Flatpack Films’ Zita Kisgergely reveals why the Pearl of the Danube is a magnet for international productions
Every year, Hungary’s capital attracts some of the world’s biggest productions – earning it the fitting nickname, the ‘Hollywood of the Danube’. This year is no exception, with blockbusters such as Terminator 6 (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger), Deeper (starring Bradley Cooper and Gal Gadot), Ang Lee’s sci-fi action thriller Gemini Man (starring Will Smith), and Marie Curie biopic Radioactive (starring Rosamund Pike) choosing to shoot in Budapest.
But Budapest’s production prestige isn’t reserved solely for the big screen. Commercially, the city is experiencing an exciting renaissance – providing the backdrop for UK retail giant Debenhams’ Christmas campaign
featuring Ewan McGregor, Lacoste’s beautifully shot ‘Timeless’
campaign, and other high-end productions for brands such as BMW, Adidas, Chivas Regal, Telekom, and Toyota.
So, why are commercial productions from the UK to South Korea all flocking to shoot in the renowned area? Here, we’ll go beyond the world-famous thermal baths, striking Opera House, legendary pubs, and paprika-filled culinary delights, to uncover why Budapest is a production magnet you can’t miss.
One City, Endless Looks
If you’ve watched blockbusters such as Blade Runner 2049, Red Sparrow, Atomic Blonde, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Hellboy, or The Martian, you will have already witnessed Budapest’s incredible chameleonic skill. The UNESCO-World-Heritage-recognised city offers enviable architectural diversity, meaning it can double for almost anywhere in Europe – often replicating Moscow, Berlin, London, and New York. For Lacoste’s 2017 time-jump campaign, Budapest's grand Nyugati Railway Station was transformed into a 1930’s Parisian train station.
With the help of experienced local partners, productions can unlock the full potential of the area. Budapest’s abundance of mysterious and atmospheric locations makes it a darling of the spy genre. Most recently, it doubled for both Helsinki and Moscow in Jennifer Lawrence’s Red Sparrow. Unique examples of Socialist architecture and industrial complexes in the surrounding countryside also complement this grittier look.
On the opposite end of the palette, the city’s beautiful art deco and art nouveau heritage and Medieval cobblestoned streets provide a more whimsical and romantic setting. Just one and a half hours’ drive from the capital, productions are greeted by lush, green, rolling hills and scenic winding roads. Water-related shoots can dive into the glittering Lake Balaton - Europe’s largest freshwater lake, nicknamed ‘the Hungarian Sea’ for its enormity.
There are several different-sized studios around Budapest, such as Korda, Origo, and Mafilm, offering a huge variety of looks - from backlots with medieval villages, New York street sets, interior and exterior water tanks, to blue and green screens.
Emmy Award Recognised Talent
Hungary has a rich cinematic legacy that traces back more than a century, making it a highly trusted destination. The country’s proven track record of reliable local crews, equipment, and studios is a key reason why many international producers are willing to pay slightly more than they might elsewhere in Eastern Europe.
Budapest is blessed with production experts who are not just the best by Hungarian standards but worldwide. At Flatpack, we give clients the opportunity to work with top of the line freelancing professionals such as renowned Art Director, Tünde Csáki, multi-award-winning Director, Pater Sparrow, and double Emmy-award-nominated Production Designer and Art Director, Judit Varga, who has worked on Hellboy II.
Talents such as these have brought their magic to some of the biggest commercials and are well accustomed to working on high-end brands such as Dior, Montblanc and Gucci. As one of the leading local production service companies, we help agencies and production companies unlock the treasure-trove of Hungarian talent and resources – whether it’s internationally acclaimed creative teams, art directors, make up professionals or costume departments.
In the current landscape of harder-working budgets, the demand for incredible locations and high-quality service at a competitive cost is understandably stronger than ever.
Working with well-established local partners can help international productions make their budgets go even further. Thanks to the close relationships Flatpack has nurtured over the years with handpicked partners, we can secure world-class professionals and an excellent quality of service at an attractive rate for our clients.
By teaming up with savvy local partners who know how to navigate the laws and offer a transparent view of the production process, companies can guarantee they keep their budgets trim. Consulting experienced and knowledgeable local partners safeguards against any untold challenges that come with navigating a living, breathing, city.
Less Time on the Road = More Time to Shoot
A perfect fit for tighter timelines, it takes just two and a half hours to reach Budapest from London, with frequent flights from most cities. Hungary is a tiny country (roughly a third of the size of the UK) and everything is reachable in under a few hours from Budapest, meaning you won’t waste whole days of precious shoot time travelling. Hungary’s landlocked position also means that if productions do need to move to a neighbouring country, any border can be reached within a few hours. Weather-wise, Budapest enjoys a continental climate, offering productions plenty of sun between May and September.
Zita Kisgergely is Owner and Producer at Flatpack Films. Flatpack Films is an expert at providing boutique location services across feature films, short form, and commercial films. It has grown to become one of Hungary’s most well-established production service provider, offering full technical provision at all levels. Flatpack’s clients include Samsonite, Canon, Braun, Kia, Samsung, Montblanc, Hyundai, and Chivas.