When deciding where to locate a shoot, the crucial factors might seem cut and dried. What are the tax breaks' Are there decent production facilities' Is there a skilled local workforce' What locations are needed'

But such hard-headed considerations overlook an aspect of film-making that has a major impact on the progress of the project and could have a significant effect on the final on-screen product: what is it actually like living in these places for the duration of a shoot'

Filming in Berlin may make financial and technical sense, but what is the day-to-day reality of working there' Are the hotels any good' What about the food and drink' What is there to do on a day off'

These concerns might sound peripheral when trying to budget but when the cast and crew arrive and face the reality of life on the ground they become very important indeed. The result can be anything from a happy, relaxed team to full-scale mutiny.

The seasoned professionals are in no doubt about the importance of considering daily life when planning a production. Veteran producer Tony Waye, whose credits include 10 Bond films and counting, believes the simplest things can be hugely important when choosing a site. "Anywhere you get great food and wine would be good," he says.

Tim Lewis, whose production management credits include three Harry Potter films and three Bonds, puts it even more simply. "You've got to keep (cast and crew) happy," he says. "You get more out of them."

Of all those who need to be kept happy, A-list actors are arguably at the top of the pile. When you are used to being treated like royalty, you expect to be consulted over where you are going to live.

While Angelina Jolie was filming Universal's Wanted in Prague earlier this summer, her children reportedly enrolled in schools in the Czech capital, indicating how big a step a film production can be.

Taking into consideration schools for the cast's children might not be a task facing every production, but knowing the pros and cons of your intended city - not to mention the lifestyle hotspots - is crucial to keeping things running smoothly.


Berlin is one of Europe's coolest cities, with a high standard of living - and partying. Spending several months there on a shoot is no hardship for visiting stars and crew, while the Berlin International Film Festival, under director Dieter Kosslick, has also done a great job of promoting the city.

Thanks to Germany's new incentive scheme, the city is seeing a boom in international projects, hosting Andy and Larry Wachowski's action film Speed Racer (Warner Bros), Bryan Singer's Second World War drama Valkyrie (United Artists) and Tom Tykwer's thriller The International (Columbia Pictures). Stephen Daldry's The Reader is lined up to shoot in Berlin later this year for The Weinstein Company.


Top crash pads include the InterContinental, The Regent, The Ritz Carlton, the Marriott and the Grand Hyatt. Apartments are also an option: Matt Damon stayed in one for the three months he spent shooting The Bourne Supremacy. For Speed Racer, Susan Sarandon, John Goodman and Christina Ricci all opted for Berlin apartments within easy reach of Babelsberg Studios.


Borchardt, Cafe Einstein, Schwarzenraben and Vau are popular eateries, while the Paris Bar, Luetzow Bar and Florian are favourite watering holes. German cuisine has won fans among visiting stars: Jodie Foster enthused about the food hall at KaDeWe department store, Berlin's equivalent to Harrods; John Goodman was spotted at a bratwurst stand on Kudamm, and action star Rick Yune sang the praises of Quark - soft curd cheese - during the shoot of the horror film Fear. Sarandon, meanwhile, liked the fact she could take her dog into restaurants.


The history: visits to the Olympic Stadium, Tempelhof International Airport, the Berlin Airlift memorial and the remains of the Berlin Wall are always must-sees on days off.

The city's cultural life also has its fans, from theatres to cutting-edge clubs.

Berlin is also a largely paparazzi-free zone: stars can go out in the evenings to restaurants without having to run the gauntlet of over-zealous photographers.

And being able to drive cars legally at high speed on the motorway is another plus of being in Germany, according to both Quentin Tarantino and Speed Racer star Emile Hirsch.


Hirsch was no fan of Blutwurst (blood sausage) ... The Germans' supposed dourness and lack of humour is a cliche that is soon dispelled once visiting film-makers get to know their German colleagues.


With its historic monuments and pleasant climate, Rome is a beautiful city with a hefty dose of la dolce vita. And Hollywood keeps coming.

In 2004, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Catherine Zeta-Jones spent five weeks in the city shooting Ocean's 12, while upcoming projects include Ron Howard's Angels & Demons, to shoot later this year.

"Rome is an amazing city," says Erik Paoletti, location manager for Ocean's 12. "There's nice food, and film-makers and crews like Italians."


The Ocean's 12 cast stayed at the Hotel de Russie, which offered privacy and peace, says Paoletti. Other favoured hotels include the Hotel Exedra (Clooney); and Hotel Hassler (Woody Allen, Tom Cruise). Renting an apartment in the city is also an option.


"Most prefer Rome's simple and authentic restaurants, not the stuffy places," says Marco Valerio Pugini, president of the Italian Association of Production Service Companies and Line Producers. These include the elegant Ristorante Camponeschi in Piazza Farnese and the Trattoria Monti, favoured by locals in the Monti district. Other hot spots include Trastevere's chic Enoteca Ferrara and St Teodoro on Campidoglio Hill for fish.

