For 85 years, the largest and oldest film studio in Europe, located on the Barrandov Hills, has towered above Prague like a beacon to filmmakers. Its founders were brothers, Milos and Vaclav Havel, who built their own factory for dreams on this spot at the start of the 1930s. And as the heart of Europe got caught up in filmmaking fever, the Barrandov Studio became one of the most sought-after filmmaking destinations on the continent — and it remains so to this day. Over the years, 2,500 Czech and foreign films have been made in Barradov. Here, Petr Tichý — CEO at Barrandov Studio and a vice chairman of the board of directors — answers Variety’s questions.
What’s happening at Barrandov these days?
The founders’ concept was to create the largest and most sought-out studio, filled with the best craftsman and creative artisans. That idea is still alive today. Of course we would never be able to maintain these standards were it not for the support of the majority stockholder in Barrandov Studio, which is Moravia Steel, and the continuing and growing support of the Czech film industry by various government agencies. Demand for the facilities of Barrandov is growing as compared to six years ago, when incentives for filmmakers were not yet in place. The introduction of incentives was a key step forward for Barrandov Studio and for the Czech film industry as a whole. Today, our studio can once again compete with any country offering the same incentives. But at Barrandov, you get much more.
What do foreign production companies like most about Barrandov?
Number one is the reliability and legacy of the Barrandov Studio trademark. But tradition is not by itself a road to success. Behind our good name is years of hard work, an ability to quickly adapt, professional flexibility, and generations of Czechs who have extraordinary skills as artisans. Czech filmmakers are known for their multitasking. They are able to handle several professions at once, a quality much in need when filming, whether in the studio or on location. Another great advantage of Barrandov Studio is its central location in the heart of Europe. The Havel Intl. Airport is only a stone’s throw from the medieval city center, and it’s close to many fabulous historic locations!
What do you think is the most attractive location in your country?
Prague and to a large extent the whole of the Czech Republic are very sought-out locations. Just like the tourists that come in droves to get the feeling of the historic past, so the filmmakers come to make the past come alive. The number of nature reserves, historic buildings, and all kinds of extraordinary edifices, truly make our location unique. Without exaggeration though, the most sought-out location for filmmakers is Barrandov Studio. It covers 12,000 square meters [about 129,000 square feet] of soundproofed studio space and has 160,000 square meters [about 1.7 million square feet] of backlot. On the whole I can say that it is really up to the production companies to pick and choose their locations in the Czech Republic according to the size and requirements of their budgets.
What services does Barrandov offer?
In addition to the studios and their support base, Barrandov offers a complex range of products and services. As a service agency and production facility we have a set department that includes a carpentry shop, locksmith manufacturer, plaster shop and additional storage and support space that’s among the best that Europe can offer. As well, Barrandov has a rich selection of items in its furniture and prop depositories.
But our pride and joy is our costume department, which includes the world’s largest selection of costumes, counting over 350,000 items, plus accessories, and hairpieces from the middle ages to the present. Part of the costume department is, of course, a tailor shop that specializes in the sewing of historical costumes, including accessories of the finest quality possible. This department is able to provide all services that are necessary for a filmmaker’s costume needs, including a makeup department and prop department. They are a complete one-stop center for film productions, television series, commercials, or social functions that take place in the studios themselves, or anywhere in the CR, or internationally.
Undoubtedly a great advantage for props selection is the digital properties catalog, accessible online from anywhere in the world. Give us the costume requirements that your project needs, and our professionals will prepare a turnkey presentation, that will include expedition, administrative handling, transportation, and the securing of delivered inventory directly at the place of delivery, anywhere, anytime.
As a service agency, what can Barrandov offer individual production companies?
In the last year Barrandov Studo serviced the project “The Ottoman Lieutenant,” directed by Joseph Ruben (“Sleeping with the Enemy”), with Josh Hartnett (“Black Hawk Down”) in the lead role. Barrandov helped with the submission of the application for the incentives program, all financial servicing, production facilitation, technical support, studio rental, and other essential services, including a very demanding redeployment of the entire crew to locations in Turkey.
Which recent project was the most demanding?
In the film business, you really can’t say which project is more or less demanding because every project is very specific. The people on each project are different, the budgets are different, but one thing always remains the same for us: our high quality of service can never change. That’s why it is said that the studios are dream factories that make dreams come to life. And making dreams come to life is no easy task.
OK, then talk about the challenges of some of the big projects.
In terms of time, sets, and costumes, one of the most demanding projects has been the series “Borgia,” which called Barrandov home for three years. During that time, we built on the backlot an incredible set: a part of medieval Rome. And in our studio we constructed a true copy of the Sistine Chapel.
Another no less demanding project was the feature “Anthropoid,” where in a record time of three weeks we built in our studios a replica of the St. Cyril and St. Methodius Cathedral. It’s very hard to pick out one project from the dozens of truly outstanding sets that were built by our craftsman in the last few years.
In addition to renting its studios, Barrandov is a co-producer of Czech films. How long has Barrandov been doing this?
Barrandov has been, and always will be, here to help in the making of Czech and foreign films. Last year, Barrandov Studio helped many Czech films come to life, supporting them either as a partner, through the Film Foundation, or directly as a co-producer. In the area of co-production I could mention the picture “I, Olga Hepnarová,” which had its world premiere this year at the Berlinale, where it opened the competition section Panorama. Also at the Berlinale, another world premiere was “We Are Never Alone,” directed by Petr Vaclav, whose script received support from our Film Foundation.
Is Barrandov interested in doing international co-productions?
Of course. Under the heading of Barrandov Studio we brought back to life a department that will focus exclusively on development and co-production activities. It will concentrate on finding domestic and even foreign scripts and it is not an exception that the authors themselves are approaching our team directly. At the present time we are discussing a possible co-production project called “Speedway” by the Polish director Doroty Kedzierzawskiej and producer Arthur Reinhart.
Are you going to make investments?
This year we are preparing an investment of 100 million crowns [about $4.2 million] to create a better support base for our film production. Last year, for instance, we invested dozens of millions in what I call the invisible infrastructure. These are improvements that have to be made but are not readily seen. This year we also want to build new props depositories, and new administrative areas because as the number of projects at Barrandov increases, so does the need for more facilities.
Barrandov by the Numbers
Minutes from Prague’s international airport
Minutes from Prague city center
Square meters of studio space
Square meters of backlot
Tax credit rebate on all eligible production expenditures. No sunset date.
Czech and foreign films made at Barrandov
Film and television projects, including commercials, in the last two years
Years of creativity