“Poor Things,” starring Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo, has already generated a substantial amount of Oscars buzz, becoming a major contender for next year’s awards season. What less people might know about the film is that it was shot in Budapest, Hungary — a location that appealed to the “Poor Things” filmmakers for its “abundant studio space,” “highly skilled crew base,” “favorable costs” and “attractive 30% cash rebate,” according to Christopher Vourlias of Variety.
Not only that, but Hollywood filmmakers have historically used Hungary in their productions, with films like “Dune,” “Blade Runner 2049” and “Black Widow” all being shot in Budapest. That appeal has made Budapest one of the largest production hubs in all of Europe, coming second to only the U.K.
As for what makes Budapest and Hungary such a draw for the film industry, Hungarian commissioner of film Csaba Kael and Variety‘s EVP of global content Steven Gaydos sat down to discuss Hungary’s film industry and the country’s impact in Hollywood.
Asked why Hungary is especially attractive at the moment to European and Hollywood filmmakers, Kael brought up Hungary’s history, specifically the fall of socialism: “After the political changes, it was our opportunity to open our business doors … we changed to a capitalist system.”
Changing to a capitalist system meant the start of new private studios with international partners. This contributed to the globalization of Hungarian cinema, one that built upon Hungarians’ existing knowledge of filmmaking.
“The partners were German, then American, Italian, English producers, and [we] started to build up a service background for the international productions,” Kael explained. “I used to say we have a special DNA. This DNA is not in our body, but in our mind. This is our knowledge about the filmmaking. It’s 123 years, and it’s really something.”
Kael described Budapest as a “versatile” city, making it a prime filming location for filmmakers who need everything from “barricade sets” to “American streets” to the “Notre Dame.” Speaking about the incentives for foreign filmmakers to come to Hungary, Kael also mentioned the benefits of the country, with scenic settings and positive relationships with local leaders being the two draws.
“Around Hungary, we have wonderful places. Old castles, old forts. There is a special program [that] renovated, reconstructed the old castles,” Kael expressed. “We have very good connection with the cities, leaders, town and small villages, and they are very open to let space for the productions.”
That open-mindedness and collaborative mindset is crucial to explaining why Hungary is such a prime destination for the film industry. Still, Kael stresses that although the country is well-equipped for productions, there is always still room for improvement.
“Can you imagine, now, our studio capacity, we increased with 20 percent … this is a big family and we help each other, and this is a good business for the filmmakers, too, in Hungary,” said Kael. “We would like to develop our creative side because the Hungarians are very creative and we have strong creativeness on the field of post-production and CGI business.”
“I opened the door not only for movie productions but high-quality film and TV series,” Kael continued. “It’s very difficult to be in an American or worldwide film market as a Hungarian film, but if we have partners, co-production [and] distribution partners, we can reach higher and higher position because our capacity is quite big on this field. So the creative capacity is very good.”