Increasingly international-minded producers in Central and Eastern Europe are scoring more projects than ever with co-productions on the rise, from historic tales to biopics, in territories both with and without incentives.
The Czech Republic’s Stillking, long a forerunner in bringing Western producers to Prague, wrapped season one of “Genius” (pictured above), which focuses on Albert Einstein, in February; the National Geographic Channel project from Ron Howard with Fox 21 Television chronicles exceptional lives.
The History channel’s “Knightfall,” an adventure tale based on the last days of the 14th century Knights Templar, shot in Prague and Malta for A+E Studios, and also enlisted Stillking.
Film United, another outward-looking Prague-based shingle, is headed by Rick McCallum. It was busy recently with “Britannia,” a 10-part Sky and Amazon series that follows ancient Rome’s conquests of the Celts in the British Isles. As with many such high-end series, Prague’s UPP and Soundsquare provided polish in post-production.
New business from Europe and the East is on the ascendant, as Prague’s Sirena Film knows, having partnered on Swedish production “Borg vs. McEnroe,” about the 1980 Wimbledon match between John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) and Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason). Prague’s Milk & Honey teamed with Hong Kong’s Mannix Pictures on Jean Reno-starring actioner “The Adventurers” while Czech company Punk Film worked with India’s Red Chillies Entertainment on the romantic road movie “The Ring.”
International business has been brisk in Hungary as well, with Korda Studios booked for much of 2016 with Denis Villeneuve’s “Blade Runner 2049,” one of several major foreign features shot there (“Inferno” and Cold War drama “The Coldest City” among them) with the added draw of 20% cash back incentives.
Polish co-productions have also hit a promising groove of late, with HBO Polska’s true-life account of a tragedy-prone 1980s clan who proved to be Cold War cultural icons, “The Last Family,” created by local shingle Aurum Film, winning fest honors at home and abroad. Tomasz Wasilewski’s Silver Bear-winning “United States of Love” also won distribution throughout Western Europe, a feat once rare for Polish pics. Polish sales agent New Europe Film Sales, with a growing record of such successes, also reps several other regional films doing well abroad.
This year, Andrew Lauren Prods. will produce Claire Denis’ “High Life,” shooting in Poland, starring Robert Pattinson, Patricia Arquette, and Mia Goth.
Asian business has grown here also, with South Korea’s “Unfinished,” directed by Noh Gyu Yeop, shot in Wroclaw and Legnica, working with local company Film Produkcja.
Meanwhile, the Polish Film Institute, ever an activist force in developing such teamwork, has launched a dedicated department for helping Westerners find the right match when looking to shoot here.
Regional fests have proven adept at showcasing such productions while also hosting co-production and pitching workshops to help nurture the new global approach. Karlovy Vary’s Karel Och, Warsaw fest’s Stefan Laudyn, and that event’s CentEast market, along with Tallinn Black Nights’ Baltic Event market, are all displaying the fruits of global — or at minimum, regional — project strategies.
The Czech Republic’s prime film biz advocate, Helena Bezdek Frankova of the Czech Cinematography Fund, says the country is hustling these days. “We doubled the budget for the support of domestic production for 2017 and are going to also support stronger Czech minority co-productions,” she says.
The Czech film incentives system, she adds, has been improved by building more flexibility into the application process, ending the previous format. “We are also working on an increase of the rebate from the current 20% to 25%.”