There is a lot of reasons why to shoot in the Czech Republic: experienced professionals building on a 120-year long filmmaking tradition; skilled and synced local crews; 11 centuries of European architecture and variety of natural scenery in a country that you can traverse within a 6-hour drive from east to west; Well-equipped studios with adaptable backlots; regional funding and a network of 11 regional film offices...
The Czech Film Commission was established in 2004 to support audiovisual production in the Czech Republic and promote the country to international filmmakers as one of the world’s top destinations for international film productions.
See more: Czech Film Commission
/Main photo by Julie Vrabelová: Sofia Helin, Kyle MacLachlan shooting Atlantic Crossing, directed by Alexander Eik. Read more/
Annual budget: EUR 32 million (CZK 800 million)
Type of incentive: Cash rebate
No application deadline
What we support:
How much you get:
How to qualify:
○○ EUR 588,200 (CZK 15 million) for a fiction and animated feature
○○ EUR 78,400 (CZK 2 million) for a documentary feature
○○ EUR 313,700 (CZK 8 million) for an episode of a TV series
○○ EUR 39,200 (CZK 1 million) for an episode of an animated series
How to apply:
Find out more about production incentives in the Czech Republic HERE.
Production Incentives Program
+420 778 718 541
Czech Film Commission
+420 603 554 044
Vysočina: The name means “highlands,” and nearly every peak in this region so full of mysterious beauty offers filmmakers unique cinematic settings and views.
The Vysočina Region is in the heart of the Czech Republic, and many of its most interesting sites are just an hour’s drive from Prague. The area features pristine nature interspersed with fertile fields and picturesque small towns — including Telč, a Renaissance pearl, and Třebíč, which has one of the most extensive preserved Jewish quarters in Europe (and the only Jewish monument outside of Israel listed in the UNESCO Register).
“Filmmakers often associate our region just with Třebíč and Telč. We aim to show them how much more we have to offer,” says Michaela Králová of the Vysočina Film Office. “There are many wonderful natural settings and phenomena, alongside picturesque country villages, castles and chateaux of various sizes and architectural styles, and monumental monasteries — not to mention industrial locations, which these days are highly sought after by filmmakers.”
“Hardly any region in the country is as photogenic as Vysočina and offers as many opportunities for panoramic shots of Czech landscapes,” she adds.
The region’s expansive views are ideal for a variety of genres and stories. Among the international productions were two horror films: It Becomes Her (Australia), whose crew spent several weeks in the region, and Devil (USA), plus the Czech fairy tale Princess Lost in Time and scenes for the Czech TV Nova crime series Dáma & Král.
The Vysočina Film Office organizes an annual location tour for filmmakers in cooperation with the Czech Film Commission, during which it presents many interesting film-friendly, yet little-known locations.
“For example, we recently introduced the Úsobí chateau, as well as an old but still functioning glassworks, and a historic brewery that has received architectural awards for its sensitive reconstruction,” says Králová, adding that for her personally, Vysočina is especially ideal for fairy tales: “There are new fairy tales made here every year — though in 2019 there were more horrors and criminal series shot here,” she adds.
The Film Office operates under the regional tourism board Vysočina Tourism, which in 2019 launched a major marketing campaign called Vysočina in Film. That campaign included a special app for editing photos of film locations, and a film-themed game for visitors about famous and lesser-known film locations.
What else does the Film Office have planned? “We definitely will be cooperating more closely with the Ji.hlava International Documentary Film Festival, which is the largest film event in our region and among the largest documentary festivals in Europe. And while we have already organized small annual location tours for their industry visitors, we hope to do much more at the festival,” Králová says.
When you point to the center of a map of the Czech Republic, you’ll find a region of unspoiled nature, outdoor folklore museums, historic towns, and a plethora of castles and chateaus. Exteriors and interiors in the Central Bohemian Region have formed the backdrop to hundreds of famous Czech and foreign films, the increase in which has been overseen for the past year by the Central Bohemian Film Office. The office seeks to present new, relatively undiscovered film-friendly locations and show off the diversity that abounds in the region.
The film office, overseen by Central Bohemia Tourist Board, offers information on a wide variety of locations, easily accessible from the international airport and the capital city Prague. The office assists with filmmakers’ requirements, particularly regarding logistics, and has become the gateway to the region for Czech and international filmmakers alike.
Director Marek Černoch led the establishment of the film office. He and his team, Linda Dlouhá and Martina Kuncová, offer perfect-fit filming locations, assist film crews with formalities, help filmmakers avoid complications like traffic restrictions, and above all, provide in-depth knowledge of their region.
