Cost savings for ad producers in Eastern Europe
More international commercial producers are using Eastern European studios to help reduce their production costs, rather than only heading overseas to film scenic locations.
“The live-action projects we facilitate locally in Eastern Europe have more often been shot on location,” says Michael Moffett, founder of Production Service Network (PSN), in an interview with KFTV.
“Now the cheap studio options of the region are also attracting producers from as far as the US – and other parts of the world – to plug in as they hunt for where they can film for less.”
Production Service Network’s Bulgarian partner Filmmaker worked on a McDonald’s commercial that used stages and back lots in the capital Sofia to double for New York locations. Elsewhere, Proctor and Gamble worked with PSN Poland in Warsaw to film a toothpaste commercial on Polish sound stages, altering three sets to create nearly a dozen mostly European territories.
“Planning shoots with celebrity talent can be one of the biggest obstacles,” Moffett says. “We’ve seen commercial projects fall through at the last minute because the talent suddenly refused to travel.”
The celebrity issue can be a major factor given that so many high-profile commercials rely on endorsements and appearances from famous faces. Campaigns involving sports stars usually involve the production team travelling to the talent so as not to disrupt training routines and fixture schedules.
While much of Eastern Europe currently enjoys relative political stability, this isn’t the case across the whole region.
Moffett comments that international perceptions of the security situation in Ukraine since the Russian annexation of Crimea have caused a dip in the number of commercial producers willing to film in the country as a whole, and not just in the east where security is less stable.
According to Dmitry Sukhanov at PSN Ukraine, the capital Kiev – 800 miles west of Crimea – is a safe production environment. Many European producers have returned to the country but American producers will not be back until they get an all-clear from insurance companies.
Moffett adds that commercial producers are paying more attention to Eastern Europe’s competitive cost differential as clients push for more content from decreasing production budgets. He says that Eastern Europe’s reduced labour and equipment costs have coupled with savings on Screen Actors Guild fees for US projects to reduce local production expenditure by as much as 50%.
The savings can buy additional shoot days and still counter the inconvenience and expense of travel to Europe. Giuliano Doman, PSN’s Romania partner says this is like an instant financial incentive for producers and is particularly appealing given that commercial shoots do not generally benefit from government filming incentives.
Finding ways to make talent more willing to travel to cost-effective studio facilities may be key to making producers’ lives easier in the coming years.