Bulgaria has worked hard to attract a steady stream of major international projects in recent years, thanks in large part to its state-of-the-art
Nu Boyana Film Studios, owned by the US’s Nu Image and Millennium Media.
Situated just outside the capital 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 Hellboy, Rambo: Last Blood and London Has Fallen. Millennium provided assurance in May that it has cleared and refitted Nu Boyana to accommodate new health and safety protocols that the group says will allow it to continue to host film and commercial production at the site.
“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 studios. “They have great stages and incredible backlot street-sets that we have used many times to double for London and New York.”
Millennium Media’s high-concept thriller Till Death, from director SK Dale and starring Megan Fox, was due to shoot at the studios back in March, but production was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic. Filming is expected to resume soon. Further recent shoots at the studios include the indie action spoof Kung Fury 2, starring Michael Fassbender and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the Netflix series Into The Night.
UK broadcaster Channel 4 and producer Playground Entertainment recreated the majority of its Beijing and New York City settings for the four-part drama Chimerica in Sofia and Nu Boyana in 2018, spending three of its 11-week shoot in Bulgaria. “The incentive for us was the crew, the locations and costs that are competitive,” says series producer Adrian Sturges. “We were able to afford a bigger crew there — our crew was bigger in Bulgaria than it was in the UK. We weren’t a stunt-heavy production but the ones we did have, we did all of those scenes there including an air strike in Syria that featured at the start of the series.”
Bulgaria lacks a formal film incentive, but O’Toole insists “economically, even without a production rebate at present, 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 everything from sandy beaches with picturesque views of the Black sea to lush green fields stretching out across the midlands, and crystal-clear rivers and lakes, all of which are 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.
“They also have 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.
“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.
The only important thing is that the production comes with a key team - director, operator and producer, “everything else in Bulgaria can be found,” adds Delchunkov.
Bulgarian National Film Center, firstname.lastname@example.org, https://www.nfc.bg/en/