end of January, together with the US Embassy we plan a one week crash course on movie magic scheduling and budgeting software that will be conducted by Richard Guay, New- York based producer. We have several interesting projects in the pipeline and the outlook for 2018 is very positive!