Germany’s VFX studios have been busy on big US projects over the past year. Productions include Marvel’s Eternals (ScanlineVFX) and Focus Features’ Blue Bayou (Trixter) as well as Warner Bros’ Reminisence (Rise) and Paramount/Amazon series Without Remorse (Pixomondo).
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.
Studio Babelsberg is one of the country’s main production facilities, offering more than 21 sound stages with 300,000 sq ft floor space spread across a 42-acre lot. The facility also offers Germany’s largest water tank for underwater and action shoots. The studio also servers as a co-producer and production service provider through its subsidiary Studio Babelsberg Motion Pictures.
Bavaria Studios near Munich offers 13 soundstages — 12 of which are available to producers — while the 13th is under permanent lease. Stage space ranges in size up to almost 34,000 square feet and the studios also offer a backlot with standing sets including mansions and urban streets.
MMC Studios in Cologne, Germany, is one of the largest and most modern studio lots in Europe with 20 TV studios and soundstages. The studio is looking to expand through studio rental and production, post-production and stage and set construction.
International projects do not necessarily have to bring in all their heads of department, as Netflix limited series The Queen’s Gambit discovered when it shot in Germany in 2019. Berlin-based production designer Uli Hanisch and his 100-strong team, who worked together on Babylon Berlin, built locations all around Berlin that stood in for the US, Paris, Mexico and Moscow.
Local crews are proficient in English with plenty of international productions to their name, while the big studio hubs are Studio Babelsberg (Potsdam), Bavaria Studios (Munich) and MMC Studios (Cologne). The leading production services companies include First Frame in Munich and Shotz, TIN Agency and Film Base in Berlin.
Flights between the main cities take little more than an hour, and budget-conscious producers can now benefit from the internal German services being operated by Easyjet and Ryanair. Studio Babelsberg and Bavaria Studios, as well as Cologne’s MMC Studios, are less than an hour’s drive from the city centre hotels.