Hungary: Tax break hits big

About 28 pix made use of the incentive last year

Two years ago, the industry was cautious when Hungary introduced a tax credit worth 20% of the Hungarian spend. But almost two years down the line, it’s smiley faces all around — something that seems to even surprise the Hungarians.

“In a country where everything that is straightforward can easily turn complicated, this is the opposite. It’s designed to be transparent, simple and truly able to attract foreign producers to Hungary,” says Hungarian-born, L.A.-based producer Andras Hamori, who is about to start production on “Diary of a Madwoman,” which he will co-produce with the state-owned Hungarian film studio Hunnia.

All in all, 28 films made use of the Hungarian incentive last year, including Agnieszka Holland’s “Copying Beethoven” starring Ed Harris and Diane Kruger; Reg Travis’ “Joy Division”; and Jeremy Tarr’s “Living Neon Dreams” starring Marilyn Manson and Darryl Hannah.

However, soundstages are still scarce in Hungary. The main facilities are provided by Mafilm in Budapest and in the small town of Fot. To meet the growing need for soundstages, Stern Film Studio is soon to open its gates just north of Budapest. Though there’s no exact opening date, the facility is already taking bookings for its two soundstages and says it can house two productions at a time.

Meanwhile, veteran producer Andy Vajna, who left Hungary in 1956, is returning to his roots. While he’s currently in production with the Joe Eszterhas-penned Hungarian-language pic “Children of Glory,” he’s also involved in the building of a high-tech studio in the city of Eytek.

“The tax incentive makes Hungary an interesting spot, and hopefully this will be the most technologically advanced studio in Eastern Europe,” says Vajna. His aim is to attract major productions, particularly from the U.S. “We want to make Hungary the film capital of the world that it once was.”

Well, as the old Hollywood saying goes: “It’s not enough to be Hungarian, you need talent, too.”