'Omen,' 'Mask' lensing at Prague's Barrandov Studios
While discreetly avoiding any mention of Bond shooting in the Czech Republic (among other locales), the first high-level British film industry mission to Prague wrapped up its visit last week, apparently satisfied there’s no cause for alarm — or at least that the Czechs can play other roles than just competitors from the East.“It’s one thing to look at their web page,” Pinewood Shepperton marketing topper Nick Smith says of Prague’s sprawling Barrandov Studios, “and quite another to walk through those giant gates.” The 11-studio complex, owned by Moravia Steel and currently hosting “Behind the Mask” and “The Omen 666,” regularly gets the nod by major productions who opt out of the U.K., but Smith points out it can pay to see things up close. The Czech Republic’s main asset is its affordable, skilled crews, says Smith — and one good idea for the Brit film industry might be bringing them to work in England. While acknowledging that wouldn’t go down well with British unions, Smith argues it’s just the reality of new European Union rules on the free movement of labor: “Now that we’re all in the EU together, you’d be a fool not to take advantage of that.” Jo Nolan, head of Screen South, the regional film promotion agency housed at Pinewood, is a bit less provocative about U.K.-Czech relations, saying Brits could provide more finance and delivery for co-productions between the two countries. “We’ve had a lot of interesting conversations.” Local producer Radim Dusek of Armada Films, which specializes in international co-prods, found networking with the Brits inspiring, he says, and Czech service provider Stillking, headed by U.K. national Matthew Stillman, does well enough with its Anglo address book: The outfit is local co-producer of the 21st Bond pic, “Casino Royale,” which will shoot mainly in the Czech Republic starting in January, along with South Africa and the U.K. Fans of the Karlovy Vary film fest may spot it onscreen as it serves as backdrop to James Bond’s youthful follies. And if you can’t beat the Czechs, perhaps you can buy them out, says Neil Mockler, topper of Arion Facilities of Denham. “Maybe Pinewood could buy Barrandov,” he ventures, only half-joking.