While most German film producers and Hollywood studios looking to shoot in Germany have put principal photography on hold during the pandemic, the cameras are rolling on two intrepid Covid-compliant international productions in the country.
Chilean director Pablo Larrain began shooting the Germany-UK collaboration Spencer, starring Kirsten Stewart as Princess Diana, at Kronberg’s Schlosshotel near Frankfurt on January 28. The film, which has a cast that also includes Timothy Spall and Sally Hawkins, moved to locations near Berlin last week and will also shoot in North Rhine-Westphalia’s Münsterland region before moving to the UK.
Meanwhile, Florian Sigl’s contemporary take on Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, with a cast including UK actors Iwan Rheon, Jack Wolfe, Asha Banks and Amir Wilson, has been shooting at Munich’s Bavaria Film Studios since February 8.
Although there has been an effective ban on arrivals to Germany from the UK, US and all non-EU and Schengen associated countries since January 1, international cast and crew falling into this category have been able to work in Germany if an application is made to the Federal Police (known as the Bundespolizei), which is responsibile for the control of the country’s borders, with a ‘declaration of the absolute necessity of short-term business travel’.
“We completed this form for everyone,” said Spencer producer Jonas Dornbach of Komplizen Film, the German partner on the film with the UK’s Shoebox Films. “As a rule, it has to be shown on entry. We had been in contact about this in advance with the Federal Police in Potsdam and the Berlin-Brandenburg Film Commission. They sent us additional entry documents without which entry would not have been possible.”
The declaration has to be signed and submitted to the Federal Police by the business partner or employer based in Germany - in the case of Spencer, Komplizen Film - and allows for a maximum stay of 90 days within a 180-day period. However, this document is not a substitute for any visa that may be required for entry into Germany.
“Both the communication with the Federal Police as well as with the film commission was always very good, without any noticeable waiting times,” Dornbach added.
All cast and crew arriving from abroad on the two productions had to take a PCR Covid test before and directly after arrival and then had to quarantine. Previously, they were able to take a test after five days that meant they could leave quarantine, if a negative result was returned.
But in early February, Germany and its federal states further tightened quarantine regulations following concerns about the spread of coronavirus mutations originating from the UK, South Africa and South America.
In Berlin, those arriving from the beginning of February from a so-called virus-variant area (including the UK) must now self-isolate for 14 days (instead of 10) and are no longer able to take a ‘test to release’ after five days of quarantine.