Bulgaria has worked hard to attract a steady stream of major international projects in recent years. Now the government is poised to approve a cash rebate of 25% of qualifying costs up to $1.2m (€1m) per project that will boost the country’s appeal further still.
This will be a boon for state-of-the-art Nu Boyana Film Studios, owned by the US’s Nu Image and Millennium Media. Situated just outside capital city Sofia and spread over 30 hectares, the complex features 10 soundstages, an underwater production facility and plenty of standing sets — some left over from recent shoots including Rambo: Last Blood and London Has Fallen.
“The facilities are world class and I have never come up against a location or logistical issue that hasn’t been made achievable by the production staff and local authorities,” says US-based producer Matt O’Toole, who has shot 12 movies at the studio. “They have great stages and incredible backlot street sets that we have used many times to double for London and New York.”
Millennium Media is expected to shoot Night Has Fallen, the fourth instalment in the Gerard Butler action franchise, at the studios later this year. This comes after a busy 2020 at the studios, which saw Millennium shoot high-concept thriller ’Till Death, starring Megan Fox, under strict Covid-19 protocols, and Martin Campbell’s The Protégé, which also did post-production work at the studios.
Millennium Media recently formed a joint venture with Lebanon outfit Eagle Films to produce four TV series to shoot at the studio. The first is crime thriller Rally, which is now in pre-production and aims to shoot in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Other films that have shot at the Nu Boyana Studios recently include two projects from Lionsgate, The Devil’s Light and Cobweb; and Free Dolphin Productions’ Royal Blossom and Lost And Found In Rome.
Even before a formal incentive, O’Toole insists “economically, the cost of set construction, shooting, crew and equipment is incredibly competitive. Bulgaria holds its own against other countries in the region, regardless of incentive.”
Aside from the Nu Boyana Film Studios, there’s also a vast array of natural shooting locations, including the wooded mountains of Vitosha, nestled beyond the backlot of the studios.
Elsewhere in the country, there's the wooded mountains of Vitosha, situated beyond the backlot at Nu Boyana, as well as sandy beaches with views of the Black Sea, snow-capped peaks in Rila, Pirin and the continental Danubian plain (ancient Moesia), all within five hours’ drive of each other.
The capital Sofia has a striking mix of architectural styles. Roman, Byzantine and medieval sites can be found in the centre of the city, alongside neoclassical styles and socialist-era apartment blocks.
“The country has endless looks in some stunning places — cities, towns, mountains, forests, lakes and coastal locations. It’s a dream place to work,” says O’Toole.
Nu Boyana Film Studios is the jewel in Bulgaria’s crown. Situated just outside the capital Sofia, and spread over 30 hectares, the complex features 10 soundstages, an underwater production facility and a 1,200 square metre water tank. As well as various standing sets, including New York, London, a Middle Eastern street, St Paul’s Cathedral and a large ancient set, complete with Roman Coliseum.
“The studio has a huge array of equipment, props, dressing, costumes and vehicles, which has saved our productions from having to ship in from other countries,” says line producer Matt O’Toole. “Plus, the crews are world class across all departments so there are no issues with bringing in US and UK talent and technicians.”
While productions are recommended to bring a key team — director, camera operator, producer — “everything else in Bulgaria can be found”, claims producer Daniel Delchunkov from local outfit Timeless Production Group.
First person to contact
Jana Karaivanova, executive director, Bulgarian National Film Center @ email@example.com
“It is easy to access Bulgaria with short direct flights from all European capitals and outside Europe too. We have superb locations, excellent valuations from worldwide companies and very low operating costs,” enthuses Daniel Delchunkov from local outfit Timeless Production Group to KFTV.