Media Math: Shooting in Eastern Europe is Much Cheaper
Poland Increases Production
Plans by the Polish government to introduce a 25 percent cash rebate for domestic and international features, documentaries and high-end television dramas this year will bring Eastern Europe’s biggest filmmaking territory in line with most of its neighbors.
The drive to boost film production and attract foreign shoots has long been an essential race in the region, sparked in 2004 when Hungary fired the starting shot and introduced a 20 percent tax rebate, which it upgraded in 2014 to allow a potential total 30 percent tax kickback, making it one of Europe’s most generous schemes.
The Hungarian step attracted a lot of new business, drawing major Silver screen productions, including Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Munich.
Generous rebates, shooting incentives, adaptable locales and state-of-the-art facilities were designed to attract high-profile, big-budget projects– and the strategy is working.
Hungary for More Production Dollars?
Furthermore, with up to 25 percent rebates available , its system ranks alongside Holland’s and Estonia’s as among the most generous in Europe. Last year, the scheme attracted at least $200 million in incoming production spend. Around $48 million is held in an official collection account to ensure money is available when rebate applications are approved. High-profile projects expected to shoot in Hungary this year include Fox’s spy thriller Red Sparrow, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Irons; Colette, a biopic about the famous French novelist, starring Keira Knightley; and Paramount Television’s miniseries The Alienist, an adaptation of the Caleb Carr novel starring Dakota Fanning and German star Daniel Bruhl.
Czech-Mate for Feature Films & TV
The Czechs offer 20 percent for qualifying Czech spend and rebates of up to 10 percent on foreign cast and crew. Launched in 2010, the scheme made around $37 million accessible this year. Prague’s Barrandov Studios and other facilities have an international reputation for quality. Recent shoots in the country include the wartime assassination thriller Anthropoid and the upcoming actioner The Adventurers, starring Jean Reno.
The importance of maintaining its position as a key budget location was highlighted last summer when a fire that caused $4 million of damage at the Barrandov backlot threatened to disrupt the production schedule of History’s U.S.-Czech television series Knightfall. Swift action by local co-producer Stillking Films ensured not a day’s shooting was lost. Last year, two other top-end TV series also shot in the Czech Republic: Amazon Studios’ Britannia and the Albert Einstein drama Genius starring Geoffrey Rush. A total of 330 shooting days were taken up with filming the three series, all period pieces, using dozens of locations and generating $106 million in production spend.
Baltic Bulldog of Production
Last year, Lithuania attracted the highest number of foreign productions since the introduction of its 20 percent tax incentive in 2014, demonstrating the success of a policy designed to lure international productions and investment to the country. The Lithuanian Film Center issued 29 investment certificates, confirming that nearly $2 million had been approved to private investors involved in 22 productions and co-productions that aimed to capitalize on the tax exemption.
Apart from the BBC’s adaptation of War and Peace, shot in 2015, other major recent projects that used the incentive scheme, include Tokyo Trial, starring Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman, and the Finnish TV series Bordertown. In 2016, a total of 10 foreign, six co-productions and six national projects shot in Lithuania taking advantage of the tax incentive scheme.
Later on, we will look at the other powerhouses of Eastern European production – Romania and Bulgaria