“I’m delighted that the Central Bohemian Region has established a film office. We have the highest concentration of castles and chateaus here, and we have fascinating industrial locations, natural scenery. Simply put, it’s a paradise for filmmakers of all genres and styles. The world is dealing with coronavirus at the moment, but once this threat is behind us — and I believe that it will end sooner rather than later — the audiovisual industry and tourism will be among the most important drivers of the economic revival,” says Černoch.
Scenes depicting the great events of European history are often filmed in this region. Last year, for example, Norwegian filmmakers shot the World War II historical series Atlantic Crossing on location at Kačina Chateau, the airport in Benešov, and the peaceful nature of the Brdy Mountains. Czech forests stood in for their Norwegian counterparts in the series about the Norwegian Princess Martha and her mysterious journey to the White House, where she met President Franklin D. Roosevelt. History repeated itself in the Central Bohemian Region with the filming of a series about the most famous Czech ruler, Maria Theresa, in a Czech/Slovak/Hungarian/Austrian coproduction. And German filmmakers came to shoot a historical film about the composer Ludwig van Beethoven.
Central Bohemia has also played host to Amazon and Netflix. The town of Liběchov featured in the search for a serial killer, headed by Sigmund Freud, in an eight-part series for Netflix, while Kačina Chateau, near Kutná Hora, was transformed into a Victorian-era home for fairies, in the extravagant Amazon fantasy series Carnival Row, with Hollywood stars Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne.
The Central Bohemian Film Office plans to increase tourist interest in the region, focusing on film tourism and making famous film sites accessible. Visitors can already go cycling on a popular bike trail, personally recommended by Orlando Bloom.
“Visually very authentic, rough, cool, and poetic”. This is how Danish director Henrik Ruben Genz describes the atmosphere of this fascinating region located in the east of the Czech Republic, on the border of Slovakia and Poland.
In early 2019, Genz (Good People, Borgen, Terribly Happy) filmed the crime series DNA in the region’s capital city Ostrava with support from the local film office. “We helped identify locations and organized several rounds of location scouting in December 2018 and January 2019, as well as the final technical scout in February,” says Hana Vítková of the Moravian-Silesian Film Office, the region’s primary contact for filmmakers.
The Moravian-Silesian Region is known mainly for its industrial landscape – the remains of the mining and metallurgical industry, workers’ settlements from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the 1950s social realist architectural style known as ‘Sorela’, seen in neighborhoods built for laborers. “In terms of scope and scale of conservation, such locations are rare – their genius loci is unmistakable and can still be felt today, even when they no longer serve their original purposes,” says Vítková, adding that the region is not only a hub for heavy industry, but also home to the picturesque landscapes of the Beskydy and Jeseníky Mountains, the charming small towns in their foothills, and historical chateaux and castles.
In 2011, Vítková helped establish the first regional film office in the Czech Republic in Ostrava. “Now we’re part of the Moravian-Silesian Tourism and can serve the entire region. With the destination agency behind us, we are constantly expanding our regional knowledge, our local supplier network, and our location database. At present, the regional government is finalizing a grant scheme to support filming in the region. By the end of the summer, we should be able to announce the first call for applications with a budget of approximately EUR 100,000,” says Vítková.
With the grant program, the region hopes to motivate more filmmakers to come and shoot in the region. “Ostrava is quite far from the center of audiovisual production in Prague, about 370 km, and unfortunately this distance often trumps our interesting locations,” says Vítková.
And what does the Moravian-Silesian Film Office currently have in store? “The Beskydy Mountains host the filming for the Czech fairy tale Největší dar (The Greatest Gift). One of the most interesting tasks was to find an unusual location – a mature, majestic oak tree, which we did with the help of the regional environmental office. Since the beginning of the year we’ve already had several location scoutings for the feature film debut of Martin Kuba, a recent FAMU graduate in directing. The shoot is scheduled to start next year and is expected to be filmed largely in our region. In late September, we’re organizing a location tour for the Ostrava Camera Oko Film Festival to show those of the Festival's guests who are filmmakers some interesting locations in our region that are off the beaten track,” says Vítková.
The Pilsen Region Film Office, launched in April 2018, is one of the most recent additions to the family of regional film offices, which work closely with the Czech Film Commission across the country. We spoke to Radka Šámalová, a member of the Pilsen Region Film Office team, about its first year and what the region offers to filmmakers.
How do you introduce your region to filmmakers?
