You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Czech Republic: Resources Grow as Foreigners Flock In

Outsiders find a lot to love in the country's infrastructure

In 1990, not long after the Velvet Revolution brought an end to 41 years of communist rule, American producer Rick McCallum came to the Czech Republic to work on Lucasfilm TV series “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles.”

The production had to bring in department heads, but it was able to staff the rank and file of the crew with experienced locals. And while the soundstages were in decent shape, the real appeal for McCallum was the practical locations. “You could go anywhere — any castle, any building — and the location rates were minimal,” McCallum says.

A quarter of a century later, the Czech Republic’s film and TV production infrastructure has matured along with the rest of the economy, but locations — historic and otherwise — are still plentiful, easily accessible and, while not as cheap they once were, more affordable than those in the U.K., Germany, France, or the U.S.

And local crews, long since adjusted to free market production schedules, earn raves from outside producers for their old-school craftsmanship, ingenuity and strong work ethic.

Producer Kim Zubick says the Czech crew on “The Zookeeper’s Wife” “literally gave 1,000%. There was none of the guff you get with a Los Angeles crew, for example, when they start grumbling about the catering.”

The producers had contemplated shooting “Wife” in Romania or Serbia, then settled on Hungary. But when they dug deeper, Zubick says they found that the Czech Republic could provide a deeper crew base and better locations — such as an abandoned communist-era town that they could turn into facsimile of a bombed-out neighborhood. They also discovered that the general population had “more of a Polish look,” which would serve them well when casting extras for the film, which is set in Warsaw during World War II.

Zubick also learned that the country had a wealth of retired animals from old-school circuses and private zoos that could provide the production with animal stars for its re-creation of the Warsaw Zoo, which was constructed at Exhibition Park in the center of Prague.

For years, the inexpensive high-quality workforce and cheap locations were enough to lure foreign productions to the Czech Republic ranging from 1996’s “Mission: Impossible” to 2002’s “The Bourne Identity.” But as prices rose, spurred by the improving economy — and as neighboring Hungary, not to mention the U.K. and other countries, enacted increasingly rich incentives — the Czech Republic lost more and more shoots to competitors.

So in 2010, the government established its own incentive, which today offers a competitive 20% base rebate on qualifying Czech spend, along with an additional 10% on the cost of foreign cast and crew if they agree to pay the 15% Czech withholding tax on their salaries. The rebate is managed by a single body, the National Fund of Cinematography. According to McCallum, the entire process is quick, painless, and transparent.

It is also easy for visiting producers, casts and crews to communicate with Czech locals. “Anybody who’s below 30 speaks good English,” says William Stuart, the U.S. representative for Barrandov Studios. “With older craftsmen, there still can still be a language barrier, but the younger people act as translators.”

While the Czech Republic doesn’t have the depth of production infrastructure found in Los Angeles, where any piece of technology or talent can be accessed almost instantly, producers say it’s is easy to ship equipment from neighboring countries, and London, with its wealth of talent, is a mere hour and 45-minute plane flight away from Prague.

More Artisans

  • Smithsonian Handmaids Tale Costume

    Why the Smithsonian Chose to Enshrine 'Handmaid's Tale' Servant Costume

    The iconic red-caped, white-bonneted outfits worn by Elisabeth Moss and the other childbearing servants in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” created by costume designer Ane Crabtree, have become that show’s signature visual.  Hulu immediately knew it had a good thing, hiring groups of women around the country to parade in the garments to promote the show. [...]

  • Sir Lionel Frost (left) voiced by

    Why 'Missing Link's' Title Character Was One of Laika's Biggest Challenges

    Stop-motion studio Laika pushes design boundaries in every film it makes, and the lead character in “Missing Link” is no exception. “It became pretty apparent that [the character] Link was going to be the cornerstone,” says director and writer Chris Butler. “I did this rough drawing many years ago, and it was basically like a [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    New 3D-Printing Technology Was 'Missing Link' for Laika's Latest Stop-Motion Project

    For the upcoming animated comedy adventure “Missing Link,” stop-motion studio Laika set the bar very high. To execute the designs created by director and writer Chris Butler, artists would have to speed up their 3D printing of character faces — and those faces would have to be the most complex they’d ever created. “Missing Link” [...]

  • The Old Man and the Gun

    Ohio’s Midwest Locations and Flexible Tax Credit Lure Producers

    With its small towns, rolling farmlands and industrial cities, Ohio embodies the American Midwest. Other location lures for filmmakers include the shore along Lake Erie, the campus of Ohio State University, the striking skyline of Cincinnati and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The Buckeye State also provides producers with a 30% [...]

  • Nancy Schreiber Mapplethorpe Cinematographer

    DP Nancy Schreiber Captures Life of Artist Robert Mapplethorpe in Grimy Gotham

    Don’t tell cinematographer Nancy Schreiber that she’s having a renaissance. That would imply there’ve been slumps in her long career, and she won’t have any of that, even if for a time she was taking smaller jobs as the gaps widened between larger gigs. “It’s never been about the money, for me,” says Schreiber over [...]

  • What Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga Share:

    LeRoy Bennett Keeps Top Acts Like Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande in the Spotlight

    You might say that LeRoy Bennett is a shining light among lighting and production designers for pop music. Doing double duty creating both touring sets and their illumination, he started out with a 14-year run as Prince’s collaborator, went on to work with Nine Inch Nails and Madonna and has counted Beyoncé’s and Bruno Mars’ [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content