Božo Skoko

PhD Božo Skoko

Božo Skoko is an full professor at the Faculty of Political Science of the University of Zagreb, where he is head of the Public Relations postgraduate study. His scientific interests are: public relations and communications, international relations, national identity and image, as well as media. He is the co-founder of Millenium promocija, the leading Croatian public relations agency. He is a long-time strategic communications consultant. He is a former journalist and editor with Croatian Television. He is the author of seven books and over seventy scientific papers on public relations, the media and managing the identity and image of Croatia. He is a columnist with the daily newspaper Večernji list.
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Who will finally shoot a nice film about Croatia?

The promotion of Croatia through Film

I'm sure that it has occurred to all of us that, while watching a good movie, we wished afterwards to pack our bags as soon as possible, and to travel to the places we so much enjoyed following the main heroes. I have to admit that, in my early childhood, while watching 'Westerns', I had decided that I was going to travel to the former American Wild West frontier. I realized my dream only last summer when I visited the deserts and the unbelievable canyons of Arizona, Nevada and Utah, and the unspoiled mountains of California... A friend of mine recently boasted of traveling to Greece after watching "My Life in Ruins", and I know two colleagues who visited New York after relating to the four shopaholic friends from "Sex in the City".

Just think of how many times in the past few years we have enjoyed virtual visits to various parts of the modern world, from Ireland to New Zealand, and how some scenes have even been etched to memory... It is really hard to resist the call of the big and small screen, which takes us to another reality, usually much more attractive than the one we encounter in actuality. Of course, this does not happen accidentally! Countries and cities, and their respective tourist boards, pay Hollywood producers significant sums to shoot their next movie at their locations. The gain is tremendous because tourists, impressed by scenes from movies and TV, are increasingly seeking to visit these locations themselves. After all, didn't our travel agencies start to sell more travel packages for Istanbul after the start of broadcasting of the Scheherazade series!?

In the past two decades, shooting by foreign production companies in Croatia has become rare for two reasons. The competition from transition countries has brought film-makers many more benefits and has lured them to Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria... And Croatia has become too expensive and very complicated for obtaining all of the necessary permits and approvals... In spite of the fact that it is extremely favorable as a film location, since sea, mountains, metropolis, plains, the Middle Ages, Baroque, Antiquity, and the contemporary are within two hours drive, Hollywood producers seek to avoid complications so they go where they are being pleaded to go and are being offered more benefits.

On the other hand, events brought to the screens from Croatia's present (and rarer history) produced domestically have not managed to significantly impose themselves on the international film market, and their topics are rarely adapted to promote Croatia. It would really be difficult to point out a Croatian film after which someone watching from Chicago, Paris or Helsinki would want to travel to Croatia and to see in person its beauties, history or heritage. Also, it is hard to find a Croatian version of "Brave Heart" or "Patriot", which bears witness to the world about our fight for freedom throughout our long and difficult history.

Honestly speaking, there is too much drab and dreariness in our films, which may be attractive for people in the profession, but is totally unattractive in the sense of promoting Croatia, its way of life or history... Some filmmakers claim that it is near impossible, for instance, to shoot a social drama or a war story, and at the same time for the Croatian cities or landscapes to resemble a postcard. Fortunately, they are refuted by hundreds of successful American productions, in which even the darkest topics are covered, however, the American cities, villages, prairies... have remained quite desirable.

So some were positively surprised with Rajko Grlić's latest film 'Just Between Us', in which Zagreb really resembles a true European metropolis. Others, however, were somewhat disappointed with the latest achievement (of the otherwise great) Ognjen Sviličić, which speaks of Croatia as a tourist destination, yet the attractive Adriatic, thereby, remains somewhat unattractive. A good example of the promotion of a destination in our part of the world is the film Cirkus Columbia by Bosnian Oscar winner Danis Tanović. This pre-war story is set somewhere in Herzegovina. With the inter-weaving of fates of Yugoslav Army officers, representatives of the new authorities, a gastarbeiter and a few other inhabitants, Herzegovina, with its stone houses, local stores, rivers and landscapes, shines as is fitting for this part of the Mediterranean.

So what must we do for Croatia to finally start charming the world with its beauties on the big screen in the global centers of power? There are three ways.

The first is for Croatia to start doing something to make the shooting of films on its territory easier and to raise the interest of global producers for our local stories, heroes and locations. The second is to offer at least a part of the money spent in the Ministry of Tourism and the Croatian National Tourist Board for the broadcasting of various promotional commercials abroad, for instance, to the producers of the latest James Bond movie. I'm sure that a few scenes of him walking with babes on Dubrovnik's walls, in Hvar or Brijuni, would bring us many more well-standing tourists than appearances at some fairs.

The third way is for our domestic filmmakers to finally start shooting more watchable and attractive films, in which Croatia will look at least somewhat more attractive, and through which we will be able to present in a better manner our history, our greats, our natural beauties, our way of life... I'm sure that within our small county there is no lack of natural and cultural diversity, exceptional beauties and historical sites, incredible human stories and intriguing personalities... The only thing we are obviously lacking is creativity.