BULGARIATHE SCOOP: Renovated Nu Boyana Film Studios seems to be setting the local pace with fully kitted-out soundstages, lab, post and CGI facilities, with others like Orpheus AudioVideo also online, and companies such as Camera Ltd. and Topform offering competitive production services, casting and crews, while ARS Digital Studio sports high-tech production toys. Three native features were completed in the last year while nine foreign shoots are lensing this year. No film incentives are yet offered. Local biz is mainly fueled by state film funding, which varies yearly but typically offers the average feature pic some $1 million. ANALYSIS: Thanks to recent international recognition — such as Cannes Critics’ Week berths for Andrey Paounov’s “The Mosquito Problem and Other Stories” and “Rabbit Troubles” by Dimitar Mitovski and Kamen Kalev — attention has turned to Bulgarian helmers and their unique vision. Shoots such as “Brothers Bloom” have made use of the nation’s wild and rugged topography, but major institutional support and infrastructure are still in their infancies. Legislation to provide 20% of a budget for international co-prods is winding its way through Parliament. CZECH REPUBLIC THE SCOOP: Top facilities in the Czech Republic continue to renovate, meaning shoots at Barrandov, Prague Studios, Gatteo and others are running ever more smoothly and continuing to attract effects-heavy and period pics (“Babylon AD,” “Wanted,” “Fauberg 36″). Service providers and co-productions are led by veteran Prague shingles Stillking, Milk & Honey, Etic, IPC, Dawson and others. Some 10 foreign films shot here in the last year, and local production is blooming, with an estimated 30 features in pre-production or shooting in 2008 for release over the next 18 months. Post-production and digital studios, in which Czech tech is strong, are fully booked. ANALYSIS: The prime driver for this local boom, which includes significant genre expansion (10 animated features in the works), is a Czech Film Fund that’s grown fourfold since 2006 to a current level of $18.4 million. Prague finds itself competing against ever more vigorous location rivals to the east and is getting no help as yet from the Czech state, where incentives for foreign shoots have once again been shot down. HUNGARY THE SCOOP: The Film Law tax incentive of 20% was introduced in 2004; the scheme is currently being adjusted to bring it into line with European Union norms, which stipulate that films must pass a “cultural test” and limit to 50% the amount of government support available for foreign co-productions. The year-old, $127 million Korda Studios, just outside Budapest, joins an impressive collection of production facilities including Mafilm Hungarian Film Studio and Stern Studio & Media Center. There are also a number of service providers experienced with foreign shoots, such as Hungarian Filmlab, Kodak Cinelabs, Focus-Fox Studio, Light Odyssey and Sparks Camera & Lighting. The film sector is healthy: There were 205 full-length feature film starts last year, including 28 domestic pics such as Kornel Mundruczo’s Fipresci-winning “Delta.” ANALYSIS: Domestically, Hungarian filmmakers continue to produce a mix of comedies and dramas — not all of which travel well but play well at the local box office — and international festival fare. January’s Hungarian Film Week allows a competitive review of all local production made in the previous 12 months and means national film promoters can go to Berlin with a clutch of award-winning films to push. POLAND THE SCOOP: Three years after the founding of the Polish Film Institute, producers of domestic and international co-productions are benefiting from an annual revolving fund worth $40 million that has injected new lift into the Polish film business. Legislation introducing incentives for foreign productions is in the early stages, although there are six regional funds that provide grants to local and international shoots. Those funds have some of Europe’s most flexible requirements, demanding few provisions for local spend. Their experiences will likely provide a focus for legislators. Polish production is healthy: 35 pics are filming, six of which are co-prods. The country’s production facilities — such as Lodz’s Lodzkie Centrum Filowe as well as Warsaw’s Wytwornia Filmowa Czolowka and Wytwornia Filmow Dokumentalnych Fabularnych — rival almost any other studio in the region. Service providers, including Akson Studio, Bow and Axe, Opus Film, Apple Film Prod. and SPI Intl. Polska, also draw top marks. ANALYSIS: Although local theatrical admissions and box office remains modest, with just under 33 million for a total of $195 million last year in a country of 38 million people, market share for Polish films has climbed from 10% five years ago to 25% last year, helped by the huge success of Andrzej Wajda’s wartime drama “Katyn,” which recorded more than 2.7 million admissions. ROMANIA THE SCOOP: Romanian film has grabbed regional momentum lately, with its pics riding a wave of festival buzz while boasting five sizable studios: Atlantis, Castel Film Studios, Kentauros, Mediapro Studios and Stray Dog Films/ Swipe Studios. Most have production companies attached, competing with others such as Libra, Carter, Sagafilm, Moonlighting and U.S./Romanian post-production shingle Chainsaw. In 2007, seven domestic fiction pics filmed while this year nine are on tap, and four major Western pics have gone Romanian — this despite a lack of foreign incentives and restricted cash participation in foreign co-productions. The country’s affordability, temperate climate and abundant, striking locations plus its film-savvy crews are clear draws. ANALYSIS: While the national film fund has helped foster a crop of pics that have won global attention, such as Cristian Mungiu’s “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” and Cannes player “Boogie,” it remains the primary source of support for local filmmaking and is spread thin with just $12.3 million available for the last year. A levy on TV, exhibs and DVD sales fuels the fund, but local players say a stronger commitment to bearing part of international co-production budgets along with regional funds (also non-existent) are also needed. SLOVAKIA THE SCOOP: Slovak film tends toward location shooting, with major studio space beyond that of Slovak TV somewhat lacking. With 21 pics slated for 2008 release, including 10 docus, output is healthy, such as the record spend of more than $15 million on “Bathory” from helmer Juraj Jakubisko. With just three recent foreign productions (Czech and Hungarian), such shoots are more goal than reality, with no incentives yet on offer. Production shingles such as ARS and Magic Box Slovakia are thriving. The new film funding law is expected to produce nearly $9 million annually for local production, starting in 2009. ANALYSIS: Slovak domestic production is up to levels it hasn’t seen since the 1989 Velvet Revolution, thanks to regular hikes in the level of annual state film funding, which now exceeds $7.5 million. Indeed, Juraj Lehotsky’s “Blind Loves” repped the country at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. With Slovak state television increasingly backing production and a new film funding law levying coin from exhibs as well as from DVD sales and television, the outlook is increasingly rosy.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more