Hollywood is heading to Estonia, Bulgaria and beyond. Insiders share how it’s happening

On set of the Lithuanian series "Troll Farm"
On set of the Lithuanian series “Troll Farm” in Vilnius, Lithuania.
(Berta Tilmantaite / For The Times)

Jurassic World Dominion” is one of the top-grossing films of the summer, the latest in the popular sci-fi franchise about dinosaurs battling humans for control of civilization.

The film was shot in British Columbia, London and Hawaii. But another spot increasingly in Hollywood’s sights, Malta, also made the cut.

In one memorable scene, Chris Pratt zooms on a motorcycle around the cobbled streets of an old European city that has been overtaken by dinosaurs as a raptor chases and nearly kills him. That city is the Maltese capital, Valletta, which was chosen in part because filmmakers could get a generous 40% rebate from the government on costs — an increase from 27% just a few years ago.


In return, Malta hopes, more big Hollywood hits — and hordes of tourists — will make their way to the tiny archipelago nation as competition increases for American dollars and crews in the Mediterranean, Balkans and Baltics.

Hollywood is discovering lesser-known parts of Europe, bringing its wealth and moviemaking skill — and at times controversy — with it.

July 21, 2022

“There used to be just a few places that were really successfully working with Hollywood such as Hungary, where ‘Dune’ was shot,” says Anna Franklin, the London-based publisher of Film New Europe. “Now, every country is trying to up the other by offering more generous incentives to film there and courting Hollywood.”

The work being done in Malta, long attractive to filmmakers seeking its water scene tanks — which hold millions of gallons — is another indication Hollywood is expanding its borders by launching multimillion-dollar shoots, studios and film training across the far corners of Europe. Apple, HBO and Netflix teams are there too.

The Times spoke to those who straddle the relationship between Hollywood and Europe.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

a pair of film and TV icons

Nele Pave
Tallinn, Estonia
Film Commissioner, Film Estonia/Estonian Film Institute
The tax incentive for international productions is capped at 30%.


Tenet Director Christopher Nolan and actor John David Washington.
Director Christopher Nolan and actor John David Washington on the set of “Tenet.”
(Melinda Sue Gordon / Warner Bros.)

When Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” chose the Estonian capital, Tallinn, for major scenes — including an epic car chase where one vehicle speeds forward while another pursues it driving backward — it was a “turning point” for the country’s film scene, Pave said. Since then, the upcoming American horror film “Kill the Child” and productions from Finland, Denmark and elsewhere have taken to the Baltic nation.

“We didn’t really have much going on until 2016, when we started our film commission here in Estonia. First, it was Finland and Denmark that were filming here. These are places that are close neighbors. But then companies from farther away like Hollywood started to come. When ‘Tenet’ came here right before the pandemic, that was huge for us. When you have Warner Bros. in your country, it creates this buzz. Then everyone else also gets interested because Hollywood has this big trust in you and believes you can be part of high-quality, high-value work.

“The need for staff is so much greater than it was even just a few years ago because the demand for streaming shows and miniseries is going up. But our community of professionals is small. Sometimes, we don’t always have enough staff for shoots. So we work with neighbors who send in their workers. We do that a lot with Latvia. And people from Finland, which is only two hours by boat.”

a pair of film and TV icons

Yariv Lerner
Sofia, Bulgaria
CEO of Nu Boyana Film Studios
Bulgaria offers a 25% rebate for international productions.

Sylvester Stallone poses with a group of people
From left: Victor Hadida, Christa Campbell, Avi Lerner, Sylvester Stallone, Paz Vega and Yariv Lerner at the Cannes Film Festival in 2019 for the screening of “Rambo: Last Blood.”
(Daniele Venturelli / WireImage)

Lerner, an American, has overseen Nu Boyana since 2005. The studio is behind hundreds of action films, among them “The Expendables” series, “The Protege” (2021) and “Rambo: Last Blood” (2019). More recently, Lerner opened a branch of his studio in northern Greece, where the upcoming Robert De Niro-starring movie “Tin Soldier” is being filmed. Lerner’s father, Ari Lerner, is the founder of Los Angeles-based Millennium Films.

