Shooting in Hungary

The Middle Ages in Modern Times

Every Aspect of a Medieval Production Available in Hungary

When it comes to medieval shoots, many international productions choose Hungary for quite a good reason. The country has to offer more than 30,000 square meters of rentable Medieval backlots, hundreds of thousands of props and costumes, as well as hundreds of various types of authentic Medieval locations, not to mention countless expert crew members and even trained animals. All around the year the local weather conditions and nature provide scenery typical of the Middle Ages. This article delves into the details of all above and provides the reader with a comprehensive picture of the Hungarian film industry and infrastructure.

When it comes to medieval shoots, many international productions choose Hungary for quite a good reason. The country has to offer more than 30,000 square meters of rentable Medieval backlots, hundreds of thousands of props and costumes, as well as hundreds of various types of authentic Medieval locations, not to mention countless expert crew members and even trained animals. All around the year the local weather conditions and nature provide scenery typical of the Middle Ages. This article delves into the details of all above and provides the reader with a comprehensive picture of the Hungarian film industry and infrastructure.

Hungary’s Connection to the Middle Ages

Hungary has more than a thousand years of history, which is why the Middle Ages are not an abstract and distant expression but a lively part of everyday life even today. Thanks to the people, the landscape and the architecture, the Middle Ages are also very present in the local film industry. For example, Medieval castles are often used as filming locations and Hungarians have a special and authentic connection to the period since even today horse riding, fencing, archery and various other traditional activities are still highly popular throughout the country. All of the above enables one to easily find, for example, stuntmen for a large-scale Medieval battle scene who are well-trained horse riders and fighters, or blacksmiths who can assist the work of the prop and art department alike with their professional knowledge and equipment.

Next to traditional activities, special attention in Hungary is also given to preserving Medieval infrastructures
Medieval Themed Films and TV Series Shot in Hungary

The Witcher (2019) - The first season of one of Netflix’s most-viewed series was almost entirely shot in Hungary. An interesting fact is that nearly all of the filming locations were real locations still available for productions.

The Last Kingdom (2015-2022) - BBC’s largely successful series was mainly shot among built sets with the collaboration of local crew members specialized in the Middle Ages.

The Pillars of the Earth (2010) - Adapted from Ken Follett’s novel, the miniseries played a central role in the development of Hungary’s Medieval backlots and prop collections.

The King (2019) - For the final large-scale battle scene, Hungary provided not only the location but also the majority of the horses, the stuntmen and the props.

Emerald City (2016) - Although it is tricky to precisely date the period in which the fantasy series is set, most often the Middle Ages seem to be the closest to the setup, for which Hungarian locations were used.

Robin Hood (2006-2009) - The popular story’s 2006 adaptation made the most of the country’s natural traits as so many other productions that were set in the Middle Ages did.

Robin Hood (2018) - Starring Taron Egerton and Jamie Foxx, the rethought classical story made the most of all the opportunities that the Hungarian film industry has to offer in order to make a true Hollywood blockbuster.

Eragon (2006) - The creators of the fantasy film built an entire village inside an unusual natural formation, a crater in the Hungarian countryside.

World Without End (2012) - Following the success of Pillars of the Earth, the creators of the show returned to Hungary for their next Medieval project, making the most of the infrastructure they had previously built.

Day of Wrath (2006) - Starring Christopher Lambert, the film gave opportunities to quite a few Hungarian talents and crew members to participate in a large-scale production.

Hercules (2014) - Although the super production starring Dwayne Johnson is set in ancient times and not in the Middle Ages, the large-scale battle scenes and the style of the sets can be easily adapted to a Medieval environment.

Shadow and Bone (2021) - The fantasy series is not entirely set in the Middle Ages, but it features many locations and elements that could be perfect for a Medieval shoot as well.

Die Schwarze Spinne (2022) - This Swiss production is a perfect example of how we are able to conjure up the Middle Ages in Hungary even without the budget of a Hollywood super-production.

