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Professional photography charges at Greek archaeological sites cut

More coverage of the decision by Greece to reduce the costs for filming permits [1] at the country’s ancient sites.

Kathimerini (English Edition) [2]

Greece cuts filming costs at Acropolis
Thursday, January 19, 2012
By Natalie Weeks

The Acropolis, Greece’s star attraction for 2,500 years, may be preparing for a bigger role.

The Greek government lowered the permit costs this month for using archaeological sites and museums for film crews to 1,600 euros ($2,039) a day from as much as 4,000 euros in a 2005 pricelist, and for professional photographers to 200 euros from 300 euros, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry. Historical spots include the Acropolis, which houses the Parthenon, and Delphi, home of the ancient oracle.

The previous prices were “excessive” and this prevented some groups from being able to use images of Greece, George Andreas Zannos, an adviser to the ministry, said in an e-mailed response to questions yesterday.

Cash-strapped Greece is trying to squeeze more money out of its monuments as the government battles to avert a debt default and collapse of the country’s economy.

The cost to use pictures of state-owned sites and museums in publications, from art history books and encyclopedias to tourist guides and magazines, was cut to as low as 30 euros per shot from 100 euros, based on statements dated October 2005 and January this year from the ministry in Athens.

A list of monuments such as the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion will be included in a 60-euro per shot category, according to the new price-list. All categories will now carry discounts after the first 10 photographs.

Previously, “publishers refrained from publishing books with images of archaeological content and museums” and sites lacked guides and books with images, Zannas said. All revenue will be used by the ministry, he said.

The Culture and Tourism Ministry’s budget has been cut 20 percent since 2010. Receipts from visits to museums and archaeological sites rose 5.3 percent to 41.2 million euros in the first nine months of last year, the Athens-based Hellenic Statistical Authority said on Jan. 10.

The ministry also is working on speeding up the process of obtaining a permit, which hindered film production companies from using locations in Greece in the past, Zannas said.

Nia Vardalos, writer and star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” said there were many restrictions in trying to get permission to film scenes of “My Life in Ruins” in 2009 on the Acropolis site, according to a video interview on Greekreporter.gr in May 2009.

“I hope that we set an example in that we went and we shot and didn’t break anything,” she said.


Times Blogs [3]

January 24, 2012
What’s the price of cheap filming in Greece?

One piece of apparently good news is that the Greek authorities intend to reduce the price of filming on major Greek archaeological sites. You’ll now be able to film on the Acropolis for a mere €1600 a day (down from €4000 in 2005, and a whole lot cheaper than the equivalent in (say) Italy).

This may be a false bargain for the film crews. I doubt if they can provide much practical support for that amount of money (the electricity, the guy with the keys etc.), and I strongly suspect that you won’t get an exclusive on the Acropolis at that price. Go and try and make your movie and I bet you’ll find another couple of film crews also on the job.

But there’s worse. The Greeks are presumably aiming at ‘big motion pictures’ or adverts (see the joke above) — but for documentary filming there is more to these prices than just the cash.

I have never filmed in Greece myself, but I know academic colleagues who have. And they say that one of the real downsides of documentary filming in Greece is that the Greek archaeological authorities insist on vetting the script before giving permission for the filming.

That means (and it’s understandable perhaps) that you wouldn’t be allowed to film on the Acropolis if you were going to say that Elgin had got it right and had actually rescued his marbles (ever wondered why all tv programmes come out anti-Elgin, well now you know). But it goes beyond modern/ early-modern politics. The script vetting comes right down to the interpretation of classical history and culture. Try saying that the god Apollo was a god of plague as well as of light and purity and, I’m told, you’ll have a struggle on your hands. You’ll need to go armed to the vetting meeting with a copy of the Iliad (which says just that) under your arm, and be prepared for a fight. (The fact is that Greek authorities dont like nasty aspersions being cast on their ancient gods. Plague bad, light good.)

It’s true I have all these stories second-hand (but i have no reason to disbelieve them). Makes you realise that, for the likes of me, ‘cheap’ filmimg wont be quite as simple as it’s painted.

New York Times [4]

Debt-Ridden Greece Hopes Ancient Sites Can Yield New Cash
Published: January 23, 2012

ATHENS — This is what it has come to in Greece: the Acropolis, the quintessential symbol of Greek culture and identity, could soon become a popular destination for fashion photographers and Hollywood producers, as cultural officials look for ways to raise money to make up for cuts in public financing.

