Shooting in Hungary

Film Crews in Budapest

Regulations and Working Conditions for Crews in Hungary

As a result of the constant influx of international productions being shot here and its prestigious film education, Hungary is home to a high amount of well-qualified crew members. This thriving industry is demonstrated by the fact that this is the third year (between 2016 and 2018) that the annual expenditure in Hungary’s film industry was above €300 million, 80% of which was provided by foreign productions, employing many professionals from the Hungarian market forming a substantial part for their crews. Let it be cinematographers, gaffers, camera technicians, stuntmen, set designers, makeup artists, prop masters or special effects professionals, we can easily find crew members in Budapest, that have years of experience and are able to work in a multilingual environment without difficulty.

As a result of the constant influx of international productions being shot here and its prestigious film education, Hungary is home to a high amount of well-qualified crew members. This thriving industry is demonstrated by the fact that this is the third year (between 2016 and 2018) that the annual expenditure in Hungary’s film industry was above €300 million, 80% of which was provided by foreign productions, employing many professionals from the Hungarian market forming a substantial part for their crews. Let it be cinematographers, gaffers, camera technicians, stuntmen, set designers, makeup artists, prop masters or special effects professionals, we can easily find crew members in Budapest, that have years of experience and are able to work in a multilingual environment without difficulty.

The largest Hungarian film organization, the Hungarian National Film Fund attributes great importance to ensure the availability of sufficiently educated reinforcement, which is why it provides a wide range of educational programs, training prop masters, production assistants, script supervisors, DITs, focus pullers and unit managers on their courses. These classes became highly demanded due to the growing number of productions running parallel to each other, creating a shortage of well-educated professionals in the market. These courses are most often divided with a practical component taking place on the sets of feature films and a theoretical part at educational institutions specialised in these courses that provide the graduating professionals with up to date, relevant knowledge. By today, it has developed into a well functioning system, constantly formed by the film industry’s needs, enabling it to quickly react to changes in the employment market.

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Working Conditions

The conditions of employment of Hungarian crew members are especially production-friendly. One working week consists of 6 days and a working day normally has a fixed daily fee for 12 hours, in which there is a 1-hour lunch break. Although payment for overtime rises gradually, the rate rises only every two hours. Between two working days, at least 11 hours of rest must be granted for the crew members, and in the cases of this not being fulfilled, the missed resting period has to be compensated as overtime of the given day.

It is important to highlight, that crew members do not have an official trade union in Hungary, leading to multiple advantages. For example, this means that the majority of the crew is self-employed, therefore many extra costs are dispensed such as healthcare, welfare and pension contributions. Also, their employment can be managed with significantly less administration and unique needs can be more easily negotiated such as a more flexible schedule or a more favourable wage.

Camera Crew

In Hungary the cinematography is taught at a university level at the University of Theatre and Film Arts. During their bachelor’s and master’s degree, the students start to be active as cinematographers or as an other member of the camera crew of local or international productions. The cinematography students generally build their camera crews from young professionals for student films, enabling new camera assistants to also become part of the profession as the years go by

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A strength of the Hungarian market is its range of significantly experienced camera assistants. This is why, while in many other countries being a focus puller is seen as only a diving-board role, here this profession has a different status, with many doing this activity for their entire life, resulting in ACs with decades of experience, who spend up to 200-250 days a year on sets.

In addition, another useful consequence of Hungary’s flourishing film industry is that all technical equipment, that could be needed for modern filmmaking is available in Budapest, with the latest innovations also appearing quickly on the local market. So the camera crew is always up to date with the brand new technical equipment.

Gaffers and Grips

There is a wide range of gaffers in Hungary, with many experienced in the lighting of top category feature films, as well as those who are rather specialized in commercials and photo shoots.

For a long time, the grip tasks were dealt with by the gaffer and lighting team, but by today in Hungary, these have also become an independent team’s tasks, although not exactly following the American or English model: the grip team nearly solely deals with the equipment used for camera movement and other special rigging, while everything else remains the duty of the gaffer.

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The responsibilities of Hungarian key grips enabled them to deepen their knowledge of special equipment for moving the camera, for finding suitable technicians for these and to coordinate them. It is self-evident that a grip would be experienced in using a dolly or a slider, but for Hungarian grips, the use of a telescopic crane, a modular crane, a jib arm, any type of remote heads, cable cams or Russian arms (let that be a mini arm on a quad or a large trailer) is also part of their everyday practice. By today, all of these equipment are available on the Hungarian market, enabling grips to be able to work by the highest standards without having to make any compromises.

