Serbia dreams of becoming movie hotspot

Mon May 24, 2010 9:36am EDT
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By Adam Tanner

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia basked in the Hollywood spotlight this spring as its capital became the backdrop -- and sometimes war zone -- for the screen adaptation of the lesser-known Shakespeare tragedy "Coriolanus."

After isolation during real wars in the 1990s, Serbia is hoping Coriolanus, starring Ralph Fiennes in his directorial debut and Gerard Butler, will usher in a new era of film production to a country that needs an economic and image boost.

"That is something very, very positive," Nadica Momirov, state secretary of the Serbian Ministry of Culture, said of Coriolanus, which finished filming this month. "It is very important for tourism and for the economy."

Since the fall of communism two decades ago, many countries in Eastern Europe have made hundreds of millions by luring film productions away from traditional U.S. or European locations, but Serbia remained largely forgotten until recently.

Amid good publicity around Coriolanus, Serbia's parliament is planning to debate a proposal next month to offer tax incentives or rebates for international film productions.

Colin Vaines, a Coriolanus producer who was an executive producer on films including "Gangs of New York" and "Young Victoria," said saving money is vital in today's tough economy.

"There are fewer people who want to put up money for films," he said.

Fiennes had to scale back the production, which ended up costing 30 percent less than once intended, but he praised Serbia for allowing him to film in the parliament and for lending interior ministry soldiers to serve as extras.   Continued...