“Diverse locations and manageable location fees all contribute to achieving a realistic budget, and crews at local market rates make Romania very competitive with other markets such as Hungary and Poland,” insists Wayne Henry, managing director at UK-based Dramaworks, which has an extensive track record of producing throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
Bogdan Moncea of Castel Film Studios, which has provided production services for international projects including European Alliance’s Around The World In 80 Days, A24’s fantasy epic The Legend Of Ochi and the Sky Original Prancer: A Christmas Tale, adds: “We have a variety of landscapes and so many different kinds of architecture that it is possible to shoot almost anything in Romania.”
Castel is now handling Paramount Global’s six-hour US Civil War spy drama The Gray House, produced by Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman, which will be shot entirely in Romania between April and August 2023.
Another international project coming to shoot in Romania this year is Zentropa Entertainment’s Families Like Ours, Thomas Vinterberg’s first foray into directing a TV miniseries.
“The quality of production crews is certainly at a high standard, with many HoDs going on to win international prizes for their local work, and this shows in the creative expertise found in wardrobe, set design and make-up,” Henry notes.
“In general, only very few people need to be brought in for a production, as most HoDs and technical crew can be recruited locally,” says Moncea. “On Prancer, for example, everybody was local apart from the director, DoP and cast.”
Meanwhile, Tim Burton’s hit Netflix series Wednesday (pictured), which filmed throughout Romania and at Buftea Studios in winter 2021-22, has created a buzz among the fans keen to visit the show’s town of Jericho and Nevermore Academy. Visitors can walk the same streets as lead Jenna Ortega during Buftea’s studio tour and enter the shop where Wednesday Addams bought her black prom dress.
Although its cash rebate scheme is currently suspended, Romania still fares comparably cost-wise with Bulgaria and Serbia and is cheaper than Hungary and Czech Republic. Responsibility for relaunching the rebate — albeit with minor revisions — has passed from the Ministry of Economy, Entrepreneurship and Tourism to the Ministry of Culture. If all goes to plan, the scheme could be back up and running by the second half of 2023.
The striking variety of locations is often what appeals to international producers. Universals Dragonheart Vengeance filmed at the Râșnov Fortress, the volcanic crater in Racoș, and Bran Castle, commonly known as Dracula’s castle. While The Asset filmed in the beautiful capital city of Bucharest, dubbed the ‘Paris of the East’.
“There are amazing architectural masterpieces across Romania, like Hunedoara Castle, Sinaia Casino, Snagov Palace, and the Palace of Culture Iași,” Giuliano Doman, executive producer at local production service providers Family Film, tells KFTV. “Nature has also given us some of the most beautiful roads, like Transfăgărășan, Transalpina, Transrarău and Transbucegi. These are amongst the best-known places internationally, but our fields, mountains, rural landscapes are truly inspiring and rare, in every season.”
These locations can also double for other countries, adds Doman. “For example, the mountains resemble the Swiss Alps, the Eastern side of Romania can simulate Wild West landscapes, the forests are similar to the ones from Germany, and the Transfăgărășan road resembles St Gotthard Pass in Switzerland, Stelvio Pass in Italy or the Trollstigen in Norway.
“The cities in the Transylvania region in the north have been strongly developed with Austrian/German influence, so they can double easily for these countries,” Andrei Loghin, owner at local outfit Digital Spirit, tells KFTV.
Producers can expect to have permits arranged within about 48 hours for most locations, while shutting streets in Bucharest can take a few days longer.
Buftea Studios covers an area of almost 100 acres with 21,500 square metres of studio space, 19 soundstages and four indoor water tanks, located 35 minutes from Bucharest city centre in the town of Buftea. Standing sets on the extensive backlot include a Los Angeles street, Boston set, western village and six fully equipped contemporary houses.
Castel Film Studio has 10 soundstages ranging in size from 600 to 3,354 square metres, and standing sets including a gothic church, US suburbia and a western town, as well as access to an adjacent forest and an 11-mile natural lake near the studio.
There are direct international flights to Bucharest as well as many other cities around the country such as Cluj, Sibiu and Iasi.
Romania’s motorway network is one of the smallest in the EU, accounting for only 5.3% of the country’s total road length. In rural areas, the road quality tends to deteriorate, and drivers should always keep an eye out for random livestock, deer and animal herders suddenly crossing the road.
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