Rebate system passes EU test

WHY: As the first former Eastern Bloc country to set up a 20% rebate system for foreign productions back in 2003, Hungary has proved itself to be arguably Europe’s most dedicated magnet for foreign productions — so much so that until the European Commission approved the country’s funding system in July, many feared it would be found illegal.

But a clever point system was created whereby foreign productions are legally classified as Hungarian if they meet certain rules for local involvement, entitling producers to financial breaks and support.

Add to this the new fleet of studios in and around Budapest, such as Korda, a state-of-the-art facility owned by Hungarian real estate tycoon Sandor Demjan, and it makes for a package that’s tough to compete with.

In fact, the way’s been paved for more coups like the one in 2007, when the newly minted Korda won Universal’s “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” before even officially opening its doors, disappointing the Czech Republic, where the original had shot.

It’s “a high-tech studio facility as good as anywhere you’ll find,” according to “Hellboy” executive producer Chris Symes.

And, as Kata Olah of the Motion Picture Public Foundation of Hungary points out, within a 20 kilometer radius of the capital, Astra, the Stern Film Studio & Media Center and Mafilm are competing for business, making for a buyer’s market. HBO’s “John Adams” employed the soundstages of Mafilm, which also won the “Robin Hood” Hallmark series.

With so much new square footage online, you might wonder whether there are enough qualified crews to simultaneously work if major projects are in town at the same time. Not an issue, says Olah: “Hungary is three crews deep when it comes to parallel shooting of major motion pictures, and you will only have to bring in key crew, if any.”

BONUS: Under new European Commission-approved rules, Hungary can now offer up to 25% cash back to international productions filming in the country, a plan that is guaranteed until 2012. The prior version of the funding law, which allowed for tax incentives of up to 20%, was open to all productions shooting in Hungary. The new system calls for productions to pass an EC-mandated cultural test, which measures artistic value, but entitles pics to bigger incentives.

SHOT THERE: “Good,” “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” “The Nutcracker”

HOT SPOTS: Korda’s fifth soundstage, a 64,000-square-foot facility, opened this year; Mafilm is soon to open new stages; and Astra is an all-new studio.

LINKS:

Motion Picture Public Foundation: mmka.hu

Hungarian Film Commission: hungarianfilm.com

National Film Office: emzetifilmiroda.hu

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