Film Industry

10 Reasons to Shoot in Hungary

Advantages and Potential Risks if You Produce in Hungary

Many have already collected the reasons, why it is beneficial to film in Hungary or in its capital city Budapest. Yet the authenticity of these summaries is somewhat spoiled due to the fact that they only highlight the positive aspects and generally never add objective assessments about the potential risks. We believe that summarizing the main positives of filming in Budapest and highlighting a few other facts that give a larger picture, will bring the readers a lot closer to reality. Next to this we will favour ourselves only to the extent that we naturally will also add how these problematic issues can be solved by Progressive’s team.

In the article we will list 10 reasons to shoot in Hungary.

Many have already collected the reasons, why it is beneficial to film in Hungary or in its capital city Budapest. Yet the authenticity of these summaries is somewhat spoiled due to the fact that they only highlight the positive aspects and generally never add objective assessments about the potential risks. We believe that summarizing the main positives of filming in Budapest and highlighting a few other facts that give a larger picture, will bring the readers a lot closer to reality. Next to this we will favour ourselves only to the extent that we naturally will also add how these problematic issues can be solved by Progressive’s team.

In the article we will list 10 reasons to shoot in Hungary.

1. Cost-efficient shoots for large scale productions

It is more financially beneficial to shoot in Hungary, than in most places in the World, that are more economically developed. This advantage in the market is enjoyed by the Hungarian film industry, who are determined to keep it this way. Also this is especially favourable for productions requiring a larger technical crew, art department or background actors. For this reason Hungary is a regular location for such big scale productions, that have a large budget, which they would like to spend cost-effectively.

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At the same time, everything has another side to it; which in this case is that most experienced Hungarian production managers can only imagine small productions as a large production, even if filming a project does not require a large crew, they expand it to an irrational size. This is not because they have a hidden motive, they are simply used to doing this and they want to present Hungary’s financial benefits by showing what professional services they can offer. Yet, this often ends up becoming a disadvantage for the budget. At Progressive we all collaborate with the inhouse production manager, who is experienced in both large scale and small productions as well, in order to create a crew to work with that is ideal for the size of the production, so that the budget is used in a way that it heightens the quality of the final product.

2. The Diversity of Shooting Locations

Architecturally, Budapest is possibly one of the most diverse capital cities in the world. Different styles and periods meet here in an extremely dense, relatively small area. Many say that for a filmmaker, walking through the center of Budapest is like walking in a large set complex. Countryside cities also offer countless potential urban locations and the country’s nature is perfect for shoots needing locations with rolling hills, dense forests or a large body of open water.

Such traditions developed that production companies created their own location databases, which they regularly used in their marketing to tempt international productions to Hungary. The Hungarian film commission did not intervene with the process (unlike other countries) by creating their own independent location database. This is why, in Hungary, unlike other countries, the procedure of people interested in locations contacting the film commission does not work.

Due to this characteristic, large differences may occur between the quality of the locations offered by various production companies. While companies, who do not invest money and extra energy into finding new locations, mainly only offer the same locations where they have previously worked before, while other companies who work with an inner location manager, can offer a more colourful selection of places during location presentations. We are proud that Progressive Productions’ database of Hungarian shooting locations is the largest available online.

3. Film-friendly Environment When Shooting on Public Properties

The Hungarian Authorities have a positive approach to film productions and try to minimize the administrative deadlines and workloads. In Budapest it is possible to carry out all the things that one would have to wait for for a long time and spend a lot of money for in many other large cities around the world: for example closing down a central, busy road or bridge, or executing a scene with an explosion.

But at the same time, Budapest being a film friendly city does not mean that the authorities automatically give permissions. For filming a scene causing a larger amount of chaos, planning in advance and some flexibility is needed here as well. It is always worth setting up A and B options incase for whatever reason the licence would not be given, because regardless of one location being reserved, the permission for another location can still be given. Still, we reiterate that the Hungarian location reserving system is one of the fastest, most efficient and financially competitive in the World.

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Among the communities of the Hungarian industry a few cases are known when the local production company took on the licensing with too short deadline and did not organize other options, therefore started closing down the streets without a permission.  This lead to very serious consequences. Progressive Productions always organises the permissions with its inner location department, always counting with the most rational and shortest deadlines, as well as dealing with these issues with the most circumspection. In the last 8 years such has never occurred, that a location offered by us as available would not have been finally available or that we were not able to get a permission for it. Next to other matters, the inner location department is what guarantees quick and direct connection with the locations, in order for there not to be any surprises further on.

4. The Work Morals and Professional Experience of the Crewmembers

Hungarian film crews traditionally have got excellent work morals, and are renown to be hard working. And this is truly the case, let that be about lighting or special effects technicians or production assistants, who all work very hard and do everything so that they do not only meet to the expectations, but also exceed them. They all speak English at least at an intermediate level. They are highly experienced in filming thanks to the great amount of international productions and the large amount (compared to the size of the country) of feature films shot here, which for example enables a focus puller to do his profession nearly every day of the year.

