The secret to working in Romania is the smaller the budget, the better luck you're going to have,' suggests US director Joel Schumacher on the set of supernatural thriller Town Creek, which shot just outside Bucharest for 10 weeks this summer.
'It's a small movie without major stars. It's gritty,' Schumacher says of the film, which has an estimated budget of $10m-$15m. 'I think we had enough money. I can't say it was luxurious but I think it was an appropriate amount.' Neither Schumacher, nor producer Paul Brooks, president and CEO of UK-US production outfit Gold Circle Films, had shot in Romania before.
Written by David Kajganich - whose credits include Warner Bros' The Invasion - Town Creek stars Dominic Purcell and Henry Cavill as two brothers who become trapped in an occult experiment dating back to Nazi Germany.
'We looked at a few (other) places,' Brooks explains. 'We had a big build and the construction costs in Romania were cheaper than anywhere else.'
Whereas the team scouted locations around Central Europe, they did not look at Hungary, where the project would have benefited from a 20% tax rebate. According to Romanian studio and production services company MediaPro, which worked on Town Creek, the costs of filming in Romania are 40%-50% less than Prague and 35% less than Budapest.
MediaPro has 18 soundstages, but Town Creek shot almost entirely on a set the Romanian crew built in the countryside. Schumacher said that, despite the language barrier, the local team was first-rate. 'There were at least a dozen people who worked on our movie that I would take and work with anywhere in the world,' he says, singling out production designer Cristian Niculescu in particular.
Romania was an exceptionally busy location in the first half of 2007. While Schumacher was filming in the countryside, David Cunningham was on set at MediaPro with The Dark Is Rising, and Alexandre Aja was filming Mirrors with Kiefer Sutherland at Castel Film. The three projects placed heavy demands on Romanian crew levels.
'I noticed some of the films shooting there were bringing in people from the States and from England and different places,' says Schumacher. 'We were lucky. We had a lot of people in Romania that were A-list. MediaPro helped us choose some of the best people in Romania.'
Schumacher, who shot part of Bad Company in Prague in 2001, says in his experience Romania is behind the Czech Republic in terms of general economics, infrastructure, locations and crew. Nonetheless, he says: 'I would go there again, and I'd work with a lot of the same people again. But it would have to be the right movie.'
'I don't know that I would go to Romania with an inexperienced film-maker,' Brooks adds. 'Having somebody as experienced as Joel was crucial.'
Schumacher says he believes Romanian crews need more experience with major Hollywood productions before they are ready for films the size of his two Batman films, for example. 'If you're going to go there and build Gotham City, Batmobiles and all that stuff, you're going to have to bring in some craftsmen from other countries.'
Mandate Pictures is handling international sales for Town Creek, while Lionsgate Films has North American rights. It is executive produced by Tom Lassally of 3 Arts Entertainment and Robyn Meisinger.