Filming in the Czech Republic: Interview with Czech Film Commissioner

The Czech Republic is high up on the list of countries to visit for most Indian tourists. But in recent times, the country has also emerged as a great filming locations for Indian filmmakers. Here’s what makes the location so attractive to filmmakers, with inputs from the Film Commissioner of the Czech Republic – Ludmila Claussova.

As per Ludmila, the Czech Film Commission realised much earlier that they needed to offer some sort of rebate to attract more filmmakers (and their accountants) to the country. However, implementing it was not easy. It took several years of lobbying by the Czech Film Commission, before the Czech Film Industry Support Programme finally went into effect in 2010.

Here’s more from Ludmila Claussova, the Czech Film Commissioner.

Why Filmmakers come to the Czech Republic
Even though the rebate is a plus point, several large & prestigious productions were hosted in the Czech Republic even before the rebates were introduced. The rebate is a nice incentive for most filmmakers who’re already impressed with the value and competitiveness the Czech Republic offers.

Besides, the 20% rebate, the country has a highly-developed film infrastructure with high-end soundstages, any kind of equipment and film stock that one could ask for, internationally-renowned crews and world-class post facilities.

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Even though the rebate attracted ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’ to Prague, movies like ‘Casino Royale’ and a couple of films in ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ franchise were filmed in the country because the cost-conscious productions knew that they could trust Czech crews and professionals to do the job right and to offer better value.

Lucasfilm’s Red Tails was also shot here and also spent several months in the Czech Republic in post-production doing work on aerial fight scenes. We actually do a lot of post-production work on films that don’t use Czech locations. One of our local post houses has worked on such films as Season of the Witch and The International, as well as miniseries like Pillars of the Earth.

Besides, there’s a steady stream of music videos and commercials that are shot in the country. The Czech film commission doesn’t deal with commercials or music videos very often, however. They usually go their own way between advertising/publishing companies and production houses.

Geographically, the country is located in Central Europe and bordered by countries like Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Austria, so reaching other major European cities is not a big problem. Its easy to navigate within the country, and the countryside is a mix of rolling hills, plains, mountains and forests.

How does the rebate work?
It gives filmmakers a 20% rebate on their local production-related costs, so the producers have to shoot some portion of their project in the Czech Republic, of course. Practically speaking, the first thing a producer should do is find a Czech partner – this can be either a local co-producer or a Czech-based subsidiary – who acts as the applicant. Then the project needs to pass a broad test for European cultural and production criteria, such as using European locations, crews and languages.

When the project passes, the applicant submits the budget and other financial information. The project has to meet minimum spend levels – about USD760,000 for a feature. Based on these figures, the authorities determine the size of the rebate. Finally, after filming in the Czech Republic is concluded, the applicant submits audited statements showing how much they spent locally and then they receive their money within 44 days.

Foreign Films Shot in the Czech Republic
Ludmila Claussova says, “We are extremely proud of three recent productions that came from outside America. Zentropa came to us with their first period picture, A Royal Affair, because they needed locations and professionals who had worked on period pictures before. That was a real compliment coming from the producers who created dogma. They came to us because they needed a location that Indian audiences would consider exotic, so we really had the opportunity to show our best side.

The Borgias, a European co-production TV series, was very satisfying to work on because it was such a large production involving so many people, locations and sound stages. Our construction crews worked with Production Designer Bernd Lepel to re-create 15th Century Rome and the audience figures indicate that we pulled it off. It set a new audience record for Canal+, attracting nearly two million viewers.”

Many already know that Ranbir Kapoor’s Bollywood movie ‘Rockstar’ (music by A.R.Rahman) was filmed in the Czech Republic.

“It was our first experience working with Indian filmmakers and offered us a glimpse of their industry. They came to us because they needed a location that Indian audiences would consider exotic, so we really had the opportunity to show our best side. We sincerely hope we’ll see more Indian filmmakers in the future.”, say the film commisioner.

Popular Czech location used by film and TV crews for filming
“The historic centre of Prague is very popular. In addition to icons like Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge we have examples of many different architectural eras. Productions often use Prague as a stand-in for other cities – Paris, London and Vienna, to name just three – where the right historic conditions no longer exist.

In the west of the country the spa town of Karlovy Vary has an idyllic Belle Époque look which you can see in Casino Royale and Last Holiday. There are diverse castles and chateaux all over the country, and historic towns such as Český Krumlov, Kutná Hora, Žatec and many others.

In the north of the country is an area we call the Czech Switzerland, where you can find highly unusual natural sandstone towers and ravines. They are really out of this world, which is why the Narnia producers wanted to film them. While we’re very proud of our historic castles and pristine nature, I have to mention our industrial architecture as well. The town of Ostrava, in particular, has some truly ominous, grim-looking locations – have a look at Babylon AD and you’ll see what I mean.”, says the Czech film commissioner.

Tips/Suggestions for filming in the Czech Republic
Get a local production partner. They’ll help you narrow down your location list, arrange shooting permits, find crews and access the rebate. Also, be mindful of visa requirements. EU nationals, Americans and most other filmmakers don’t need visas to enter the country. There are legal requirements, however, if you plan to stay longer than 90 days or pursue gainful employment. Again, your local partner is the best person to walk you through that process. One of the roles we play at the Czech Film Commission is helping connect visiting producers with local partners.

For accommodation, the A-list cast can be put up at the Four Seasons, Kempinski, Mandarin Oriental or Marriott hotels. One can also rent exclusive flats and villas, which is what Angelina Jolie and her family did when they were filming here for ‘Wanted’. The Inter-Continental, Augustine and Hilton are also excellent hotels, and Andel’s has a great record of working with film crews. Prague also has more boutique and designer hotels than I can mention here. As for wrap parties, there are dozens of great clubs and bars.

“For relaxation and for short breaks, the crew may consider skiing in Krkonoše (in winter), which is just a few hours from Prague. In the summer you can go rafting or canoeing on one of the rivers, such as the Lužnice or Vltava. In any season, you can see Český Krumlov, which is one of the most beautiful towns in the country. Go to Plzeň to see where Pilsner was born, to Karlovy Vary for a natural spa treatment, or combine both at one of the beer spas, where you can soak in the suds.”

Source: thelocationguide.com