But the downside to this is that, say this very focus puller after many years of work in Hungary will still not be able to become a cameraman. Although in other larger countries this would be a path one could take, this would mean unquestionable motivation for camera assistants to get higher up the hierarchy. Since international productions give them a lot of work, keeping them busy all year round, they do not venture to do something else. So the Hungarian crew is not motivated by their career and maybe less open to new, experimental tasks. But of course there are many counter-examples.

5. There Are No Trade Unions

We often use this as one of our explanations when talking about how economic it is to film in Hungary. This fact has its positives and negatives. There truly are no unions in the form of organized establishments, unlike in the United States, the United Kingdom or in Australia. But particularly due to this, Hungarian film-makers have created a very closed community, in order to be able to set their fees and rules to do with their work hours. Everyone knows these unwritten rules and producers also hire them according to this. That is, everywhere 12 hours is seen as the set working hours, which includes a lunch break as well, which is compulsory to ensure. Also the wages for overtime are discussed among the separate departments and who accepts lower wages is often excommunicated.

Next to this, the absence of the officiality of these self-organised unions leads to a lot less administrational work for the productions and gives working together a lot more of a friendly atmosphere. This enables bargaining to a certain extent with the crew, but Budapest is not a haggling capital, as some might presume. Naturally, it is another case if a producer would like to work with a less experienced, beginner crew. In this case one can make good deals. But as we mentioned at the beginning, the lack of an official union has made the Hungarian film industry extremely closed and there are none or only a few possibilities for trainees or beginners to learn from elders.

6. The Number of Available Crews

Although Hungary is a small country, compared to its size, many professional film crews can be constructed, so many productions can happen parallel with each other, let them be feature films, short films, commercials. After more or less in-depth research one can always find the professional needed for the project. Also one can find local film-makers for nearly all areas, even stuntmen, animal handlers, set construction and special effects technicians in the country.

7. Talent Casting

An important positive aspect of shooting in Hungary are the possibilities that Hungarian casting can offer. Compared to the size of the country, there are countless performers and everyday people who would like to perform, and more than a hundred extras in the country can be mobilized for filming within only a few hours. Naturally, there are insufficiencies with some types (for example there is only a limited amount of ethnics available), but generally one can say that Hungary is ideal for casting, which is primarily organised by specialised agencies. When a talent is chosen, the casting agency keeps the right to be the one with whom the talent contracts with, and the payment of the talent happens via them as well.

Our experiences are that talent contracts are one of the most sensitives areas, because one must always give a lot of attention to the regulating rights. Although we have never heard of a issue with rights, but it is a fact that the contacts made with the casting agencies do not meet the requirements in multiple aspects. Progressive Productions has worked a lot on making contracts transparent and to make sure they fit international laws. Our own talent casting department has been very successful in organising quality castings, finding the ideal talents and making transparent, circumspect contracts, that are pleasing for both sides.

8. Hungarian Directors of Photography

Among the reasons for shooting in Hungary, one must mention the vast range of cameramen on offer. Hungarian DOP training is one of the best in the world and the countless Hungarian projects and projects filmed in Hungary make them very experienced. Whether working in a large or small set, with either a traditional or unconventional visual language, the director can find a practised, energetic and cooperative partner in them. We have experienced multiple times that if an international director has worked in Hungary with a Hungarian DOP, then afterwards he/she invites them to collaborate on other projects in other countries as well.

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9. The Wide Range of Production Companies

We know that we are talking slightly against ourselves, when we say that in Hungary one can choose among many production companies, that offer high quality production services, this has to be mentioned as a reason to film in Hungary. On the other hand, the operational models of the companies can differ a lot. There are many production companies working according to boutique models, where only the owner - the producer is the only full-time worker, who builds every production up from the services available on the freelance market. There are other companies that would like to offer better services than what is available on the freelance market; they work with inner colleagues. There are also such companies, which specialise for different countries, mainly based on their knowledge of language and culture and mainly concentrate on these markets. At Progressive Productions we offer a lot of in-house services and aim to have clients from all around the World.

10. Soundstages with State of the Art Technical Equipment

There are multiple large soundstage complexes in Budapest, which can offer soundstages for filming that are among the largest in Europe, for which one can rent other service spaces (for example offices) that are right within the complexes. Often camera and lighting equipment storehouses there can only be accessed partially if at all. It is important to highlight that although they call these buildings studios, but unlike American studios, they are not built for production, but for renting. In the Hungarian language the word stúdió means the same as the word stage. This is why they are mainly rented via local production companies, who are experienced in other production services as well.

Youtube a mix of films shot in hungary

Next to all above, although it does not connect tightly to our professional reasoning, we would also like to highlight that Budapest is a brilliant city. With its colourful urban squares and population, it offers many options for leisure time and is one of the most loveable cities in Europe, due to its outstanding public security.

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