Earlier this year, Nino hosted Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' wedding party guests, including Will Smith, Jennifer Lopez and Brooke Shields.


The food, the climate and, in down-time, visiting sites from Capri to Florence.


The traffic.


With a million residents and a compact, picture-perfect city centre, Prague's small-town atmosphere has a relaxing effect on even the most harried crews.

Long a popular shooting destination, the city has hosted hundreds of international stars in the past 20 years. Prague is presently home to Michael J Bassett's Solomon Kane, Christophe Barratier's Faubourg 36 and Andrew Adamson's The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Recent shoots include Universal's Wanted, Studio Canal's Babylon AD and Sony's Casino Royale.


The Prague hotels of choice for A-listers are the Four Seasons (Daniel Craig, Queen Latifah, Sean Connery) and the Mandarin Oriental (Michelle Yeoh stayed in the Dalai Lama suite while shooting Babylon AD).

Others - including Eva Green, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, and Dino and Martha De Laurentiis - have chosen to rent homes. Jasmina Torbati, production manager on Casino Royale and Last Holiday, recommends local company Byt Agency for housing solutions.


The most sought-after dinner destination is the riverside restaurant Kampa Park, where Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Bruce Willis have been guests in recent years. The Kampa Group's nearby restaurant Hergetova Cihelna is a popular spot for cast parties.

Le Clan is a discreet nightspot which has sheltered several crews when it was time to let their hair down.

Tretter's cocktail bar meanwhile has hosted Owen Wilson and Damon, while Liam Neeson preferred the charm of Molly Malone's Irish pub.


Local residents are respectful of celebrities' privacy. When shooting From Hell in the city in 2000, Johnny Depp gained a reputation for calling in at dives and engaging locals in conversation. Heath Ledger also hit the city's clubs, although the bar where he danced on the table tops has since closed.

Prague also appeals to the health conscious: Eli Roth took morning jogs through Prague Castle, while Brad Pitt sought out the Mandarin Oriental's spa.


Although most film visitors can walk Prague streets unmolested, Jolie and Pitt were followed closely by the local and international press. Elijah Wood was trailed relentlessly by Frodo-seeking photographers. In the past, Prague taxis were notorious for overcharging, and although the practice is less common now, crews should be wary. Prague pavements are also plagued with dog litter.


New Zealand's capital, Wellington, may snag all the attention through its links with Peter Jackson, but Auckland has a greater range of film-making services and facilities (a new soundstage is set to open at the city's Henderson Valley Studios, which hosted Bridge To Terabithia and The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe).

Situated on New Zealand's North Island, Auckland is the territory's largest city. Although A-listers used to life in a big metropolis might find Auckland small, a casual lifestyle, fresh air and a strong connection to the elements are among the trade-offs.


The Hilton is a sponsor of Film Auckland so is keen to accommodate film-makers, and Mollies in the Auckland suburb of Herne Bay is a boutique luxury hotel that understands the art of privacy.


The restaurant scene is very well developed. Among the best are Otto's, White at the Hilton, Dine by Peter Gordon at casino hotel Skycity Auckland and the always-buzzy Soul, which is in an entertainment and shopping precinct known as the Viaduct. One of the old favourites is O'Connell Street Brasserie.


Auckland is quiet and calm compared with many major Western cities, and cheaper than most. Visitors usually stay in the city, with the water nearby, adding to its restfulness. Kiwis are welcoming and easy to get along with.

For days off there is skiing, surfing, rock climbing and bush-walking within reach.


Auckland is low-density living at its best, but that means it is spread out. A car is necessary to negotiate the sprawl but it is easy to get lost. Taxis are not very abundant and walking will wear you out. And bring both an umbrella and a raincoat.


The Hungarian capital regularly doubles for numerous other locations, including Paris, Buenos Aires and Berlin. With a 20% tax rebate on production spend in the city. Budapest's hotels and restaurants are becoming well used to catering for international stars. Guillermo del Toro is shooting Hellboy 2: The Golden Army at Korda Studios, while Andrei Konchalovsky is at Stern Film Studios with Nutcracker: The True Story. Robert Young filmed Eichmann in the city last winter, and Vicente Amorim completed work there on Good, starring Viggo Mortensen, this summer.


For shorter visits, A-listers prefer the InterContinental, the Four Seasons and the Hyatt, on the Pest side of the Danube. Adam Goodman of Mid Atlantic Films, which is servicing Hellboy 2, says crews on long shoots can use a number of five-star apartment hotels including the Sydney Apartment Hotel, Marriott Millennium Court, Queens Court and City Homes.


Budapest's dining scene is bursting with world-class restaurants. Film industry favourites include the elegant Rosenstein, where Steven Spielberg enjoyed Hungarian cuisine, and the country-style Nancsi Neni, the city's best spot for al fresco dining. Alternatively, there is Asian fusion at the uber-hip Tom George and classic Italian at the rustic Toscana Trattoria.