“What’s being offered in Bulgaria — and any number of other countries — is not just a savings in money. That’s just a part of it. What you get is incredibly talented, dedicated people at all levels of creating a movie from beginning to end. The country itself is beautiful.”

Netflix, HBO, Amazon and other big Hollywood names are shooting more often in Europe. Test your knowledge of film locations by taking our quiz.

July 21, 2022

a pair of film and TV icons

Stavroula Geronimaki
Acting Director of Hellenic Film Commission
Greece gives international filmmakers a 40% rebate.

Antonio Banderas (left, background) enters a car, flanked by a crew member.
Antonio Banderas, entering the black car, performs during the filming of “The Enforcer” on July 3, 2021, in Thessaloniki, Greece.
(Sakis Mitrolidis / AFP/Getty Images)

Greece, which was among the hardest-hit European nations during the global recession, is still recovering and has the one of the worst unemployment rates on the continent at almost 13%. In 2018, it started offering generous paybacks — first at 35% of costs and now 40% — to Hollywood productions that relocate to Athens and smaller cities. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” set up on the island of Corfu this summer. The “Knives Out” sequel “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” was shot on the island of Spetses on the Attica peninsula.

“What we want is for people to come and enjoy our country, learn about people, and see all that we have to offer, from historic sites to an eager and creative local industry that is growing. Since the beginning of the Greek cash rebate program [April 2018] until April 2022, more than 349 million euros have been invested in Greece. That amount includes both national and international productions.”

a pair of film and TV icons

Vaidotas Martinaitis
Vilnius, Lithuania
Actor from “Stranger Things”
Lithuania pays back 30% of production costs to international filmmakers.

Vaidotas Martinaitis, in makeup and costume, with Brett Gelman.
Actor Vaidotas Martinaitis, left, with “Stranger Things” co-star Brett Gelman.
(Courtesy of Vaidotas Martinaitis )

In recent years, Lithuania has been the filming site for some of biggest hits on HBO (“Chernobyl”) and Netflix (“Stranger Things”) after launching a film recruitment office a decade ago. Today, multiple streaming productions, including those by big players outside the U.S. such as Viaplay (Sweden), have chosen the capital, Vilnius, to sub for Moscow, Paris, Mexico City and Washington, D.C.

“I’m 53 years old and I’ve been in this profession for 30 years. In my career, I’ve done a lot of roles in plays, films and television. The most well-known and the one I’m most proud of was the Lithuanian film ‘Nova Lituania,’ where I created a role for which I was awarded the national film award. Second, without a doubt, is my role in ‘Stranger Things.’ I found myself in a place I never dreamed I would be.

“Vilnius became famous, especially after the ‘Chernobyl’ series, and people started talking a lot about it. Now, with the release of ‘Stranger Things,’ people are talking even more about Vilnius. A journalist told me that in India when he asked the locals, ‘Do you know Lithuania?’ They replied, ‘It’s Vilnius. I have seen ‘Stranger Things.’ ”

Portugal, with its warm climate, plentiful sun and cheap cost of living, has become a destination for Californians.

May 12, 2022

a pair of film and TV  icons

Concha Díaz Ferrer
Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
General Director
Tenerife Film Commission
The Canary Islands will pay up to a 50% rebate to filmmakers.

Patty Jenkins looks at a laptop with with Gal Gadot, in costume as Wonder Woman.
“Wonder Woman 1984” director Patty Jenkins, left, on set with Gal Gadot.
(Clay Enos / DC Comics)

The Canary Islands, off the coast of Morocco, are part of Spain and the European Union. Known for their beaches, mountains and lush valleys, the Canaries have played host to shoots for “The Eternals” (2021), “Wonder Woman 1984” (2020), the upcoming third season of the “Jack Ryan” series (Amazon) and “Money Heist,” a Spanish crime drama distributed by Netflix. Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands.

“A total of 190 productions were filmed on the island [of Tenerife] in 2021, bringing to the island 58.3 million euros, a figure that includes the hiring of staff and equipment. There are many different aspects of the island that attract foreign productions, but we’d highlight the incredibly wide diversity of landscapes. The island can double for almost any other place in the world, and that means productions save a lot of time and money as they can re-create many different countries in one single place. Our 50-45% tax incentives for film shoots are among the best in the world.”