With the coffers for maintaining cultural sites quickly running dry, the authorities say they had little choice but to make the Acropolis — along with dozens of other revered sites like Delphi and Ancient Olympia — more attractive to foreign film crews, advertising firms and publishing houses by slashing the cost of permits.

While most of the sites were available already, the costs were prohibitively high. But now, monuments and archaeological sites will be available for $1,300 a day for a photography session and about $2,000 a day for filming, the Culture and Tourism Ministry announced last week. The prices are about a third of those on a list drawn up in 2005, a year after the Olympic Games put Greece in the global spotlight.

The decision has not been universally applauded. Apparently, visions of Will Smith fighting aliens on the Acropolis did not sit well with some people.

“The Acropolis is not a film set, it’s the soul of Greece; this is sacrilege,” said Chloe Kakaouni, a 35-year-old tour guide, as she prepared to lead a small group of Japanese tourists through the monumental gateway of the Parthenon, the 2,500-year-old marble temple that graces the Acropolis hill. “It’s one thing charging entrance to visitors, and it’s another allowing every aspiring director with a bit of cash to trample all over our heritage,” she added, echoing a common sentiment expressed on blogs.

Officials say they will be quite selective in approving projects, and note that opening up ancient sites for commercial use is a routine practice in other European countries and a far cry from selling them off — as some news reports had suggested that Greece would do last year when the debt crisis took hold.

Not everyone is dead set against the idea. “As long as it’s a quality film and not an action movie with bad guys shooting and hiding behind the columns I think it would be O.K.,” said Yiannis Manolakos, a 22-year-old student of economics drinking coffee in a snack bar on the pedestrian walkway under the Acropolis, also known as “the sacred rock.”

“I don’t think it’s demeaning,” he said. “What is demeaning is going cap in hand to our foreign creditors or when a handful of demonstrators deface the Acropolis with a huge banner.”

Greek authorities say that all projects will need the approval of the country’s archaeological council, which has been very strict in the past. Only a select few, including Francis Ford Coppola and Tom Hanks, have been permitted to use the Acropolis to date. Other sites, like the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus, have long accommodated foreign theatrical productions, including Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” directed by Sam Mendes, last summer.

George Andrew Zannos, an adviser to the Culture and Tourism Ministry, said there had been no change in policy, just a more friendly approach — lower prices and less red tape. “We want to bring foreign productions to Greece, and we want to simplify procedures so that bureaucracy is not a barrier,” Mr. Zannos said.

Just because the ancient sites are in need of cash, Mr. Zannos said, that does not mean they will be opened up to anyone who can pay the bill — the Acropolis will not be used as a backdrop for a soft-drink commercial, for example. “It will still be given out on rare occasions,” he said, noting that the venture must pose no risk of damaging the monument. Apart from attracting revenue, the initiative is seen by the authorities as a way of creating jobs — on movie sets and photography sessions — and promoting Greece abroad to bolster tourism, which accounts for a fifth of domestic product.

The 2008 movie “Mamma Mia!” was filmed on and around the archaeological sites of Skopelos, and it put the virtually unknown Greek island on the map for thousands of tourists. A year later, the Greek-Canadian director Nia Vardalos was granted access to the Acropolis to film “My Life in Ruins,” the story of an American historian working as a tour guide in Greece. Both movies were co-produced by Mr. Hanks, whose wife is part Greek, and both cast the country in a positive light, as friendly, hospitable and even life-changing.

Argyris Papadimitropoulos, a 35-year-old Greek filmmaker, said he had no objections in principle to the landmark’s being used, “as long as it’s not whimsical rubbish showing stereotypes with women on donkeys and it’s not a postcard image.” Asked what he would shoot on the Acropolis, he said it had never crossed his mind. “My work is more down to earth; it’s about society and people.”

Some say the decision was inevitable, given the government’s inability to do anything else to improve its financial position. “We’re not privatizing, we’re not cutting down on tax evasion, we’ve got to do something to make money,” said Alekos Mainas, 55, who runs a small cafe near the Temple of Zeus, another central Athens landmark. “It’s not selling out; it’s surviving.”