Country of Georgia Lures Producers With Exotic Locations and Aggressive Incentives

Untapped land offers diversity of landscapes

Georgia Eastern Europe Film Locations
Dow Griffith/Joel Rookwood/National Geographic

Last year, Film in Georgia, the body that administers the European country’s cash rebate, took a group of international production professionals on a tour of the country’s locations and facilities. The participants reported that the country is suitable for a wide range of genres, including Westerns, action films, fantasy movies, historical epics and romantic comedies, and could double for many other parts of the world.

“With a little help from the art department, Georgia can stand in for many European and North American regions,” says Ellen H. Schwartz, whose recent credits include exec producing on “Sicario” and Chris Hemsworth’s “12 Strong.” She adds: “Tbilisi, the capital, has a wide range of architecture: medieval, Soviet-era and modern.

It’s part fairytale, with its cathedrals and fortresses, and part small European city. Batumi, on the Black Sea, has a big seaport and ethnic neighborhoods with cafes. Tskaltubo, a spa resort, has mineral spa sanitariums from the Soviet era. And the Kazbegi region is breathtaking.”

Location manager Robin Citrin, whose credits include “Shutter Island,” says: “Georgia is an untapped resource. It has black-sand beaches, snowcapped mountains, urban landscapes, mining, factories — the list is endless. The most striking locations we saw were the rows of abandoned sanitariums in Tskaltubo. Truly remarkable. They were built as summer destinations during the Soviet era. They’re still there, decaying majestic buildings, just ripe for a film project. … In Tbilisi we saw gorgeous opera houses, cobblestone streets, very photogenic places.”

The Georgian production sector “has tremendous knowledge of the craft,” says Citrin. “If they cannot accommodate specialty equipment, they know where to rent it.”

Location manager Dow Griffith, whose credits include films from the “Bourne” and “Indiana Jones” franchises, says: “When I arrived in Georgia I was delighted by the unique architecture and fresh-looking locations. When searching the world for the most interesting places for the next feature film, this is the kind of land that you dream of in order to present creative and expressive location options — a destination rich in new textures and places never filmed by Hollywood.”

For him, too, Tskaltubo was a highlight: “I have a personal affection for abandoned ruins with patina, so I gravitated towards the empty spa resorts of Tskaltubo where Soviet workers used to earn vacations in massive resorts now occupied by ghosts of Stalin.

“Another aspect I appreciated was the availability of locations of contrast. This is an advantage when creating a location concept for a film which enriches the story. For instance, the contrast between the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains is vivid and emphasizes distinctly different sense of place — all within a short distance.”