Serbia’s Firefly strikes a series of agreements and accelerates the construction of studios

Belgrade-based Firefly Productions has struck a string of deals ahead of this year’s Sarajevo Film Festival, where the Serbian production powerhouse leads the pack with 19 Heart of Sarajevo TV Awards nominations, including including best drama series nod to supernatural drama “Block 27” and psychological thriller “Black Wedding.”

As Variety Previously reported, Beta Film has acquired the international distribution rights to ‘Block 27’ (pictured), a sci-fi mystery series about the disappearance of a teenager in Belgrade. Firefly has also struck deals with Australian public broadcaster SBS on “Black Wedding,” which follows a government agent investigating a killing spree and its links to ancient folklore, and “The Family,” a five-episode miniseries on the arrest of the former Yugoslavia. President Slobodan Milošević.

The company is also in advanced talks with buyers in North America and Europe on several other series.

The deals come as construction ramps up on Firefly’s long-awaited studio complex, which opened outside Belgrade last year. “We are delayed due to the crisis,” said company co-founder Ivana Mikovic. “Prices have gone up – all steel and construction. It was really slow, but it’s going well.

Construction is expected to be complete by the end of the year, with the studios fully operational by March 2023. The complex will feature three state-of-the-art soundstages offering over 50,000 square feet of available real estate, a water reservoir , 10 acres of backlot, production offices, workshops, restaurant and stables – all just 25 minutes from the center of Belgrade.

The first project for the studio is an adaptation of Dejan Stojiljkovic’s Serbian bestseller “Constantine’s Crossing,” a supernatural World War II story about the Nazis’ hunt for powerful relics that once belonged to Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. The 10 x 60′ series is written by Djordje Milosavljevic and Firefly co-founder Boban Jevtic, who is also an accomplished film and television writer.

Mikovic said the lavish period drama will feature “Indiana Jones” style action elements, adding, “It’s going to be a huge project.” Production design is handled by Caesar and European Film Award winner Miljen Kreka Kljakovic whose latest credit is Barry Levinson’s Holocaust boxing drama “The Survivor.”

The series reflects the sky-high ambitions of the Belgrade-based production house, which was founded in 2018 by Mikovic, former COO of public broadcaster Radio Television of Serbia, and Jevtic, former director of Film Center Serbia. The company has a dozen series currently in various stages of development and production, spanning a range of genres – including comedy, horror and sci-fi – and based on both original stories and adaptations of books.

Firefly was the big winner at last year’s Heart of Sarajevo TV Awards, where “The Family” won Best Drama Series, Best Actor and Best Series Creator for Bojan Vuletić. While they hope to repeat that success in the Bosnian capital this year, Mikovic said the company is nonetheless resolute in its aim to rewrite the script for the Serbian drama.

“Our projects are a little more expensive than others in the [Serbian] market. We have good crews. Whatever production designers want, we tend to give them. Whatever cinematographers want, we tend to give them,” she said. “And we use film directors, not just television directors, which gives us a really nice [cinematic] to touch.”

Perhaps Firefly’s most significant contribution to the industry is its approach to screenwriting: the company has developed a team of 14 screenwriters – industry newcomers and veterans – to bring writers’ rooms Hollywood style to the local television industry. “In Serbia, until two years ago, you had a screenwriter for a series,” Mikovic explained. “We are very young in showrunning. We still have people who just write or produce.

The award-winning race in Sarajevo confirms that the company’s bet is working. “We have succeeded in increasing the value of production [in the region]starting with ‘Tycoon’, which was really something never seen before in Serbia,” Mikovic said, adding that production is now underway for the second season of what she dubbed the “‘Succession’ of Serbia”. “I would really like to be the leader in the region, in terms of genres and in terms of production value.”

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