The U.K. is Europe’s top destination for Hollywood productions, with $3.75 billion spent on movies and high-end TV last year, followed by Hungary and Czech Republic.

Countries including Romania, Poland, Belgium, Ireland, Bulgaria and Malta are upping the ante in the contest to bring international shoots to their studios. France, Germany, Spain and Italy all have vibrant production sectors too, largely underpinned by local-language production, and boosted by orders from streamers, but with an eye to attract Hollywood projects.

Incentives are highly competitive with U.K.’s set at 25%, Hungary at 30%, and Czech Republic at 20%, for example. Visual effects is a growth area with France offering an extra 10% for VFX on top of its 30% rate. However, just as important is the availability of top-notch crew and production facilities, which is one of the reasons U.K., Hungary and Czech Republic still lead the way. The U.K. is in such demand that several mega studios are being built there, such as Sky Studios Elstree.

With huge sums at stake, the early restart of production was a priority for governments. The Czech Republic, Hungary and U.K. began to open for international production in early May, alongside many other places in Europe. They have been willing to bend the rules to allow U.S. cast and crew to enter their countries without quarantining, allowing Hollywood shoots on productions including “Mission: Impossible 7” to resume. , Millennium’s Nu Boyana Prods. Studios is currently shooting “Till Death,” starring Megan Fox, in Bulgaria (pictured).

U.S. productions in Europe follow the COVID guidance drawn up by the Hollywood studios and unions, known as the White Paper, which tends to be more stringent than national equivalents.

Adam Goodman, who runs production services company Mid Atlantic Films in Hungary, says frequent testing is key to a safe set, as well as applying a system of “bubbles” that keeps different sections of the cast and crew apart.

The Victorian fantasy series “Carnival Row,” starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne, has wrapped its post-COVID shoot in the Czech Republic. The series, produced by Amazon Studios and Legendary Television, is the biggest spending production ever to shoot in the country.

The show’s second season began filming on Nov. 11, but was halted by the country’s pandemic shutdown on March 12, with only two weeks of shooting left. International shoots in the Czech Republic were allowed to resume on May 7, but U.S. productions held back until agreements were in place between Hollywood studios and unions.

Among other big-budget series shooting in the country are “Wheel of Time” (Amazon Studios), “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (Marvel Studios), “Haunted” (Netflix), and “Das Boot” (Bavaria Fiction), as well as the movie “Transatlantic 473” (Netflix).

Besides a greater emphasis on pre-planning, with crews needing to be “more rigorous” about risk assessments, more time will need to be allocated in order to shoot safely, Goodman says. For example, crew wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) find they get too hot, so more breaks have
to be built into the shoot. Crew positioning in proximity to the set, he says, is also being reassesed, with fewer people clustered close to the camera and cast. “I think you’re going to see a permanent behavioral change,” he says. Fewer location shoots are also expected, with an increased use of virtual sets.

The COVID coordinator is a crucial role, although a sense of “mutual responsibility” and “mutual trust” among cast and crew are essential. COVID health and safety training is also critical. Both the training and BFC’s guidance will be continually updated in the light of experience, Wootton says.
Another area of focus is on the “mental health and well-being of crews,” he says; again communication is key as cast and crew must “feel safe and comfortable” with the revised production process.

Talking to producers, Wootton notes “a real sense of gratitude, a real sense of relief, and people feeling cautiously optimistic.”

For more information:

British Film Commission: britishfilmcommission.org.uk

National Film Institute (Hungary): nfi.hu/en

Czech Film Commission: filmcommission.cz/en