The Serbian government has passed a decree establishing a new Film Incentive programme.

The new Serbia Film Incentive is a straight-forward 15% cash rebate on goods, products and services purchased for international productions in Serbia. It offers a further 12% rebate on Serbian labour, which also includes foreign crew and talent if they are paid in Serbia during the course of production. The minimum spending threshold in the country is $2.8m (€2m).

The Serbia Film Incentive is a part of the Ministry of Trade and Agriculture’s campaign to promote Serbia as a filming, tourism and business destination.

The incentive is the most recent in a series of moves intended to attract foreign productions to shoot in the territory. In 2009, Serbia launched the FilminSerbia website which describes production facilities, services providers and filming locations.

Serbia Film Commission, the only state-independent body of its kind in South-Eastern Europe, partially funded by the USAID and the EU, was established by Serbian film professionals shortly after and has introduced a range of coordination and training measures to improve filming in the country, including lobbying for the film incentive. 

In 2010 Serbia hosted international productions worth a cumulative $30m, including Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus which recently premiered in the Competition of the Berlinale; Europa Corp’s Lockout starring Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace; James Mc Teigue’s The Raven with John Cusack; and a handful of Italian TV series.

Former Yugoslavia used to be the second largest filming destination in Europe in the ’70s, so Serbia is well-known to experienced producers. It’s already 20-25% less expensive than other countries in the Balkans, so the new incentive should make it more attractive than current international production hot-spots in the region such as Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.

 “With existing cost savings of up to 25%, our excellent crews, our equipment and our locations, we were able to attract the attention of international producers. With the Serbia Film Incentive, the rationale for filming in the country became that much more compelling. We therefore look forward to fielding enquiries and assisting filming in Serbia,” says the Serbia Film Commissioner Ana Ilic.

The Ministry of Trade and Agriculture is expected to announce a competition for project submissions in the next month, and the deadline should be Oct 31. The incentive is currently available for 2011 only but Ilic says she expects excellent results this year and a continuation of the programme in 2012.