Vienna lives up to high expectations of film crews
All eyes were on Vienna in July when Tom Cruise held the glittering international premiere of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation. It was a fitting tribute to the city where parts of the Hollywood blockbuster were filmed.
Describing the backdrop of the Vienna Opera House as "a beautiful cinematic addition" to the film, director Chris McQuarrie spoke of the city's "gracious hospitality”, echoing sentiments of another major production to recently shoot there, Woman in Gold.
Star Helen Mirren called her three week stay in the city "fantastic", while director Simon Curtis fondly declared Vienna "one of the biggest stars of the film”.
Hosting big film shoots in Vienna is not a new development, the city’s stunning backdrops have always attracted filmmakers. McQuarrie, for example, followed in Carol Reed’s footsteps who shot The Third Man with Orson Welles in some of the same locations in 1949.
However, in 2015, the Austrian capital is clearly making a name for itself as a particularly accommodating filming location with tremendous support, efficiently orchestrated by the charismatic Marijana Stoisits, CEO of the Vienna Film commission.
Welcoming the big Hollywood productions
"Rogue Nation's production was massive,” says Stoisits, "but I can safely say that everything worked out perfectly. The Rogue Nation team were surprised at how smoothly everything went and how uninterrupted their stay here was.”
Taken by the local crew’s international skill level, the producers of Rogue Nation ended up hiring an additional 150 local crew for the film.
A particular benefit is the lack of a language barrier. "People speak English here," says Stoisits. "This is a major plus for the city, as some in the Woman in Gold’s production team have actually pointed out to us. If you shoot in Romania or Hungary for example, that can be an issue.”
Other advantages are less obvious and need to be highlighted by Stoisits: “Everyone comments on the beauty of the locations and the stunning architecture. Yes, we do have three opera houses, a huge number of museums and incredible art heritage, but many people do not know that Vienna has vineyards within its city limits, and huge green areas.”
There is also the close proximity of the city's facilities and everything being within easy reach. Stoisits recalls: “When I was suggesting locations to Woman in Gold producer David Thompson and his team he would ask how far the locations were, and when I said it is walking distance they simply couldn’t believe it.
“Everything is close by and there are no traffic jams to contend with, it is just great for crews to walk from their hotel to the set.” The Rogue Nation crew stayed in four different hotels, and all walking distance away from most locations.
It’s all about the money
But of course, as with every production, the finance behind it also makes a huge difference. Especially when we’re talking big productions. Rogue Nation took advantage of a return of up to 25% on all its expenses in Austria, capped at €1.1m.
There are a number funding options available from the Austrian federal and regional governments, some of which are reliant upon the involvement of an Austrian co-producer. Funding will often assist in the search for an Austrian co-production partner if necessary.
Each funding option varies in its eligibility criteria. Some guidelines will require the hiring of local film crews or actors, or the inclusion of elements of Austrian culture within the plot lines of the film.
Vienna’s costs are also “affordable” says Stoisits. “Certainly not more expensive than other cities for hiring equipment, stay and parking costs.” But perhaps the city’s greatest asset is its superb efficiency and zero bureaucracy.
Going above and beyond
"We pride ourselves on meticulous planning,” explains Stoisits, “with Rogue Nation for example, we were ready as early as October 2013 when they started scouting and asked about certain spots. So, when they actually decided to go for Vienna, we were prepared. I quickly contacted the Mayor, stressing that there must be commitment from the city, and as they shot in the summer holiday season when many staff city workers are away, we made sure there was always someone present to authorise permits.”
The hard work was worth it. “When Helen Mirren, Cruise, McQuarrie and Curtis actually thanked the city of Vienna, it was very moving. These people and productions are spreading the word, and the industry is hearing about how “amazing” filming in Vienna is.
"I love the way the British showcase London through the Bond franchise,” concludes Stoisits, “getting to a similar point would be great for Vienna too."