Germany is looking forward to the return of international filmmakers drawn by world-class facilities and a federal film fund (DFFF 1) worth up to 25% of local spend.
The most high-profile recent shoots have been Warner Bros and Village Roadshow Pictures’ The Matrix 4 starring Keanu Reeves and Sony Pictures’ Uncharted starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg, both of which resumed filming at Babelsberg Studio and Berlin this summer with safety protocols in place, having been put on hold in March.
“There’s some really thoughtful, effective protocols in place, and the rhythm of filmmaking has not been really impacted,” Reeves told local media.
Indeed, many local and international film productions are getting back on set thanks to the country’s new Covid-19 health and safety guidelines, including Kolja Malik’s coming-of-age drama Las Vegas and Florian Gallenberger’s It’s Just A Phase Honey Bunny. “We tested the actors twice a week so that they could interact normally,” said Gallenberger.
Although it is more expensive to shoot in Germany than European territories further east, the country is proving a resilient international location. This is 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,” she explains.
Big-budget US projects are increasingly carrying out their post-production work in Germany as international producers can access a grant of up to $23.6m (€20m) via a second federal film fund (DFFF 2), which is aimed at production service companies. Global VFX firm Pixomondo has outposts in Frankfurt and Stuttgart, RiseFX is based in Berlin, and Trixter and Scanline are in Munich.
VFX artists trained in Germany’s film schools have a good reputation in Hollywood.
Despite this, Germany has proven resilient, partly thanks to the studios, but also its film-friendly approach and fantastic array of locations.
Although it is more expensive to shoot in Germany than European countries further east, the country is proving a resilient international location. This is thanks largely to its world-class studios, film-friendly approach and wide array of locations, including the historic capital Berlin.
"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," says Christina Naber, a producer at Berlin based outfit Television Interactive News Agency, which has worked with leading brands like Microsoft and Expedia, and on top shows, including Amazon's Making The Cut and Race Across the World (BBC, TV 2 Denmark). "Take for example Berlin: apart from all the typical Berlin shots, you can find locations that could easily be in Moscow, Paris or other European cities."
“It’s such a city of culture and a tribute to what’s gone before,” adds experienced location manager Georgette Turner (Wonder Woman 1984, Mission: Impossible – Fallout). “The people of Berlin are so accommodating and logistically it was easy to get permits to shoot. The last mayor was so pro filming that he made it his agenda to really make it simple to shoot and he left a lasting legacy.”
Turner points to the ease of parking thanks to the wide roads and grid system, the fact it is surprisingly cost effective to film there, 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.”
Another popular shooting site in Germany 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.
Just one word of advice from Naber is 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.
Internationally experienced, English-speaking local crews at all stages of production — from set construction through production services to VFX — mean visiting projects can dispense with bringing in their own heads of department. Leading service producers include Television Interactive News Agency, Shotz and Film Base in Berlin and First Frame in Munich.
"Germany has a high density of film schools and therefore very skilled crews, " says Naber at Television Interactive. "English is a common working language. Understandably production companies from abroad are sometimes nervous to work with local teams, but if they did they are not only happy they saved some costs, they also recommend them to others."
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.