PRAGUE, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Hollywood flocked to central
Europe during the pandemic when film producers there were
allowed to keep the cameras rolling, making the region an
irresistible draw for streaming giants captivated by castles and
Now, though, some production companies may have bitten off
more than they can chew as the region, one of the world's
biggest hubs, has enjoyed a record leap https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/hollywood-investments-boom-central-europe-despite-pandemic-2021-09-06
in new U.S. movie and television business to about $1 billion
They, like many peers globally, are struggling to find
enough qualified staff to keep pace with the huge appetite of
clients like Netflix, Amazon and Apple
vying with each other to deliver new content and feed consumer
demand turbo-charged by lockdowns around the world.
Even Hungary's state-of-the-art Korda Studios, a giant of
the sector with one of the world's biggest sound stage, told
Reuters is was focusing on fewer shows and movies to maintain
quality. And it has had to come up with imaginative ways to do
more with less.
"Set directors and designers have to be smarter about
shooting angles," said Chief Executive Gyorgy Rajnai. "Now we
build a house with three sides instead of four. We save on
resources, time and people."
Korda is also importing camera and set-construction crews
from countries like Slovakia, Romania, Croatia, he said.
Other production companies are hiring less experienced staff
and in some cases turning down new work altogether, according to
interviews with several industry executives and workers.
"Either we can pick up the crew or we say no to the project.
It is green light or red light," Rajnai added. "It is the
bottleneck in the industry."
The challenges in the region, which has recently hosted the
likes of sci-fi movie epic Dune and Amazon fantasy series The
Wheel of Time, reflect a shortage of skilled production workers
across the world, from Hollywood to Queensland.
Jonathan Olsberg, executive chairman of London-based film
industry consultancy Olsberg SPI, expects global production
spend on feature films, television series and documentaries to
race back to the pre-pandemic level of $177 billion in 2022.
"This is a fundamental global problem and we will be
experiencing these shortages for years to come," he said.
Central Europe has also long had skills shortages across
many industries. A tight labour market - the Czech rate of 2.8%
ranks as the lowest in Europe, for example - makes it difficult
for some companies to find workers and specialisms.
Pavlina Zipkova, head of the Czech Film Commission said the
skills shortage in the country's film production industry was
acute, though there are no specific estimates.
"There is pressure on national film commissions and film
institutions as well as on local studios and film production
companies," Zipkova told Reuters.
Netflix, Amazon and Apple declined to comment on production
staff shortages in the region and the possible consequences.
WANT TO WORK IN FILMS?
Experienced crews, lower labour costs and generous tax
incentives have attracted film makers to the Czech Republic and
Hungary over the past decade. The region now ranks as the
biggest international film production hub in Europe after
Britain, with its landscape of rolling countryside and castles
ideal for historical and fantasy shows.
This year, investments in filming projects in Hungary and
the Czech Republic are on course to surpass the record 2019
figures of about $405 million and $512 million) respectively,
according to national industry officials.
One problem facing smaller production companies is that
giant projects, like the $200 million Netflix action thriller
film Gray Man that recently wrapped up in Prague, suck up a lot
of the local talent, according to the people inside the
As a result, they are vying for a limited pool of expertise.
At Prague-based Dazzle Pictures, whose credits include work
for international films and content for the likes of Netflix and
Amazon, managing director Geoffrey Case said the post-production
studio receives offers daily from potential clients around the
world seeking help in finishing films and TV shows.
This has created a situation where the amount of work on
offer far outstrips what some companies can handle, especially
as they fend off rivals looking to add employees, he added.
"Most of the artists at our company have been approached by
competing companies," said Case, whose team focuses on high-end
"They are getting offers all the time. In the old days there
was respect from competitors. You didn't just try to poach
people. But it is constant now because people are desperate."
Vojta Ruzicka, who has worked for nearly 20 years as a
logistics specialist on productions in Prague including Mission
Impossible 4 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, said this
has also created opportunity for people looking to break into
the industry or take a faster step up the ladder.
"If people keep their eyes open and want to work in the film
industry, now is a pretty good time," he said.
($1 = 22.2460 Czech crowns; $1 = 321.3100 forints)
(Reporting by Michael Kahn; Additional reporting by Robert
Mueller; Editing by Mark John and Pravin Char)