Romania is a territory on the rise. Adding to the buzz arising from local productions at Cannes in recent years, the territory is one of the new Eastern European sweet spots for international footloose productions.
The problem is, demand is now outpacing supply. Earlier this year, French producer-writer-director Alexandre Aja planned to shoot his horror film Mirrors at MediaPro Studios outside Bucharest, where he had shot EuropaCorp/Lionsgate Films' High Tension in 2003. It offers 16 stages and the largest water tank in Eastern Europe. "But by the time we got the greenlight, they were already doing (Fox and Walden Media's) The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising and (Joel Schumacher's) Creek, so we had to switch companies," he says.
The production moved to Castel Film Studios in Bucharest, Aja's second choice. "Castel's sound stages are as good as anything I've seen in Europe," he says. Facilities include seven new sound stages and a large water tank.
MediaPro is now hosting Snoot Entertainment's martial-arts tale Bunraku, starring Josh Hartnett, Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson, and two horror projects from After Dark Films: Perkins' 14 and Faithless.
International producers also like the country's locations, which range from mountains and steppe to beaches and wetlands like those featured in Kornel Mundruczo's Cannes Competition title Delta (which shot in the Danube Delta).
The capital Bucharest offers a unique and fascinating architecture, planned by former Communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu but left unfinished after the revolution. The abandoned hulks were perfect for Mirrors, which needed a space the size of a giant New York department store. "We used the National Library for exteriors and shot interiors at the Academy of Science, where we built five or six different stages," says Aja.
But again, producers say despite the high quality of local crew there are too few of them, something local companies like MediaPro are trying to remedy through their own training programmes.
As for costs, shooting in Romania is still much cheaper than in the US, but the increase in business and the weakening of the dollar has narrowed the gap. German producer Ehud Bleiberg shot Holocaust drama Adam Resurrected, starring Willem Defoe, in Romania last year. He says it was 50% cheaper than Germany, where the film is partly set, and 40% cheaper than the US. "But the Romanian currency has since strengthened (against the dollar) and it would now likely be only 20% less than the US," he says.
Romania has also transformed its position in Europe. It is now a member of the EU, Eurimages and the EU's Media programme. But as yet there are no tax incentives for film-makers, and government subsidies favour local productions over international co-productions.
Jo Marr and Michael Philip
Marr and Philip moved from Los Angeles to Romania to set up Film Tiger, which also operates in Bulgaria and Hungary. They also run Raleigh Studios in Budapest. Recent credits include Peter Dowling's Stag Night, Brian King's Night Train, and Tony Giglio's Timber Falls.
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As head of production at MediaPro, Stanculeanu has served as executive in charge of production on recent projects including Creek and The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising. She is now working on the martial arts thriller Bunraku.
The president and owner of Castel Film Studios has served as producer on many productions, including most recently Bleiberg Entertainment's Adam Resurrected and New Regency's Mirrors.