Film, TV prod’n find home in Prague

City doubles for Amsterdam in 'Anne Frank'

HOLLYWOOD — Lights, cameras, action … Prague?

“A Knight’s Tale,” TNT’s “The Mists of Avalon” and, most recently, ABC/Touchstone Television’s “Anne Frank” have found a favorable production home on location in the Czech Republic capital.

Prague became a logical choice for “Anne Frank” because it survived World War II undamaged while Amsterdam, where Frank lived, was heavily bombed.

Milk & Honey Prods. is no stranger to Prague, having filmed portions of NBC/Hallmark Entertainment’s “The Lost Empire” in the city. The company re-created 10 buildings of Frank’s Amsterdam block on the banks of Prague’s Vltava River, which doubled as a Dutch canal, at a cost of $211,000. M&H’s Czech art department also orchestrated the construction of a detailed replica of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where Frank died.

According to Michelle Weller, Milk & Honey’s Prague production supervisor, the shoot was especially emotional. M&H hired 400 extras as prisoners, and watching them slog through the mud and snow made the past come painfully alive for everyone.

“Anne Frank,” based on Melissa Muller’s “Anne Frank: The Biography, was directed by Robert Dornhelm and produced by David Kappes. Telepic starred Ben Kingsley, Brenda Blethyn and Hannah Taylor-Gordon and aired May 20-21 on ABC.

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Gov. James S. Gilmore III announced that revenues generated by Virginia’s film and video industry for the year 2000 were $85,426,175, an 11% increase from the 1999 figure of $76,116,494. This marks the ninth consecutive year of revenue growth for its biz, which has increased more than 600% since 1991 when reported revenues were $14.1 million.

“The ongoing expansion of this important industry continues to make a significant contribution both to the economy and to Virginia’s growing reputation as one of the most technologically advanced states in the nation. We are fortunate to include the film and video industry as part of Virginia’s digital dominion,” said Gilmore.

The governor also recently announced that “Mickey,” a movie written by best-selling novelist John Grisham and directed by writer-director-producer Hugh Wilson, will be lensing in the commonwealth this spring. Wilson is a resident of Virginia; Grisham divides his time between the commonwealth and his home state of Mississippi.

Unlike most of the author’s legal-based suspense novels that became films, “Mickey” was penned as a screenplay and centers around a man and his son changing identities to escape the IRS after his wife’s death. The pic stars Harry Connick Jr. and is expected to be released in early summer of 2002.

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The Connecticut Film, Video & Media Office, together with the New Haven and Coastal Fairfield Convention and Visitors’ Bureaus, City of Stamford Economic Development Office, New Milford Film Commission, the Southeastern Connecticut Film Office and Yale University enabled the state to become the production home to “Tough Enough,” a reality-based “Survivor”-like wrestling show produced by MTV and WWF.

“Connecticut is a state that knows how to accommodate the film production industry,” said Marcus Fox, “Tough Enough’s” coordinating producer.

The production of “Tough Enough” is one example of how the Connecticut Film Office is working to attract major television and motion pictures to the state. Within the last year, Connecticut’s production list has included scenes shot for CBS’s “Judging Amy,” the WB’s “Gilmore Girls,” and UPN’s “Arrest & Trial” and the filming of feature films “Cut and Dried” and “A Little Bit of Lipstick.” “Deeds,” a new Adam Sandler pic, begins lensing in Connecticut next month.

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