Backlots and Soundstages

A huge scale of development of film facilities has taken place in Hungary in the last decade. Many studios operate in the country, among which there are currently three that are at the forefront globally regarding equipment, scale and range of backlots.

The existing sets not only look authentic but were also built as highly functional filming locations

Korda is one of the three mentioned, which houses one of the world’s largest soundstages (6,000 square meters or 64,583 square feet) and two permanent medieval sets. Located on 12,000 square meters, one of the medieval sets consists of a Medieval Village complete with a forest and lake, while the other is a nearly 8,000 square meters large area of a Renaissance Town. Also, another Hungarian studio has a permanent Medieval set which is significantly larger and has a throne room, a canal, boat, castle wall, gate and a drawbridge, to name a few. Thanks to these sets being continuously in use, they get regularly maintained and from time to time, they get expanded with new buildings.

Real Locations

In the Middle Ages, Hungary was situated in the same geographical place it is in present times. Thanks to this, many Medieval buildings are still standing in the country either in their original forms or are authentically renovated.

When we imagine the Middle Ages, without a doubt, castles, palaces and forests are what come to mind straight away. Almost 200 castles can be found in Hungary, but naturally, only a small percentage of these can function as filming locations. The most renowned of these have been discovered by international productions and have become well-established shooting locations. However, we can offer options that have not been featured yet in a movie due to Progressive’s extensive local knowledge and location database.

Budapest’s Vajdahunyad vár appears in the first episode of the Witcher series, which was a popular filming location even before Henry Cavill appeared

Next to the castles, the vast range of additional locations is what makes Hungary’s offer of Medieval sites so strong. Churchs, open-air museums, forests, fields and various unique locations provide what is needed to give a complete vision of the Middle Ages.

In Hungary, there are as many churches as castles, although, of course, only a certain percentage of these are Medieval. However, even in this shortened list, we can still find cathedral-sized churches in good condition, just as we can also find small sized, isolated monasteries and church ruins.

A ruined church rarely used by film productions hides in the Hungarian countryside

Open-air museums are one of the most unique aspects of Hungary’s range of Medieval shooting locations. The goal of an open-air museum is to present the life of a peasant in a given period of history in the most authentic and precise way possible in the form of entire villages. As these locations hardly need any interventions to achieve authenticity and as most of them are open to film shoots, these have become highly popular filming locations in the last few years. The country’s largest outdoor museum is only a few minutes’ drive from Budapest. It houses eight independent settlements, as well as fields, forests and even a river.

One of the many faces of the largest open-air museum in Hungary

Next to typically Medieval buildings and settlements, some truly unique locations deserve to be mentioned as well in their own right. Such places are a grandiose throne room in a palace located in the capital city often used in shoots, as well as quarries, mines, caves and many other unique locations.

A very unique location is an enormous abandoned church with a completely enclosed interior

Props and Technical Equipment

Aside from authentic locations, another pillar of Medieval productions is the authenticity of the clothing, the objects and the environment. Thanks to the huge number of productions filming in Hungary, the country’s repository of props and costumes is continuously broadening, just as the number of companies that make new costumes and props, and even entire sets.

The largest costume and prop warehouse in Hungary houses more than 100,000 costumes, thousands of weapons and countless props and furniture all available for productions to rent. Furthermore, multiple large international rental companies run offices in Budapest that ensure that one can easily transport missing props and costumes, for example, from Germany, which has one of the largest film industries in Europe. The same is true of the state of the art technical equipment, as nearly anything can be rented in Hungary, but in the case of extreme requests, it takes only a few days to bring into the country equipment thanks to its EU membership and the ATA Carnet system.

Medieval locations and battle scenes are often shot in open spaces far away from cities, so it is also important to mention that trailer parks can be easily assembled on location for cast and crew. For example, when they shot the battle scenes in Hungary of the film Hercules, starring Dwayne Johnson, the locations were built in an area next to a countryside airport, for which they built an entire trailer city.

