Hungary was the first choice for Fox and Chernin Entertainment’s “Red Sparrow,” says David Ready, executive VP at Chernin, and a producer on the movie. The companies had previously shot Paul Feig’s “Spy,” starring Melissa McCarthy, in the country, which gave them the confidence to return for “Sparrow.”
“The ‘Spy’ experience was very good. Having made a movie there, a couple of years prior, there was a comfort level there,” Ready says.
The action in the novel on which “Red Sparrow” is based takes place principally in Helsinki and Moscow, but in the film Budapest replaces the Finnish city, as well as playing the Russian capital. Ready recalls the visit he made with others from the production team. “We discovered a gold mine in terms of beautiful locations to set our main story around,” he says.
The film, which was all location-based, used 65 separate locations. Budapest- based Pioneer Stillking Films provided production services on the shoot.
Hungary ticked all the boxes when choosing a production destination, Ready says. “First, there were all the locations we needed; second, there was amazing local production capacity and crew — in terms of working with Pioneer as a production partner — they were fabulous; we were in good hands.”
Last but not least, says Ready, “there were the tax breaks.”
Although most of the film’s department heads were not local, the majority of the crew were Hungarian. “The city was very welcoming to us. From a locations standpoint it was outstanding. We were able to get all the locations we wanted. From a filmmaking standpoint, it felt very fresh and new and undiscovered,” adds Ready.
A plus is that foreign cast and crew enjoy living in Budapest, with its safe and celebrity-friendly environment, plenty of five-star hotels and restaurants, and attractive surroundings. “[There was] hugely positive feedback. It was a great experience for everyone. The city was charming,” Ready says.
Another bonus for productions basing themselves in Hungary is that if they shoot some scenes outside the country and take cast and crew with them, some of the costs will still be eligible for the tax rebate. This happened with “Red Sparrow,” according to Pioneer managing director Ildiko Kemeny, when the film traveled to other locations in Vienna, Bratislava and London.