The country has been on the radar since the early part of the last decade when movies like Cold Mountain started taking advantage of its lower costs. At the time, the producers told the Los Angeles Times that lower wage costs made the film US$20m cheaper than if they had tried filming it in the US.
A subsequent influx of film activity has helped professionalise the business. The studio sector in particular has benefited, with some extremely complex set construction now possible. Leaders in this field are Castel Film and MediaPro Studios.
One of Romania’s biggest assets (aside from its vampire mythology) is its forests. These have been put to good effect in films and series wanting to replicate US woodlands – particularly in period pieces that require an untouched look (ie no modern installations like pylons, cables, roads and houses).
Romania is blessed with all kinds of landscapes, from the seashore (the Black Sea) and alpine environments to forests and the unique conditions of the Danube delta. Romania's architecture is also outstanding. There are vestiges from the pagan days, Roman and Greek ruins from ancient times, castles, fortresses, monasteries, mansions and palaces dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries. Bucharest and other major cities can stand for several cities in Europe, and some are well suited for the portrayal of certain historical periods, especially the medieval times. Western, Central European and Byzantine styles are well represented.
Romania is not quite as developed as other Eastern European filming locations like Hungary and the Czech Republic. But it is a cost-effective alternative – coming in around 30% cheaper on average. With diverse locations, interesting architecture and good crews, it ranks alongside territories such as Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Ukraine as a viable venue for production.
Like Turkey, Romania has had a role to play in Nicolas Cage’s Ghost Rider 2 movie. Filming took place on Romania’s most famous mountain road, the Transfagarasan highway. More recently, Rupert Grint (from the Harry Potter franchise) has been in Romania for The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman.
Even more significant, perhaps, was the fact that The History Channel US’s epic six-hour mini-series The Hatfields and McCoys (2012) was shot in Romania to try and capture the remoteness of 19th Century Appalachia. Despite some reluctance among cast and crew to take such a quintessentially US drama abroad (thus depriving the US of jobs), there was agreement that Romania did a pretty good job. Lead actor Kevin Costner said: “we were served very well by the people out there. They are really strong people. No matter what the weather conditions were, you looked and people were right there with us.” Co-star Bill Paxton added that Romania looked a lot like Kentucky, the true-life location of the drama series.
Costner said shooting in Romania meant fewer extras and less sophisticated equipment – and some of the cast complained about the basic conditions in the country and injuries to cast members. But with the series scoring a ratings record for The History Channel, such concerns are likely to be overlooked.
Romania has also had success attracting ads recently. Oscar & Cannes Lion winner Joachim Back recently shot two commercials for Kraft dressing Miracle Whip and Park Productions in Romania. Ford, which has a state of the art production facility in Craiova, Romania, also chose to film a recent commercial for its new B-Max model in Romania.
2011 saw numerous co-productions with partners in markets such as France, Germany and Poland. In 2012 China Film Group Corporation and Romania-based Mandragora International sealed the first film co-production between the two countries.
There are no special rules or restrictions for foreigners other than permission from the owner or authority responsible for the location. No work permits are required. For filming in the street, or where temporary traffic control is needed, it is necessary to inform the local district police and request assistance.
Citizens of EU and NATO member states do not need visas to enter Romania, but a valid passport or ID card is required. Citizens from other countries should check the visa regulations that apply through their nearest Romanian diplomatic office. There is no arrival or departure tax. For additional visa information and a list of Romanian diplomatic offices abroad, contact the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This is an area where Romania excels. One market-leader is the privately-owned Castel Film Studios with its eight soundstages, 104,000-square-foot back lot, production offices, gated parking, makeup rooms, dressing rooms, wardrobe rooms, storage facilities, and a full-service catering area. Recent work includes HBO's The Girl's Guide to Depravity and the Ghost Rider sequel. Also significant is MediaPro Studios, which has 19 sound stages, four water tanks, a 100-acre backlot and much more. It was MediaPro which played host to producer Greg Hoffman’s Catacombs, creating very intricate tunnel systems.
MediaPro also has an ongoing partnership with MPCA, the Motion Picture Corporation of America. This has so far resulted in four projects being shot in Romania. The latest is One In The Chamber, a Cuba Gooding Jr movie that shot in Bucharest in July 2011 for a 2012 release. 2011 also saw MPCA and MediaPro shoot Will & Kate, A Royal Love Story, in Bucharest.
At Cannes 2013 an announcement was made that a new studio wa to be launched in Bucharest.The facility is the result of a partnership between Bobby Paunescu and Jared Underwood’s Solar Entertainment Group (SEG), and Romanian real estate entrepreneur and business group owner Dragos Savulescu. The new studio complex, Solar Studios, will be located on the site of what was previously known as Kentauros Studios, recently acquired by Savulescu.
Forests are not the only location asset at Romania’s disposal. It also has castles and palaces, classic interiors, old villages, evocative monasteries, mountains, beaches and Communist era eyesores. Famous locations like Cluj and Sighisoara are 4-5 hours north of capital Bucharest but it is possible to get remote and beautiful locations closer to the capital. History’s Hatfields and McCoys was shot about two hours out of Bucharest.
With regard to permits, there are no unusual or onerous restrictions or rules apply. According to Emerge Film Solutions, permitting only requires 48 hours notice for most locations while shutting streets in Bucharest can take up to one week. That said, it’s best to allow as much time as possible.
According to Romanian Film Promotion, all standard camera and lighting equipment can be rented in Romania. Panalight a European leader in equipment rental, established an office in Bucharest in 2008 and can provide a range of modern equipment. Castel Film and MediaPro Studios, cited under studios, also offer a wide range of kit. In terms of specialist services, MediaPro Studios offers SFX services through its Special Effects workshop. Working in partnership with Effects Associates of London, it is “the only studio complex in Romania that has an in-house special effects department” and claims to have created “the best team of SFX experts in Eastern Europe”. MediaPro also has a 25-strong post-production department.
Another key player in film and commercials post-production is Abis Studio. 15 years old, Abis claims to offer the most complete post service in the country. Recent credits include Coca Cola (for Ogilvy Istanbul), LG (for Y&R Dubai) and Nestle (for Publicis Dubai). Many cinematographers, set and costume designers, technicians, animators, stunt performers and location managers are on staff at Castel Film and MediaPro Studios though the freelance community is also growing as the volume of work increases. Casting agencies are able to offer diverse character types though blond men are in short supply.