Animals on Medieval Shoots

As previously mentioned, Hungary has a great tradition of horse riding. This is why many horse masters work in the country and have a significant actor and stunt horse stock to offer. Therefore it is easy to execute even a large-scale battle scene solely using local horses. Additionally, the equipment needed for the horses is also available locally, let that be saddles, carts or chariots.

Battle Scene Shot in Hungary

It is indisputable that horses play a central role in Medieval shoots, but in most cases, further animals are needed as well to reach true authenticity. Countless animal trainers work in the Hungarian film industry, many with decades of experience training livestock and wild animals to prepare them for productions. Next to common animals like chickens, one can also find special animals like wolves, bears, deers, wild boars and birds of prey.

Weather and Nature

The weather in films set in the Middle Ages undoubtedly has typical characteristics. Hungary’s weather is very favorable for creating such conditions, as a Medieval atmosphere can be found in the country’s forests and fields alike all around the year.

These hills, located less than an hours’ drive away from Budapest, have been the location for many battle scenes

All four seasons are strongly present in Hungary. Depending on the timing of the production, any landscape can be filmed either in totally bleak wintery weather or with lush greenery. For most of the year, the Hungarian landscape is typically foggy, moist and mystic with quite a Medieval atmosphere. For example, a forest near the capital is a highly popular filming location, thanks to the unique color of its trees and the huge boulders in the depths of the forest.

The natural brown color of the forest’ provides a perfect base for creating a Medieval atmosphere

Special Crew for Medieval Shoots

Naturally, there are countless professionals with decades of experience one can build their basic crew from. There is also a vast range of professionals to choose from who are specialized in Medieval productions, let that be specially trained stuntmen, armorers, prop masters or set builders.

The previously mentioned medieval backlots are a great testament to the knowledge of Hungarian set builders

The stuntmen profession has a long history in the country, thanks to which by now one can find stuntmen and coordinators in Hungary with generations of knowledge and experience in horse riding, fencing and archery. With such productions under their belt as The Game of Thrones, The Last Kingdom or Hercules, where they had to teach hundreds of extras to fight.

A Huge Battle Scene Shot in hungary

Of course the knowledge of armorers, set builders and prop masters are universal in their respective fields, but many have specialized in the Middle Ages. Their strength is in their in-depth knowledge of the period, and their awareness of the materials and stock of props locally available. Therefore, if they get involved early in the planning process, they are able to save a lot of time for the production.

The Hungarian Film Industry In Short

All mentioned previously are indispensable for the success of a Medieval production, but are not unique in Europe. However, if we combine the country’s Medieval traits with the entire film industry of Hungary, then we are given a system quite unique globally.

Thanks to the constant flow of international productions, multiple laws have been made in the country that aim to help international productions. Such are the regulations that make traveling and working for foreigners simpler, provide a 30% tax rebate system and quicken the evaluation of requests for public area permits.

Not only has the bustling film industry successfully achieved legal adjustments, but it has also resulted in large changes in the labor market. Continuous and stable work opportunities have made the film industry a lot more attractive to find work in, which has resulted in the quality, quantity and range of roles of Hungarian crew members quickly reaching international standards.

Multiple Country Shoots

If one might still not find everything needed for a Medieval production in Hungary, then a multiple country shoot could be a great option.

There have been quite a few precedents of Medieval productions shooting in neighboring countries, often in Croatia, Slovakia or Austria. Commonly, the reason these countries get included in a shoot are specific castles or buildings with which they complement the filming in Hungary. The open border policy of the European Union has made the movement of crew and equipment seemless between Hungary and these countries.

Thanks to the EU membership and close proximity of the neighboring countries, multiple country shoots are very easy to execute. With Budapest as the base of operations one can easily reach all available medieval locations in the surrounding countries within a few hours by car.

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