Hungary sets the stage for films

Few foreign productions in Hungary generate headlines like “Bel Ami,” the just-completed Robert Pattinson and Uma Thurman starrer from “The Full Monty” producer Uberto Pasolini, which casts Budapest as the 19th-century Paris of Guy de Maupassant’s novel. Though the film shot mostly in London, Pasolini felt that Hungary’s capital offered just the right architecture — and, of course, more than 20% cash back via the country’s recently beefed up film rebate system, first set up in 2004.

“Budapest is not cheap — it’s cheaper to go to Turin,” he says of the two-week exterior shoot, which did not call on the services of Hungary’s varied studio offerings. His London-based Redwave shingle relied on Budapest production services company Pioneer Pictures. “Budapest crews are very good, very flexible,” he adds.

“Even if we had needed studio space, I would have gone through Pioneer because it’s still easier to have them facilitate,” Pasolini says.

But less glitzy productions have been booking the half-dozen studios surrounding Budapest as if the global recession were just a nasty rumor.

Those needing massive soundstages, high-tech effects, post-production services and backlots may land at Raleigh (currently hosting 20th Century Fox’s $40 million “Monte Carlo”) or go with Korda, as Showtime did with Jeremy Irons vehicle “The Borgias.”

Smaller-scale projects find a good fit at Stern or Astra, where Warners’ “The Rite” landed. The medium-size, four-stage Mafilm won out last year with Nicolas Cage starrer “Season of the Witch” and has booked miniseries “The Pillars of the Earth,” based on the Ken Follett novel.

Others willing to deal with old-school facilities are still shooting at the formerly state-run but affordable Fox studios.

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