The Pilsen region is an ideal location for film shoots. It’s easily and quickly accessible not only from the Czech capital—it’s a one-hour drive from Prague to Pilsen—but also from neighboring Germany, Munich is just three hours away. Filmmakers will find a wide range of locations here, and good infrastructure, with top-class service providers at very affordable prices.
What specific locations will filmmakers find in the Pilsen region?
Besides numerous cultural and historical sites of every architectural style and era, filmmakers can also shoot in unexplored natural destinations. Apart from the mountainous Šumava Forest region, for example, there’s the newly opened former military area of Brdy, or the Sudetenland, whose genius loci is still untapped and more than ever of interest to filmmakers.
The Brdy military area sounds like a location for a spy movie!
Definitely, part of one could be filmed there! The site was taken over in 1950 by the army, and remained off-limits to ordinary visitors and tourists for many years, even after the fall of the Iron Curtain. There are many unexplored, hidden places, which, given that until 2016 the Brdy Forest was inaccessible, are still untouched.
You also mentioned Sudeten villages with a troubled history?
Yes, the Sudetenland region along the border perfectly reflects the entire 20th-century history of our country. After the post–World War II expulsion of ethnic Germans, many empty villages were shelled by our army, which used them for target practice. A lot of churches, cemeteries, and synagogues disappeared along with the villages, and the bombed and looted houses were flattened. Still, many villages were preserved, maintain their architectural character, and are inhabited. The mysterious and mystical atmosphere is still visible.
What interesting projects have you worked on recently?
Quite a variety! We had a Spanish crew doing a documentary series for the Discovery Channel, and Czech Television was filming a historic crime series in the centre of Pilsen as a stand-in for Prague. We’ve had many inquiries about locations from international crews. At present, we’re communicating mainly with producers of upcoming Czech films — everything from documentaries and feature films to fairy tales. In the spring, our region will be virtually under siege by filmmakers. Which is great!
East Bohemia is picturesque and rich in architecture from every imaginable period, as well as offering dramatic natural scenery. The region is crossed by one of Europe’s largest rivers, the Elbe, and its northern border with Poland is formed by the Krkonoše (Giant) Mountains, where you can find the highest peak in the Czech Republic, Sněžka (1,603 m). The region’s largest cities, Hradec Králové and Pardubice, are known for their modern and contemporary buildings.
The East Bohemia Film Office, promoting all this and more, has facilitated filming and assisted filmmakers in the area since 2013. “Being based at the East Bohemia Tourism Board, we benefit from close links with tourism. We work with hundreds of information centers in the region, which gives us the most up-to-date information, whether on locations or accommodation From Renaissance to Folk Architecture options,” says Lucie Ondráčková of the East Bohemia Film Office.
The film office combines two of the Czech Republic’s 14 political districts into a single “film region,” accessible from Prague by car or train—it takes just 60 to 90 minutes to reach the regional capitals of Pardubice and Hradec Králové.
“In addition, we have a small but functional and very film-friendly airport in Pardubice, as well as one in Hradec Králové with a huge external area that can also be used for filming. Popular locations in the region include Josefov Fortress, the historic center of Pardubice, the Adršpach sand rock formations, folk architecture in Veselý Kopec, the Krkonoše (Giant) Mountains, and numerous castles spread all around the East Bohemian region,” says Ondráčková.
These locations draw domestic and foreign productions alike, including the Amazon Studios series Carnival Row, the German ZDF project Walpurgisnacht, and the Indian romantic comedy Shine. Jackie Chan, director of The Diary, filmed in the region last summer, as did the French
romantic film Coup de foudre à Noel and the new BBC period series World on Fire.
“Each year we also host several shoots for domestic films and television. Czech producers love to film fairytales with us, as well as contemporary stories and historical material. One recent example is the feature Jan Palach, which was set in the late 1960s and took over the main
square in Pardubice last summer as a stand-in for Prague’s Wenceslas Square. Logistically, it was quite a trick,” Ondráčková recalls. “We had to get a tank onto the square, but vehicles over a certain weight aren’t permitted, so they had to strip the tank’s interiors to cut down its weight, until finally they were allowed to drive it onto the square.”
Locations, Locations, Locations
As an additional incentive, the Pardubice and Hradec Králové regional governments offer financial aid for the production of films in the region.
“We don’t have any film funds yet, but we do take individual applications,” Ondráčková says. “For example, this year the Czech film LOVEní received CZK 750,000. The entire film takes place in and around Pardubice and was shot here in fall 2018. In January 2019, filming is scheduled to begin on the Czech period piece The Last Race, based on a dramatic ski race that took place in the Krkonoše Mountains in 1913. The Hradec Králové Region will support the shoot with CZK 280,000, and of course our film office will assist during prep and shooting.”
