Germany can offer international producers a highly developed infrastructure and world-class workforce as well as attractive locations. But its three incentive programmes — DFFF I and II and GMPF — lag far behind its European competitors, only generating a German spend of $739m (€740m) in 2021 compared, for example, to the UK’s tax relief leading to production spend of $6.7bn (€6.7bn).
“The complete market for series production is really passing Germany by because we can only attract smaller series here because of the very low ‘caps’ for the GMPF fund,” says Studio Babelsberg CEO Charlie Woebcken in his capacity as a board member of the VTFF trade association. However, one step in the right direction came with Germany’s state minister for culture Claudia Roth announcing her decision to boost the GMPF’s budget for 2022 by $24.9m (€25m) to $74.9m (€75m) to meet the growing demand from the producers of high-end series for platforms and traditional broadcasters.
Meanwhile, German VFX studios have been working on big US projects, including DC Films’ Black Adam (Scanline), Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Rise) and She-Hulk: Attorney At Law (Trixter).
Germany is proving resilient, despite Covid, thanks largely to its world-class studios, film-friendly approach and wide array of locations, including its historic capital. “The people of Berlin are so accommodating and logistically it was easy to get permits to shoot,” says location manager Georgette Turner, who scouted the city for HBO reality TV show 12 Days Of Christmas.
She points to the ease of parking thanks to the wide roads and grid system and the friendly, efficient locals. “You can ring someone in Berlin and it’s like talking to an old friend. They’re just so helpful and pro filming, it paves the way for a lot of things,” she explains.
Germany has a lot of diversity to offer, from coastline to picturesque landscapes with lots of forest and mountains. Also German cities and towns are surprisingly varied.
Another popular shooting site is the 19th century Romanesque Neuschwanstein castle, which was the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty castles. “We get a lot of calls from companies wanting to shoot their shows at this ‘Disney Land’ like location,” enthuses Richard Carter at local production service outfit CineVision to KFTV.
It's worth noting though that Germany is a federal country and the rules in every state and town are different, so sometimes permits from several authorities are needed for just one location.
The past six months have seen German locations provide backdrops for a host of international productions including in North Rhine-Westphalia for Le Bureau’s Isabelle Huppert-starring thriller The Sitting Duck directed by Jean-Paul Salomé, and in Hamburg for UK director Alice Troughton’s feature-directing debut The Tutor starring Julie Delpy, Richard E Grant and Daryl McCormack. Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam has hosted visiting productions such as Peacock’s spin-off comedy series Pitch Perfect: Bumper In Berlin; Studiocanal and The Picture Company’s thriller Role Play starring Kaley Cuoco, David Oyelowo and Bill Nighy; and Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games prequel The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes. The reboot of cult film The Crow is the first major international film production to shoot at the new Penzing Studios, west of Munich.
German locations are also being lined up for Zentropa’s period drama King’s Land by Nikolaj Arcel, with Mads Mikkelsen in the lead.
International projects do not necessarily have to bring all their heads of department when coming to shoot in Germany but will not have problems finding local crews who are proficient in English and have extensive experience of international productions. The big studio hubs of Studio Babelsberg (Potsdam), Bavaria Studios (Munich) and MMC Studios (Cologne) are joined by the new Penzing Studios, a major new film and TV production facility 30 miles west of Munich, which plans to be the world’s first zero-emission studio.
While the country’s filming hubs are no more than an hour apart by air, German film funds will expect productions to let the train take the strain as part of the drive to mandatory green shooting as a funding requirement from 2023. Studio Babelsberg, Bavaria Studios and MMC Studios are all less than an hour’s drive from city-centre hotels.