8. March 2024

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Czech footprint in the US film industry - Why Hollywood likes the Czech Republic

Architect, seamstress, IT specialist, metalworker, artistic carpenter, glassmaker, and costume designer. Pastry chef, electrician, interpreter, pilot, restorer, and stonemason. These seemingly disparate, highly specialized professions have a common denominator - the film industry. These, and many other fields in which the Czechs are experts on a global scale, function as suppliers to the audiovisual industry. They’re one of the reasons why Hollywood producers like to come back to us,” says Helena Bezděk Fraňková, director of the Czech Film Fund. 

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@Carnival Row

If there’s one thing the Czech Republic can be proud of abroad, it’s its contribution to the audiovisual industry. Innovative Czech creatives and artistic professionals, not only traditional filmmakers, supply this cultural and creative industry. Audiovisual production itself is economically crucial because of the financial contribution to the filming location, which can be substantial. That is if we are talking about the production of a foreign audiovisual work in a territory outside the country of the principal producer. Film is not “just” an entertainment or cultural activity –it’s a significant economic activity - industrial production “without a factor” employing many people and small and medium-sized enterprises providing a variety of services, not only film-related, the interplay of which leads to the creation of an audiovisual work. According to a study by Olsberg-SPI, the average spend for hiring non-film professions and industries, such as construction, transport, hotels, catering, and textiles, is up to 67% of the budget1

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Extraction II, photo Jasin Boland © Netflix

Economic benefits - and more

How does it work in the Czech Republic? A foreign producer (such as Walt Disney Studios, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures or Netflix) hires film and non-film services and contractors in the Czech Republic to create an audiovisual project, thus spending its financial resources here. Whether we’re talking about a film, a series, a commercial, or even a music video, there are benefits on several levels. First, money is spent on film and creative professions and renting locations across the Czech Republic, thus supporting regional economies. Hiring our filmmakers and artisans or artistic professionals hones their skills. As a highly technical activity, film production sparks innovation and promotes the development of new technologies. Finally, the good name of the Czech Republic gets a boost, and tourism is supported. If an audiovisual work is successful with the audience, people like to go to the place where their favourite hero was. 
The Czech Republic is one of the countries with advanced audiovisual production capabilities in the context of Europe and the entire Western cultural milieu. It profiles itself as a proficient producer of Czech and co-produced works and as a significant service producer for foreign films and series, bringing millions of Euros of foreign capital to the Czech Republic annually. According to Czech Film Fund data, the amount was CZK 9 billion/EUR 363 million annually starting in 2019, and in 2021, it was almost CZK 12 billion/EUR 484 million. In the years before 2019, it was in the range of CZK 3-5 billion per year/EUR 121-202 million2.  What sparked this increase?

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Chevalier, photo Larry Horricks, courtesy of Searchlight Pictures © 2023 20th Century Studios

The internet as the dominant mass media

The production of films as a mass medium underwent significant changes in the 2010s due to the emergence and rapid development of streaming platforms that distribute their content via the internet. The internet is the most influential globalizing medium of our time, with 5.4 billion users3.  In countries where the internet has a significant presence, there is a considerable scope for film producers to disseminate audiovisual production to a broader and more global extent than in the 20th century.

Change in viewer preferences

Hand in hand with the internet goes a change in viewing habits. As Marc Jenny, a French producer living in the Czech Republic, said, “Before [the internet], you went to the cinema and every family had one TV; nowadays, every family member has a small TV in their mobile phone”. Due to the growth of the internet coverage, production of television series taken over at the expense of films, with a corresponding numerical increase in viewership. The most influential audience age group is “Gen Z” - children and young adults aged 12 to 24, dubbed global citizens or internet kids4.  People born since 1995 have been using the internet since childhood and “hang out” on online streaming services every day. 

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Foundation II © Apple

Online broadcasters, therefore, produce their own content to attract additional viewers or pull them away from competitors. Moreover, the thirst for series production was accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, when people shut up in their homes had no cultural outlet, other than perhaps reading, and indulged in whatever the internet provided. 

This is also why the term “audiovisual production” is used increasingly instead of “cinematography.” Logically, cinematography involves the production of films intended to be shown in cinemas and shot on film stock, not in digital format. The term “audiovisual” or “audiovisual production” is more appropriate to the current trends and covers both the production of feature films intended for cinema screens and films and series produced directly for broadcast via television and online streaming. It should be noted that nowadays, feature films move almost without exception to the online libraries of streaming and television companies after their premiere in theaters.