Themes like these, with their ties to regional sites, are the types of projects the film office likes to use to promote the region as a tourist and business destination. These types of tie-ins are common the world over, and attract many travelers to visit film locations.
So, what types of locations in East Bohemia are moviegoers likely to see on screens in the near future? “Recently, filmmakers have been looking for villa exteriors and interiors — period as well as modern and contemporary. Particularly popular now for some reason are wood interiors, so we’ve been happy to provide tips for several such locations in the area,” Ondráčková says with a smile.
“Location scouts are also interested in industrial locations and brownfields, as well as lesser-known yet still interesting castles and chateaux. We’d also love to sell them on more of the very specific architecture of Pardubice and Hradec Králové, and our amazing pearl: the town of Litomyšl.”
In the early 20th century, Hradec Králové was known as the country’s architectural showcase, thanks to the timeless architecture of Josef Gočár and Jan Kotěra. A century later, this designation has been taken over by Litomyšl. Although featuring a number of Renaissance highlights, the town in recent years has become home to several top-notch examples of contemporary architecture, and is often presented as a model of coherent urban planning for its balance between historic and new architecture.
Pardubice, too, boasts a number of modern buildings from both the early 20th century and the present. The most outstanding, with a very definite genius loci, is Gočár’s art deco Winternitz Automatic Mills.
“Every time we visit a region as part of our location tours, I’m amazed at how many diverse and wonderful locations we have in our small country,” says the Czech Republic’s film commissioner, Pavlína Žipková. “In almost every corner there’s a local film office that serves as a great source of information for filmmakers and helps to facilitate filming in the area. The Czech Film Commission has helped establish 10 regional film offices to date. I’m extremely proud of our efforts and just want to say: Come film with us! You’ll find a warm welcome, and this is definitely the place to be. We speak filmmaking here!”
Brno is a cosmopolitan European metropolis, a dynamic, developing center of trade and science with business and science incubators. Now the city has begun working to attract filmmakers, presenting itself as a highly desirable filmmaking destination. The Brno Film Office also successfully pushed to set up the South Moravian Film Fund, established in October 2017 as a joint initiative between the city and the region.
With a population of nearly 500,000, Brno, situated in the region of South Moravia, is home to a variety of locations, from ancient underground rooms to every architectural style from the past century to modern arcades to contemporary residential complexes. No wonder it’s attractive to filmmakers, both at home and abroad.
“We established the film office in February 2017 with the goal of supporting the audiovisual sector in Brno and making domestic and international filmmakers aware that Brno is a filmfriendly city, a great place to shoot. Overall, we promote the city as dynamic and cultural, and that filmmaking is definitely welcome here,” said deputy mayor Matěj Hollan.
The Brno Film Office, operating as part of TIC BRNO (Tourist Information Centre), doesn’t limit itself to the city proper, helping filmmakers with shoots throughout South Moravia, a region that boasts romantic nature, acres of vineyards, historic castles and chateaux, and Baroque architecture of all kinds, from the folk architecture of village homes to multilevel merchant residences.
Although open just one year so far, the Brno Film Office already has many successful productions to its credit — from the Czech Republic, as well as the United States, Italy, Austria, Slovakia, Russia, the Netherlands, and other countries. “Most of our assistance consists primarily of recommending locations, providing contacts to local services, and dealing with specific production requests to make their work easier in a new location,” explained Ivana Košuličová, the Brno Film Office director.
“So far this year,” she said, “Brno has welcomed film crews working on two feature film versions of international bestsellers. The first is The Glass Room, based on the popular book by Simon Mawer. Director Julius Ševčík and his crew filmed in the Tugendhat Villa in several stages. Carice van Houten, known to viewers around the world for her role in Game of Thrones, plays one of the main characters.”
“Then in June,” Košuličová went on, “director Václav Marhoul shot parts of The Painted Bird, based on the Jerzy Kosiński novel, in a unique Baroque prison right in the city center. The film features international stars Stellan Skarsgard and Harvey Keitel. Shoots like this bring not only direct economic benefits, but also offer promotional potential.”
“The film office worked extensively with the producers of both films,” Košuličová said. “For The Glass Room, we started working with them in the development phase.” On the other hand, The Painted Bird, which has been in production two years now, throughout the Czech Republic as well as abroad, didn’t come to Brno until near the end of shooting. The project was shot on black-and-white film stock in the former Baroque prison in Brno, which stood in for an orphanage. The prison building, abandoned for decades despite its location right in the city center, returned to its original function for a few days.
