Barrandov Studios: Hollywood of the East
The focus of this weeks economics report is the Czech film industry, more specifically the Barrandov studios. Film production has a long and successful history in the Czech Republic. All these films were filmed and produced at the legendary Barrandov Studios in the South-West corner of Prague. Today the studio has become so popular with Hollywood productions that it is often referred to as the Hollywood of the East. I recently visited the studio's and caught up with marketing director Matous Forbelsky. He explains the interesting history of Barrandov Studios.
Many great Czech films such as Jiri Menzel's Academy Award winner Closely Watch Trains and the film Kolya. Czech classics like Limonadovy Joe were filmed at Barrandov. Mr. Forbelsky again.
"Actually all Czech films were made here at Barrandov, there was one other state film company which specialized in documentaries and children's films. All feature films were made here, including the silent films and then of course sound films. Famous films from the so called 'Czech new wave' from the 1960's were all made here. In the 1980's famous films for children were made here. Also, the Czech comedy films which are very popular in the Czech Republic and in the so-called East block were also filmed here. Since Barrandov was privatised it could not survive with out serving foreign films. Now most of the films were are working on are American films and large Hollywood productions. We also support the Czech film industry by co-producing some films, but most of our income comes from foreign films. In addition we also serve the private Czech television company Nova, which is about 12 percent of our turnover. In total, we can say that 50-60 percent of our business comes from Hollywood productions and 40-50 percent from Czech films."
"First of all, it is because Prague can be used in films like Berlin, London, Paris, and other famous cities were it is very expensive to film in. Secondly, old historical London and Paris doesn't exist anymore so Prague is used as these cities. It's much cheaper to film in the real location than to build these sites. You know, the film industry his developed as a huge industry here. Now there is an infrastructure, skilled people, a lot of film companies - the major international film companies are based in Prague. Another reason why these foreign films are made here is the professionalism of the crews and of course the cost effectiveness of shooting in the Czech Republic. Now, films that are made here are high budget productions. The sets are so expensive to build, mostly for science fiction films, fantasy films, and films based on comic books. So it's very expensive to build these sets abroad and its very cheap to build these sets here. So a major reason why these productions are coming here is that they can build fantastic sets for little money and keep the same quality."
"They are trying already to do so but I do not think it is very cost effective. In the end you need infrastructure, which you don't have in these other countries. So, the reason why some films are sometimes shoot in Slovakia, Romania, or Bulgaria is to find the proper locations and to save some money. But, you can make a film anywhere, but it brings some other problems. Right now Barrandov is a fully equipped film studio which has been built as a film studio. Now there are some competitors in Prague, there is one studio which is a rebuilt aircraft factory and some other factory halls are also used as studio's but, you know, you have to bring everything there, its not a true film studio. It is the same for other countries, you can go there and you can save some money but it will bring you some problems as well."