Magazine article Variety

Dynamic Region Hops onto Incentives Bandwagon

Magazine article Variety

Dynamic Region Hops onto Incentives Bandwagon

Article excerpt

Countries boost filmmaking by adding tax breaks to low production costs By Leo Barraclough

SCOUT & ABOUT: CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE

IN THE 10 YEARS since Hungary introduced its production incentives, it has emerged as the leading country in Central and Eastern Europe in the race to pursue Hollywood blockbusters and upscale TV series.

Boosted by the 20% tax rebate, the local biz has been further strengthened by the opening of production facilities, such as Korda Studios, Stern Film Studio and Media Center, and Raleigh Studios.

For Hollywood producer Andy Vajna, who is also the Hungarian film commissioner, it is not just a question of price. "There's always a cheaper place, no matter what you do," he says. "So what we have to strive for is to be competitive on price, but unmatchable in quality." Productions in Hungary this year include Brett Ratner's feature Hercules for MGM-Paramount, and two TV series - NBCU's Dracula and the pilot of HBO's Cold War thriller The Missionary, in which Hungary doubles for East Berlin in the 1960s.

The Czech Republic struck back with the introduction of its own 20% film rebate in 2010, but it is held back by a cap on the total rebate amount, which is set at $25.3 million for this year. (Not to be outdone, Vajna says he's pressing the government to increase the tax rebate in Hungary to 25%.)

"If (the rebate) became uncapped or it became sufficiently funded you would expect Prague to be at least as competitive if not more competitive than Budapest as a choice because of what the city itself offers," says Matthew Stillman, managing director of Prague's Stillking Films, which acts as the local partner to many Hollywood productions. Prague can double for many European cities, and also has firstrate studio facilities, like Barrandov, and post-production houses, such as UPP.

Stillking is now working on Joon-ho Bong's post-apocalyptic tale Snowpiercer. The action is set on a train built on a rig in Barrandov. In June, Stillking moves onto Daniel Espinosa's serial killer tale Child 44, set in 1950s Russia, for Scott Free. Czech Republic also hosts Tim Robbins' spy romance The City of Lies later this year.

Production costs in nearby Romania and Bulgaria are far lower, which helps offset the lack of rebates there. Romanian studios MediaPro and Castel Film have hosted Hollywood productions like History Channel's Hatfields & McCoys and Terry Gilliam's The Zero Theorem. …

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