Art Department

University education is key in this area, such as the architecture design master’s course at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design, enabling its graduates to leave the university as entrants of the film industry equipped with a serious amount of knowledge. It is compulsory to gain at least one language exam for graduation, so an English language environment does not lead to any difficulties for them. The film industry takes advantage of this situation, swiftly positioning them in the world of international commercial and film production, quickly providing them with relevant professional experience. They can start their journey up the industry ladder to the role of production designer or art director. The tight schedule of international productions grants them great opportunities to become masters of working precisely under large pressure and short deadlines. This results in being able to find trained professionals with years of experience for any kind of task, let that be a local art director, who assists in the designer work of international productions, or someone leading the entire art department of a production.

Furthermore, large international productions ensure constant development of the members of the art department as well. For example Blade Runner 2049 was made in 2017 and is known for its special sets, that were produced in Hungary with significant participation of Hungarians in the designing and executions of sets. Also one can find set constructors for all scale of shoots, let that be small sets for commercials or large scale Hollywood productions, like The Martian (2015) or Hercules (2015), for which entire settlements and cave systems had to be constructed.

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There are many props and set elements rental companies with long histories in Hungary, that specialize in letting props for both large and small scale productions. Their large available stock is due, as previously mentioned to the highly active film industry. After wrapping the shoots, the majority of the props stay here and end up at these companies to be rented locally in the future.

Next to rental companies, naturally, there is also a large number of companies in Hungary that are specialized in special effects. Explosions, fire and water effects are all services available at Hungarian SFX companies, but we can also easily find experts for extra services like artificial snow or crafting super realistic human and animal dummies. For the former, the large company Snow Business is a good example, whose official Hungarian partner is the company Látványtechnika SFX, and for the latter Filmefex, a company with decades of experience in making special dummies and masks.

Another effect of the thriving film industry is that there is also a high amount of companies in Hungary, for whom the film industry may not be their main market, but time to time are given commissions from the film industry, leading them to be accustomed to unusual requests and working conditions. A good example of this is a flower shop in Budapest, that generally makes long-lasting wreaths and bouquets  with a special technique, but which also makes unique flower decorations with this method for film-related commissions. There are also many furniture shops, antique shops and clothing shops, that can be listed in this category.

Stunts

The number and knowledge of Hungarian stuntmen is impressive. One could give a long list of the international and Hungarian blockbuster films and series that have relied on their professionalism. An early example would be the 2004 movie Troy, for which 10% of the stunt team consisted of Hungarians, among whom Brad Pitt’s double was chosen. The Game of Thrones and Star Wars are also two of the many Hungarian stunt success stories worth mentioning. The list of films shot in Hungary is long as well, for example Red Sparrow (2018) and The Martian (2015), which all used the local stuntmen pool to an even higher degree.

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This exceptionally high amount of stunt professionals and their state of the art expertise is due to this field having developed a large following in Hungary in the 90s, after which many of the older generation felt it their duty to give on their knowledge to the youth. Thanks to this, well-trained stuntmen with a wide range of skills are available in Hungary. Next to fencing, close combat, jumping and diving, one can easily find experts in Budapest for executing more extreme stunts. Let it be explosions, car chases, collisions, downtown helicopter stunts or medieval fight scenes, Hungarian stuntmen are experienced in every area thanks to films like a Good Day to Die Hard or the 2014 movie Hercules, which are rich in the mentioned extreme scenes.

Animal Trainers

There is also a special range of animals used at shoots in Hungary, as a result of the exceptional professionals, who facilitate working with dogs and cats, along with shooting with unusual animals, like wolfs, reindeers or even bears.

Hungarian animal trainers are not only skilful in working with various species, but also in creating a safe and animal-friendly environment during production so that the trained animals can feel at ease on set. This is true about shooting with wolves, which is without equal around the world. Although a few special precautionary measures need to be made, these trainers have significant experience to facilitate a comfortable and safe work process among people and animals.

Moreover, when it comes to domesticated animals, like dogs or cats the locally accessible quantity of animals is significant. For example, for the shooting of the 2014 film White God, Hungary was able to provide all the 280 dogs featured in the production. Next to this, the mentioned previously diversity is what makes this market so strong, there are also elephants, raccoons, reindeers, lynxes and many other species that productions arriving to Hungary can choose among.

It is a widely known fact that the Hungarian film industry has countless advantages. As we can see from above, locally available professional crews are an important foundation for shooting a production here, of whom have been praised by industry professionals. Denise Di Novi, who has previously worked on such films as Batman Returns and Edward Scissorhands, highlighted during shooting in Budapest, that “Hungary has crews who have the same expertise as those in Hollywood, but it is much cheaper to shoot here”. Which is a summary of the key strengths of the Hungarian employment market, that is expertise and cost-efficiency. Thereby, if a production chooses Hungary, either for a feature film or a commercial, it can trust a Hungarian crew with any part of the shoot, since they can be sure that their production will be in good hands.

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