For producers an undeniable advantage of shooting in Eastern Europe is that there are no unions. Therefore there is less administration, less rules on working hours (for example breaks), making them more easily manageable and this is also probably the reason that their rates grow more slowly than anywhere else. But this does not mean that one can make limitless bargains on rates. Let me tell you a story about this.
During one of our American trips, one evening in Los Angeles we went to a bar to met a well-known American producer. After a few introductory questions, we started to talk straight away about Hungarian crew rates, and since we had a fresh chart on this calculated into American dollars, we showed it to him. We could see on his face while he was reading the numbers that he liked what he saw, yet he asked at the end: can these prices be bargained even lower?
I told this story, because it was not a one off; many producers think the Eastern Europe is not simply a cost effective region where the rates are attractive, but it is also extremely cheap. It often happens that even though people see favourable prices, they still want further bargains and instead of cheap prices, they look for ridiculously low ones. Generally, we are not partners to such business.This is because Hungarian crew rates are low on an European level, and every crew member needs to pay their pension, health insurance and tax out of these costs, which is why they would not be able to make a decent living out of any less.
They can only have a living standard above average from these wages if they do not spend money on their pension, health insurance and tax. I would like to add that in Europe it is compulsory to contribute to these things, so if they want to make a living from less money, they will have to not keep to these rules. And yet many are constrained to avoid paying tax to make a living, or because they simply want a richer present and do not think of the future, which is why they find solutions not to pay. We would like to say, that if someone lowers these prices any further, then most often something is not right, because no one can lawfully afford to do so.
In Eastern Europe a fair price does exist, which is acceptable and decent for both parties. Crew rates in Hungary are on this level. It is more advantageous to shoot here than in most parts of Europe, and there are no unions that would make a producer’s job trickier. Yet no one abuses all the unwritten professional rules that exist within the industry.