Does cash rebate sound Greek to you? It is actually the Greek incentive to attract investments in the audiovisual sector. For many decades Greece hasattracted many international productions due to its unique light and locations. The Ministry of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media has embarked on a series of initiatives for the enhancement of audiovisual production in Greece as well as the attraction of foreign investment in this sector. The National Center for Audiovisual Media & Communication (EKOME S.A.) was established in this context, aiming to boost audiovisual production in Greece.
President & Chief Executive Officer at EKOME in Greece since 2017, Panos Kouanis has extensive experience in all aspects of the Media industry, including film and television production, marketing, distribution and sales, new media and information communication technologies. Kouanis holds a Ph.D. and a B.A. in Economics from the School of Economic Sciences at the University of Athens, and a M.Sc. in Broadcasting and Film from the College of Communication of Boston University. Kouanis has also published a large number of research papers in national and international periodicals, and participated in many conferences and international organizations around the world.
On the occasion of the official presentation of EKOME on Monday, March 26th, Kouanis talked to Greek News Agenda* and explained EKOME’s strategic goals, as well as the four steps required to complete the cash-rebate procedure by both Greeks and foreigners with an interest to invest in audiovisual productions in Greecewithin a maximum 6month period following completion of production.
The National Center for Audiovisual Media and Communication will be officially presented on Monday March 26th, 2018. Could you tell us something more about EKOME and its establishment?
EKOME S.A. was founded by Law 4339/2015 of the Ministry of Digital Policy Telecommunications and Media. It is a legal entity governed by private law, an agency controlled by the State, its sole shareholder, run by a five member board, with a mission to promote and foster public and private initiatives, foreign and domestic, in all sectors of the audiovisual industry. Its institution is one of the most important and innovative policies of this government, aiming to protect, support and promote audiovisual media and communication in Greece, highlighting it as one of the economy’s key development sectors. The creation of EKOME addresses longstanding gaps in the audiovisual market, mainly in audiovisual production but also in education, research and digitization of archives.
As such, EKOME is responsible for the implementation of Law 4487/2017 which introduces a 25% cash-rebate scheme that will be covering part of the eligible costs for national and international audiovisual productions, as well as for the promotion of Greece as a unique destination for the production of audiovisual works, including film, television, documentaries, animation and video games.
EKOME is an organization staffed with specialized and well trained, highly motivated personnel ready to implement its programme. At this point in time, EKOME is concentrating its efforts to promote the investment incentive in a fast and efficient manner, while looking to establish partnerships with all individuals, organizations, public, private entities and stakeholders that will support its mission.
"Loving Vincent" (2017)
What are the main responsibilities of EKOME? Could you underline its principal mission and strategic goals?
EKOME has a threefold strategic goal: to create the proper infrastructure that will help boost entrepreneurship and attract foreign direct investments in Greece in the audiovisual sector; to operate as a centre for the creation of the national audiovisual and digital archives policy that will support the training of professionals, as well as train citizens in the language of audiovisual communication.
EKOME’s activities are highlighted in the following three central pillars operating continuously in synergy and complementing one another:
1. Digitization: collecting, preserving, maintaining, documenting and exploiting the entire country's audiovisual reserves (radio, television, cinema, the Internet and new media) through the digitization process, thus enhancing historical memory, culture and scientific research.In this context, EKOME undertakes the preservation and management of the film archive of the General Secretariat for Media and Communication and the completion of the digitization and documentation process of the GSMC’s photographic archive, i.e. approximately 95,000 photographs, depicting historical events of the 20th century, mainly during 1910-1996.
2. Enhancing entrepreneurship and employment in the audiovisual sector, both in Greece and abroad (foreign investment, EU funding, marketing and promotion of domestic content production). More specifically, through the implementation of for the strengthening of the production of audiovisual works in Greece, EKOME is responsible for receiving and processing of all applications submitted for investment projects concerning audiovisual productions.
3. Developing audiovisual education, as well as scientific study and applied research, using new technologies (media literacy, youth training, training of professionals, statistical and behavioural analysis, media monitoring, media intelligence tools).
"Before Midnight" (2013)
Why was the cash rebate system chosen? How is it financed?
The decision of the Greek government to opt for the introduction of a 25% cash rebate for the production of audiovisual works (film, television, animation, documentary and video games), financed by the Public Investments Programme with EUR75 million for a five year period (2018-2022), was based on the results of scientific research analyzing various types of state aid towards audiovisual productions around the world, taking into consideration various systems and best practices in Europe, most of which offer tax credits and cash rebates. The purpose of these incentives is to finance works with the proviso that qualifying projects have to be produced, in whole or in part in the country and make use of the country’s resources and infrastructure. It’s a self-financed fiscal incentive since it returns part of certified expenditures that have already been taxed.
The cash rebate system is a financial tool proven to be successful in attracting foreign and domestic direct investments, while helping to develop and promote a country’s creative industry and image abroad. The introduction of such an incentive in Greece will have a multiplier effect in various sectors of its economy, because it will contribute to the strengthening of entrepreneurship and the increase of economic activity in Greece’s creative industry, it will improve its image as a location for the production of audiovisual works, it will allow for the development of specialized know-how in the sector and for the creation of services of high added value and because it will ultimately help the shaping of a new extrovert national brand that highlights Greece’s competitive advantages, its culture, its history and beauty.
