Slovakia made a bold statement by increasing its cash rebate from 20% to 33% in January 2020 in an effort to attract more international productions. The move paid off, with NBCUniversal/Nomadic Pictures choosing to film part of the fifth season of fantasy horror Van Helsing in Slovakia in February, just before the coronavirus struck.
The producers applied for the incentive through local outfit Spectral, requesting support of $657,000 (€560,000), representing almost 2% of the expected $42m (€36m) budget.
“The skillset, talent, experience and dedication to the craft is second to none,” says the series’ US producer Morris Chapdelaine of the local crews. “Equipment rentals, facilities, locations, transportation services and the incredible food are all things that stand out, but it’s the wonderful people that really made our show work here — on time and on budget. We would be delighted to return, and we are planning to.”
Since lockdown, Slovakia has reopened to local and international productions, but those entering from countries that are not on the low-risk list need to quarantine for five days and are obliged to be tested for Covid-19. However, the ministry of culture can provide exemptions for essential crew members. Once on set, crew need to wear face masks and follow strict hygiene solutions.
A few international co-productions are now filming in Slovakia. These include Mariana Cengel-Solcanska’s feature The Chambermaid, produced by Slovakia’s Bright Side Pictures and Czech broadcaster Cineart TV Prague, and Tereza Nvotova’s dark drama The Nightsiren, produced by Slovakia’s BFilm with Moloko Film from the Czech Republic and France’s Silvera Productions.
“Slovakia was the obvious choice,” says Peter Badac, producer of The Nightsiren. “It’s not easy to find exteriors where you can combine coniferous trees that grow only in higher altitudes, rocky hills and mountains without any vegetation, and picturesque mountain lakes where you can swim.”
Other major international projects to have shot in Slovakia in recent years include Francis Lawrence’s action film Red Sparrow, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton, which filmed in the capital Bratislava; Amazon Studios’ action series Hanna; and the BBC/Netflix series Dracula, which filmed at the turreted Orava Castle.
Slovakia offers culturally rich and diverse locations, including the popular capital Bratislava, High Tatras, Kosice, forests, modern industrial and socialist-era architecture, medieval towns and more than 100 castles.
Permits to shoot can be obtained from the relevant local authority, private owner or in the cities from the municipal departments. It is recommended to apply for these at least 30 working days before the intended start of production. It is possible to obtain a one-month working visa for filming, but a work permit is required for longer periods.
For filming, an agreement with the relevant institution must be reached. With this agreement it is possible to obtain a working visa for one month during filming. A work permit is required for a longer period.
There are a couple of studios available — Koliba Studios and Shining Film Studio — and converted warehouses that are used as soundstages. But most productions come for the locations. Slovakia offers a skilled and professional multi-lingual workforce who generally offer low-priced services compared to other European countries. The majority of equipment rental companies are situated in Bratislava, offering the latest grip equipment, generators, cameras, sound equipment, light equipment and cranes. Anything else can be rented from neighbouring Czech Republic, Hungary or Austria.