Budapest's historic centre for its nightlife and dining, particularly the buzzy area surrounding Liszt Ferenc Square. Stars can visit restaurants and cafes without being mobbed. The city's famed public baths are not to be missed, although high-profile celebrities will likely want to opt for private spa treatments. Vienna, Bratislava and Prague are not far away.


Taxi drivers have a reputation for overcharging, while the city's prostitutes are difficult to avoid.


Madrid is known as the city that never sleeps: foot and car traffic persist into the early hours and all-night clubs spill into bars open through to the next afternoon. That liveliness and accompanying noise both attract and annoy - one reason the Madrid Film Commission was much needed when it was launched three years ago to help smooth the way for the growing number of international crews shooting in the Spanish capital, including recent projects such as Universal's The Bourne Ultimatum, Twentieth Century Fox's Kingdom Of Heaven and Milos Forman's Goya's Ghosts.


Hotel Santo Mauro is a converted palace with manicured private gardens; Hotel Palace and Hotel Ritz offer classic glamour in the centre of town; the new Hotel ME and Hotel Urban, both with rooftop terraces, are hotspots for younger crowds and a favourite for actors.


Restaurants such as Lucio, El Lando and Julian de Tolosa are popular for their classic Spanish menus; hotel-based restaurants La Broche and Sant Celoni live up to Spain's reputation as a hotbed of avant-garde cuisine.


The food and the nightlife. Even Natalie Portman is said to have hit the dance floors when shooting Goya's Ghosts. Classic cocktail lounges include the wood-panelled Cock and the leather-and-chrome Chicote, whose photo gallery depicts a history of film with pictures ranging from Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra to Pedro Almodovar and Penelope Cruz.


Spanish paparazzi are among the world's most persistent and numerous.


Residents of other Australian towns might not enjoy Sydney's arrogance or traffic congestion, but there is little for visitors not to like about Australia's biggest city.

Sydney, with all the attributes of a big, brash metropolis, is usually sunny and looks good too. It has excellent beaches, plenty of water-based sporting options, great dining and within an hour you can be deep in the bush.

It is the home of Australia's film industry: directors Baz Luhrmann, Gillian Armstrong and Peter Weir have homes here, as do producers Jan Chapman and Jane Scott.


There is no shortage of classy hotels, including the Four Seasons, the Park Hyatt and Establishment, which are all a stone's throw from the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Sheraton on the Park is also popular and for somewhere really special there is Blue, which is built on an old wharf.


Australia's history of migration has created a splendid food culture and it is not necessary to pay big money to enjoy it.

The most popular, centrally located industry haunts were always the Bayswater Brasserie and Tre Scalini, but choices have swelled to encompass Aria, Wildfire, Cafe Sydney and scores of other restaurants including those along Woolloomooloo Wharf. The best dining experience remains Tetsuya's - paparazzi recently snapped Cate Blanchett there - and at the city's most famous beach there is Hugo's, Bondi North Italian and Bondi Icebergs.


For Brits and Americans, Australia is familiar but different. Rick McCallum enjoyed sailing on the harbour when he was producing the Star Wars films in the city, and the wine-growing areas and the splendid Blue Mountains are less than two hours away by car. The gay scene is also vibrant in Sydney.


Some say it does not have the cosiness or European flavour of, say, Melbourne. Also, traffic congestion.


London is an A-lister's playground. World-class hotels and restaurants, with cool spots opening almost weekly, give the city an embarrassment of riches. Add to that an array of shopping, theatres and clubs, and it is understandable why many erstwhile visitors - Madonna, Kevin Spacey, Gwyneth Paltrow - have stayed permanently.


Most Hollywood visitors tend to favour central London. The grand Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane hosted Nicole Kidman while she was shooting New Line's The Golden Compass earlier this year, and Johnny Depp reportedly ordered a $1,200 bottle of wine at the hotel bar.

Other popular hotels include Hazlitt's, which occupies three historic Georgian houses in Soho, the luxurious Atheneum, the recently refurbished Mayfair Hotel, the surreal but lavish Sanderson Hotel, the stylish, urban St Martin's Lane Hotel and the townhouse boutique Firmdale hotels - including The Soho Hotel where the cast of sci-fi adventure The Mutant Chronicles recently stayed.

"It's all pretty close by," says Tim Dennison, producer of The Mutant Chronicles. It's not like in Los Angeles where everyone has to drive to go out - everything is in walking distance here."


According to Restaurant magazine, London has six restaurants in the global top 50, and visitors are spoiled for choice - from ethnic cheap eats in East London to Michelin-star venues.

Top names in central London include Asia De Cuba, perennial favourite Nobu, The Wolseley, Locanda Locatelli and Cipriani. Bars similarly run the gamut from cheap to chic, with visiting A-listers happy in both. According to local reports, Kirsten Dunst, in town shooting How To Lose Friends And Alienate People, has been spotted at the knockabout Cafe Kick in Farringdon's Exmouth Market.


Aside from the language and the world-class facilities, there is a diverse range of free historical and cultural sites and seven royal parks.


The transport system, with its delays and potential security risks. The weather and the paparazzi can both be quite full-on.