Historically, Hungary and the Czech Republic have been the first ports of call for producers from Western Europe wanting to cut their costs. These days, Hungary is still popular but faces competition from other Eastern European countries that can do even better on price (Romania, Serbia, Bulgaria to cite a few). That said, Hungary is still good value for money and benefits from the fact that the country introduced a 25% rebate on production costs in 2008. Not to be overlooked either is the fact that Hungary has a proven track record – with a cinema tradition that stretches back more than a century. Many international producers prefer to pay slightly more than they might elsewhere in Eastern Europe because they have the security of knowing that the crews, equipment and studios in Hungary are all of the highest standard.
Also worth noting is that Hungary has great studios and locations. Origo Film Studios and Korda Studios are both state-of-the-art complexes and are very affordable compared to rival facilities in western Europe. As for locations, a wide range of architecture, hills, lakes, rivers, forests and villages are all within easy reach of capital city Budapest, Hungary’s production HQ. Budapest itself is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and regular features as the backdrop to commercials. Also keep in mind that Hungary has a mild four-season climate, so can host productions all year round.
Hungary hosts a wide range of film and TV productions. Denis Villeneuve filmed the sci-fi sequel Blade Runner 2049 from a base at Origo Film Studios, and Ridley Scott and Matt Damon filmed The Martian at Korda Studios back in 2014. A major new TV adaptation of Georges Simenon's Maigret novels also shot in Budapest, with British actor Rowan Atkinson in the title role and Hungary doubling for 1950s Paris.
Hungary was also among the locations named for the major TV drama, Emerald City - a dark take of the Wizard of Oz story - starring Vincent D'Onofrio. Carnival Films' major new historical drama for BBC Two, The Last Kingdom, based on Bernard Cornwell's books The Saxon Stories set in ninth century England filmed locally as well.
Other international films including World War Z, 47 Ronin, Bel Ami and The Rite have all used Hungarian locations, while TV productions to have spent time here include The Borgias, Pillars Of The Earth and Going Postal. A Good Day to Die Hard filmed Budapest as Moscow and ended up as one of the biggest productions ever made in Hungary in terms of production spend.
Another big part of Hungary’s business comes from commercials producers, which travel long distances to take advantage of local expertise. Clients come from markets such as Western Europe, the US, Korea, Japan and Australia. One recent campaign saw agency DDB Paris and production house Gorgeous take actor Hugh Jackman to Budapest for a Lipton Iced Tea TVC. In another campaign that showcases Hungary’s expertise, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and production company Infinity went to Hungary to shoot a Rugby World Cup-themed TVC for Guinness. Directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech), the ad took four days to shoot and involved 370 people.
Hungary is convinced of the economic benefits of the film industry so has a pretty liberal permitting system. Officially, you need to give plenty of notice for disruptive requests like shutting streets – but this can be sped up if necessary. Permitting is typically handled by the local production partner and will be sorted out in a matter of days unless it is a complex request. But if you don’t have one in place the Hungarian Film Commission can advise. Permits are granted by local councils and vary in price depending on the location in question.
Origo Film Studios (formerly Raleigh Studios) is one of Hungary’s main filming facilities – indeed among the largest in Europe – and is only a short drive from central Budapest.
Also important is Korda Studios, which played host to The Borgias TV production. The biggest stage is around 5,900 sq m. There are also five other studios ranging in size from 1,000 to 3,600 sq m squared and three major backlot sets: a New York street, a Renaissance city, and a medieval town.
For other studio ideas, see the KFTV listings, which has a number of other sites – primarily in the Budapest area.
Hungary is a beautiful country with a mix of architectural treasures and superb landscapes. Emerge Film Solutions summarises what’s on offer this way: “Baroque and classical architecture, palaces and castles, airport, roller coaster, hills, lakes including the largest lake in Central Europe Lake Balaton, Danube river, forests, traditional villages, Eastern Bloc architecture, Turkish baths."
A beautiful city in it's own right, Budapest is also a highly versatile backdrop having doubled for most of the worlds major cities from London and New York, to Buenos Aires and Bangkok.
Hungary can provide comprehensive support for any kind of production. While there is still a tendency for directors and directors of photography to be brought in from outside, other roles are generally supplied by the large pool of production companies in the Budapest area. Crews for the most part speak good English and art departments/set construction depts. are first class. In terms of equipment rental, all standard cameras, lights and cranes are available locally.
A number of companies are featured on the KFTV website, including Sparks Camera and Lighting. Set up in 1992, Sparks offers state-of-the-art Arriflex and Panavision equipment and also supplies crews. Worth noting also is that the major studios can rent out equipment.
As for other areas of importance, Hungary is home to good post-production houses like Umbrella and Post Edison but is not strong when it comes to diverse casting. Non-white cast members sometimes need to be flown in with the production.