"Captain Corelli's Mandolin" (2001)
According to Law 4487/2017, EKOME will administer this cash incentive; can you explain how this mechanism works and how one could apply for the grant? Is there a different procedure for Greek and foreigners interested to film in Greece? Is it a complicated procedure?
EKOME is responsible for the implementation of this law. More specifically, Chapter D of this law concerns the Establishment of an Institutional Framework to Enhance the Production of Audiovisual Works in Greece, giving the opportunity to producers of films, television series, documentaries, animation, as well as video game designers, to produce their works in Greece by qualifying for a grant under this investment scheme. The incentive, which covers specific categories of eligible costs that will be incurred in Greece and sets a minimum of €100.000 for eligible expenses, while the maximum sum for funding is set at €5.000.000 per work.
The National Centre for Audiovisual Media and Communication oversees the whole process, a very simple procedure completed in just four steps:
1) A production company (whether foreign or local, by setting up a branch in Greece or by recruiting a Greek company for executive production) can enter the scheme by applying to EKOME no later than 60 days prior to the beginning of its production project in Greece (e.g. the first day of shooting, in the case of a feature film). The application must include a detailed budget of expenses to be incurred in Greece and the completed cultural test accompanying the application.
2) If the application meets all criteria, a specialized committee within EKOME assesses it on the basis of specific guidelines and the overall score in the cultural test, and issues its approval within 45 working days upon receipt of the application.
3) By decision of the Minister of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Information, the project is granted the initial approval for the aid.
4) No later than 60 days after the completion of production works, a final application is submitted to EKOME, including audited accounts and a detailed analysis of the qualified expenditure. A committee of EKOME examines all relevant documents within 30 days, upon receipt of the final application, in order to certify that all criteria have been met and issues its final review, after which the rebate is deposited within 60 days to a bank account of the beneficiary.
One important thing to remember here is that one of the biggest strengths of this scheme is that it is designed in such a way as to ensure that the aid will be repaid in full in 6 months (max.) after production is completed and the relevant production costs have been incurred.
"Le grand bleu" (1988)
How do you assess an audiovisual work’s eligibility for inclusion in the incentive scheme? Are there possibilities for financing from other sources?
Feature films and television productions, episodes or parts of episodes of television series and mini TV series, documentaries, animation and video games are all eligible for the incentive, provided they meet certain criteria: All production works, whether international or domestic, are eligible for a 25% cash rebate on qualified expenditures, in the form of refund (upon completion of project). They must pass a cultural test (in the form of point system) as set by Regulation N.651/2014 of the European Commission and achieve a minimum threshold of scores. The aid can be combined with other aid schemes: (1) up to 50% of the overall production cost of a single audiovisual work, (2) 60% in case of co-production with a co-producer from another EU Member State, (3) 70% of the budget of a “difficult audiovisual work” (a director's or producer's first or second work, a low-budget production or a production with low commercial exploitation potential in international markets). Any funding coming from the EU (such as Eurimages or Media) is not included in the above maximum rules.
'In the fade" (2017)
The purpose of the investment incentive is to strengthen domestic and international audiovisual productions in Greece. Does this suffice in order to support the severely hit by the economic crisis Greek creative sector? In what ways does EKOME plan to contribute to its development?
Before the Bill became Law 4487/2017, the Ministry of Digital Policy Telecommunication and Media launched an online open debate where a large number of stakeholders and citizens were able to submit their opinions in order to draw the final provisions of the Bill. This process was very productive and we were happy to witness the immediate response of all stakeholders willing to contribute to this process. The Law covers a broad range of audiovisual products aiming to boost domestic production and co productions with foreign companies. But more importantly, we are looking at attracting foreign productions and budgets. We are committed to making Greece one of the world’s most in-demand filming and production locations and witness the positive effects of these reforms in the Greek creative sector. The cash rebate incentive, although complementary to our existing funding schemes (mainly for film), has an outward orientation but because of its philosophy, including smaller budgets in the scheme, it is expected that domestic production will benefit highly.
What is your relationship with the audiovisual sector? Do you think that Greece is film friendly? What are its major advantages and in which way can now Greece attract the interest of investors and host important audiovisual productions?
I have a long standing relationship with the audiovisual industry, both academically and professionally since the early ‘90s. I am well aware of the needs and shortcomings of the sector, specifically in Greece, but also of the requirements and the strong competition that prevails in the international market. But I am also convinced that Greece can excel in its effort to become the most in-demand market for the production of audiovisual works, as long as we make good use of its competitive advantages such as the investment incentive, the level of professionalism, the quality of its services and the uniqueness of the country’s locations, and basically work very hard in order to consolidate the message to the world that “Greece is your next filming destination”.
*Interview by Florentia Kiortsi
Read also: One more reason to film in Greece: A new legal framework of economic incentives, General Secretariat for Media and Communication boosting Greek Gaming & Animation, Lefteris Kretsos on bringing Greece on the global map of the Game and Film Making Industry, 10 Reasons to film in Greece, “Filming Greece”: our new series of interviews on Greek Cinema.