Romania is making an international impression with a wide range of historic locations, a talented crew base and reliable studios.
Recent big projects to shoot in the country include BritBox UK and Spectrum’s six-part drama A Spy Among Friends, starring Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce, about the defection of notorious UK intelligence officer Kim Philby, and Sky TV series Django, with Matthias Schoenaerts.
The Yellow Tie, starring John Malkovich as controversial 20th century Romanian music conductor Sergiu Celibidache, is also set to shoot this spring. The project is a co-production between the UK’s Celi Films and Romania’s Oblique Media Film.
Previous productions include Lionsgate’s sci-fi thriller Voyagers, starring Colin Farrell and Tye Sheridan; Universal’s action adventure Dragonheart Vengeance, starring Helena Bonham Carter; Thunder Road’s thriller The Contractor, starring Chris Pine; and Sid Gentle Films/BBC America’s Killing Eve, which shot capital Bucharest, dubbed ‘the Paris of the east’, for Moscow and Paris.
“Bucharest is not exactly a hidden gem because everyone knows it’s there, but it’s definitely under-exploited,” says Lee Morris, managing director of Sid Gentle and executive producer of Killing Eve. “We’ve found it easy to film there and had a lot of help from the authorities, particularly the mayor’s office who have smoothed the way for us in terms of parking in the city centre, closing a road if you need to, and generally helping us with permissions of locations. [Local production service providers] Alien Films were also a great help with making the production process run smoothly.”
Season three of Killing Eve also shot in the village of Viscri, about three-and-a-half hours from Bucharest, which doubled for Poland. “It’s a Unesco world heritage site and has a magical, special flavour to it,” says Morris. “Romania is a very versatile location.”
Indeed, this versatility is one of the main attractions for visiting productions. Dragonheart Vengeance filmed at the Rasnov fortress, the volcanic crater in Racos and Bran castle, commonly known as the home of Dracula. Bucharest’s stand-out features include the vast parliament building, evocative old streets, castles, palaces and medieval villages. There are also Soviet-era eyesores and abandoned industrial estates that can make unusual backdrops.
Moreover, there are plenty of locations across Romania that can double for other countries. “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 Transfagarasan road resembles St Gotthard Pass in Switzerland, Stelvio Pass in Italy or the Trollstigen in Norway,” says Giuliano Doman, executive producer at local outfit Family Film.
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, situated 35 kilometres outside Bucharest, covers almost 100 acres with 21,500 square metres of soundstages. The largest of 19 stages measures 4,300 square metres, and four come with indoor water tanks.
Castel Film Studios, 45 kilometres outside Bucharest, has 10 soundstages, water tanks and a 65-acre backlot. There are multiple standing sets, including an urban street, US suburbia and a gothic church. The studio also has in-house workshops for construction, costumes and props.
The local crew pool is growing in experience and most speak English. “It’s worth noting that sometimes the film market can get crowded, and crew availability can be a problem,” says Andrei Loghin, owner of local outfit Digital Spirit. “Plus, Bucharest is a busy city, so you need time and good planning for difficult shoots.”
It is cheap and easy to travel into and within Romania by plane. Infrastructure is generally good and has been upgraded. The road network is very extensive and there are few places that cannot be reached by car.
Click here to see selected production service companies in Romania.
Click here to see the filming guide for Romania.
Read the full report in our latest edition of World of Locations.