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The Wheel of Time II © Amazon Studios, Sony Pictures Television

The government’s primary tool to attract international productions

As Helena Bezděk Fraňková mentioned in the introduction, Hollywood simply likes us. However, in addition to the premium quality of the services delivered, production incentives play a crucial role. These are calculated as a certain percentage of the money spent on filming, which is returned to the production company after proving the spending in the Czech Republic. Without incentives, we’re not competitive, whether or not we have a high level of service quality. Thirty-two European countries now offer incentives; most offer even higher percentage rates than the Czech 20%. 
Encouraging international producers to make the millions of euros of investment associated with producing their works in a given country is the raison d’être of any production incentive system. It is also desirable for the Czech economy that the system responds appropriately to the current boom of the global audiovisual industry and that the unprecedented demand for production in the Czech Republic is utilized to the fullest extent possible.

Hollywood in the Czech Republic

“The Czech Republic has a truly fantastic filmmaking foundation. As far as the artistic craft professions are concerned, there is nothing that Czech filmmakers cannot handle. Anything - literally anything you ask them to do, they come up with a brilliant solution every time,” said American producer Gideon Amir, who produced the series Carnival Row, starring Orlando Bloom, for Amazon Studios and Legendary Television. With spending approaching CZK 3 billion/EUR 121 million, it is one of the most significant investments ever. Amazon is also producing the third season of the Wheel of Time fantasy series here, with the potential to make all seven planned seasons in the Czech Republic; it’s a similar challenge to Carnival Row. Some of the more audience-pleasing action projects include Netflix’s The Gray Man with Ryan Gosling, for which the American filmmakers spent CZK 750 million/EUR 30.3 million in just 17 days of shooting, and Extraction II. by the same studio, directed by Sam Hargrave and starring Chris Hemsworth, which used CZK 1.6 billion/EUR 64.5 million in Czech goods and services. The now-legendary 2019 feature film Jojo Rabbit (Fox Searchlight Pictures, now The Walt Disney Studios) was filmed entirely in the Czech Republic and won director Taika Waititi an Oscar for best screenplay. Last year, NBC Universal produced a remake of the famous horror film Nosferatu, directed by Robert Eggers and starring Bill Skarsgård, Willem Defoe, and Lily-Rose Depp. Both projects had spends in the order of hundreds of millions of Czech crowns. 

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The Gray Man © Netflix / Stanislav Honzík

The series Foundation, based on Isaac Asimov's books and produced by Apple, moved to Prague from Ireland after the first series. Czech locations also served as late 18th-century France in the costume drama Chevalier, produced by The Walt Disney Company, based on the true story of French-Caribbean violinist and composer Joseph Bologne.

This year, the Czech Republic has been selected to host one of the most prestigious Hollywood productions yet, BLADE RUNNER 2099.  Shooting of the sequel tv series to the cult movies Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049 is serviced by Film United, a company owned by producer Veronika Lencova, for Alcon Entertainment and Amazon Studios. The series is produced by Alcon Television Group and Scott Free Productions.

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Jojo Rabbit © Jan Adler

Czech enterprises and exports

Czech creativity and skills play a significant role even in works filmed outside our country. For example, the work of Czech glassmakers has appeared in several blockbusters in recent years. “The placement of our products in the Barbie film had a huge PR effect on the company. This reflected in sales, in particular in our country - we saw an increase of 70% in the Czech e-shop,” Lukáš Klimčák, founder of Klimchi glassworks, told us. The filmmakers ordered 16 pink jugs and glasses from the Rosaline line, the design of which the company had and still has on offer, so it was not produced specifically for the film. 

In this respect, the cooperation between Pačinek Glass and the producers of the film Glass Onion starring Daniel Craig, involving the production of 64 crystal objects based on production designer John Dexter’s designs, was precisely the opposite. “Ninety percent of the objects were massive sculptures, some partially produced using glassblowing. John Dexter flew in and was with us in the workshop all week. This collaboration was a miracle. Everything went well the first time except for one piece. John Dexter left excited,” said Jiří Pačinek, the glassworks owner, on working for the filmmakers. 

Czechs also scored in Christopher Nolan’s action sci-fi spectacle Tenet - Zubří Rubber Works provided CM-6 protective masks for the film. The company has been successfully exporting it to the United States for many years.

1 OLSBERG – SPI, 2020 [online]. [cit. 2023-23-11]. 

2 SFKMG press release of 29. 4. 2021: CZECH FILM FUND, 2021 [online]. [cited 2023-11-23]. 
Accessed at: https://fondkinematografie.cz/objem-filmoveho-nataceni-se-letos-vrati-na-uroven-roku-2019.html

3 As of June 2022, see Internet World Stats https://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm.

4 SMPTE - Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers - Study www.smpte.org

The article was published in the TradeNews magazine.