Court eases location burden, sides with organized labor

Hungary’s highest court has made it cheaper for domestic and U.S. producers to film on location in this territory.

In a recent ruling, Hungary’s Constitutional Court vetoed a tax law that would have required producers to make across-the-board social insurance payments of up to 44% of wages for Hungarian film crews, actors, and artists.

The court rejected a tax law, recently drafted and passed by Hungary’s socialist-liberal ruling coalition government, that ended social-insurance payment exemptions for cinema artists. This exemption, which applied to actors, directors, camera specialists, and technical supervisors on movie productions, had kept labor costs low during “location shoots” in Hungary.

This is the second ruling this year in which the Magyar Supreme Court has sided with organized labor in the face of government attempts to cut budgetary expenses or increase tax revenues within Hungary’s media infrastructure. In the spring, the court overruled a government plan to lay off 200 employees from Hungary’s two-channel state TV network Magyar Televizio (MTV).

In the face of the court’s recent ruling, Hungarian production companies specializing in servicing foreign movies on location here say that a positive signal has been sent to filmmakers in the U.S. and western Europe. “I expect business will get better,” said Judy Kemeny, director of production for Budapest’s TransAtlantic Media Associates, one of Hungary’s premier line-production firms. “It’s possible that this year could turn out to be even a better year than last year.”

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