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BLUE SKY FILMS ADRIATIC & AFRICA: latest project and locations

In the past decade, Croatia has become a vacation lover’s paradise- crystal clear turquoise water, islands to sail to and around, mountains, forests, culture, historical and modern architecture, a Mediterranean kitchen, and climate. Croatia has it all.

Beyond vacationing, Croatia is superb for filming and it needs the recognition it deserves. On top of its stunning natural landscape, Croatia’s urban landscape showcases a blend of post-communist, old European, and modern-day structures, which offers multiple film possibilities within one region.

Blue Sky's Cinematic Feat: Samsung's Galaxy Commercial in Zagreb

Mario Zvan, founder of Blue Sky Adriatic in Croatia and Slovenia, has been operating his full-service production company in this region for over twenty years. Blue Sky works on feature films, TV shows, reality shows and commercials.

Recently, Blue Sky worked with director Zee Ntuli from MOIRAI Productions and Wieden + Kennedy Portland Agency to shoot a remarkably complex commercial, shot only on the phone, in Zagreb, Croatia, for Samsung’s new Galaxy phone, which starred up-and-coming actress Emma Meyers.

Being shot in Croatia had many advantages for this commercial. Six different situations/stories/genres were created to form fantasy realities. The ex-communist architecture and urban terrain in Zagreb were the optimal backdrop for filming, making the commercial an instant success and a work of art.

Crafting Cost-Effective Cinematic Excellence in Croatia and Slovenia

Blue Sky took care of the entire production, from locations and crew to hospitality and set dressing. Everything in the commercial was provided and created by Blue Sky. Shooting in Croatia can be more cost-effective for productions because a local crew is used and the cost of living and salaries are much lower than in other European countries, yet the quality and knowledge of productions remain highly professional.

 Blue Sky also produces and shoots in Slovenia, which is also known as the "Switzerland of Eastern Europe”. Where Croatia has oceans and islands, Slovenia has forests and high mountains, making both ideal locations for commercials, feature films, or TV shows. The distance between the countries is quite short, allowing multiple locations to be used in a day.

According to Zvan, before COVID, Blue Sky shot mainly commercials in Croatia. Now, Ljubljana, Slovenia, has become the center of the commercials industry, while Croatia is doing more TV shows and feature films. As it’s basically one market, crews are often pulled from Croatia to work in Slovenia. Croatia is still about 15-20% cheaper to produce in than Slovenia. When asked about making a commercial, Blue Sky will use Slovenia for more specific location shots but films as much as it can in Croatia, due to the large cost difference.

Origin of Blue Sky

Zvan, who also owns and operates Blue Sky Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, is a well-seasoned and highly professional executive producer. Using all of this knowledge and experience, he founded Blue Sky Adriatic which has been able to offer the same high-quality productions on the European continent. Zvan’s familiarity with budgeting, producing, long format, commercials, and large American productions has solidified Blue Sky as an unfaltering presence in the production service world in Eastern Europe.

Zvan’s roots are Slavic. He was born in the former Yugoslavia, moved to Kenya when he was two and grew up in Nairobi. After a stint in London working as an architect, he returned to Nairobi, and due to the economic crash in the 90s, he found himself re-routed to the film business.

In the late 90s, after having worked on commercials (many unsuccessfully), he set up Blue Sky Africa in Nairobi with an Italian producer who brought quality and professionalism to the company. With both her and Zvan at the helm, Blue Sky stepped up to become a competent and adept film service production company in East Africa. This opened many doors for Zvan and what followed were incredible, large-scale productions.

Blue Sky Africa

Blue Sky Africa, like GPN, has become a family for those who work for them. As it’s a large production company and Kenya is a hot spot for film, Blue Sky is able to support about 40 families through the work that comes in. Half of their crew is on salary and the other half are freelancers who work regularly for them. The amount of consistent work has enabled the freelancers to raise money for film equipment and to set up equipment houses. There is also an informal “Blue Sky School” where those who wish to learn about the film business can work from the bottom up on productions and learn by doing. Blue Sky has instilled the possibility for people who wish to be in film the ability to make this a reality. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

From Roots to Reel: Mario Zvan's Journey in Promoting Croatia's Cinematic Diversity

About twenty years ago Zvan was bouncing back and forth between the US, Europe, and Africa and would make a pit stop in Croatia, where his roots are. He noticed “that although there was a long tradition of servicing foreign/US films (Fiddler on the Roof, Dirty Dozen, Kelly’s Heroes, Sophie’s Choice, etc.) there were at the time very few foreign companies filming there”, and so he opened up a company in Croatia to promote the area more. In Zvan’s words, “The region has an amazing amount to offer because it is very diverse in landscapes in a very compact geographical region (you can literally move from the Alps to the sea in 1.5 hrs) so it could do with being ‘rediscovered’ to a newer generation of filmmakers.”

 Zvan applies the same principles that he uses in Kenya to his work in Croatia.

The culture is different, the work ethic is different and the projects are different, but the excitement and the love of film never change.  Zvan travels between Europe and Africa quite regularly and has a team of trusted co-owners and crew that allow him the opportunity to have two successful companies simultaneously.

For those who have not yet had the absolute pleasure of drinking in Croatia, for both business and pleasure, have a look into this alluring country. It’s a place where you can climb the highest peak in the country during the day and sip local wine on a yacht the same evening.