Working directly with filmmakers isn’t the film office’s sole function, however. It also successfully pushed for the establishment of the South Moravian Film Fund, which was set up in October 2017 as a joint initiative between the city and the region.
“In this year’s first round of grants, we distributed a total of CZK 8.5 million (€330,000). Animated, documentary, and feature films, along with TV series and miniseries, were all eligible, on the condition that recipients are required to spend 100 percent of the grant in the region. Thirty-five projects submitted applications in the first round, including high-budget feature films by the famous Czech directors Petr Zelenka and Jiří Vejdělek, as well as small but interesting projects by local documentarists mapping the themes and history of the region. This year’s second round, with a budget of CZK 500,000 (€19,300), is intended for script development,” said Košuličová.
Pavlína Žipková, head of the Czech Film Commission, which operates under the aegis of the Czech Film Fund, says Moravia as a whole is up and-coming: “Brno and South Moravia aren’t the only active areas. The Zlín Region has also set up a fund to attract productions. It has a very active film office that in a short time has successfully gained the trust of filmmakers and proven themselves. It’s fantastic that filmmakers are working more and more with regional film offices.” The national film commission had an active hand in setting up the eleven regional offices, and works closely with all of them.
So why should filmmakers put Brno and South Moravia at the top of their location lists? According to Brno Film Office director Košuličová, the answer can be summed up in a few sentences: a full supply of film professionals ready to work, all kinds of undiscovered, unique locations, and an attitude that is more than accommodating. In the future, the city plans to support the creation of exciting film projects financially as well. And to top it all off, Brno has a plethora of great restaurants, comfy cafés, and hip bars where tired crews can enjoy themselves in their free moments.
The Ústí Region, in the Czech Republic’s northwestern corner, is full of contrasts and diverse locations, offering filmmakers settings for stories and genres of all kinds. The regional film office has been in operation since 2016, and is one of the busiest in the country.
Filmmakers appreciate working with the Ústí Region Film Office, led by Barbora Hyšková, as evidenced by the fact that it recently received the Film Friendly Region 2017 award, granted each year by the Audiovisual Producers’ Association and the Czech Film Commission. “Our motto is, Nothing is impossible,” Hyšková says when asked why filmmakers are so eager to come back to the region.
What does the Film Friendly 2017 award mean to you?
It’s a great recognition and motivation to keep doing the work we enjoy. Sometimes it’s difficult, but it’s wonderful work. We get to meet interesting people and visit places mere mortals usually aren’t allowed to. What makes the award even more significant is it’s decided on not only by the filmmakers themselves, but also by the national film commission — and they know very well what it takes to do this work.
What are some of the more interesting projects your office has helped out with?
The projects we’ve worked on so far have been primarily domestic productions: The Czech film The Smiles of Sad Men was filmed here last year at the alcohol rehabilitation center in Petrohrad. We worked with the production team from the Czech Television comedy series Most (a town in the Ústí Region). And for the film Jan Palach we found a “sunny France” location in one of our local vineyards, as well as retro spaces from the 1960s. As far as international productions go, we hosted Keira Knightley in early 2017, when she shot The Aftermath, and we’ve also had crews here from China, Korea, and Germany.
What current project is keeping you the most busy?
That would be Rapl (Madman), the second season of the very successful Czech Television crime series, which is set in our region. We come up with ideas for locations, communicate with property owners, and sometimes help negotiate conditions. We open the doors to local authorities, we’ve gotten the regional capital Ústí nad Labem involved, who have helped tirelessly, and we’ve sourced various service providers in the region.
Why is your region experiencing such a filmmaking boom?
Our region has this incredible mix of both beautiful and not-so-beautiful things. You really can find everything here, and the locations haven’t been overused. There’s also a trend now to film on location rather than in studios. Another one of our advantages is that we’re just an hour from Prague, which is great for the crews, which are mostly based in Prague.
Why are locations in your region so attractive?
We’ve got an abundance of natural beauty, with our northwest border skirted by the Ore Mountains, replete with canyons and dramatic sandstone formations along the Elbe river. In addition to these unique landscapes, we have a number of historical monuments and architectural sites of interest – castles, chateaus, monasteries, but also industrial and folk architecture. In stark contrast, you can also find socially excluded localities, brownfields, and endless housing estates.
What about the locals in your region? Have they noticed the increase in filming? Do you get them involved?
It works great and they view filming positively. They’ve begun sending us ideas for interesting locations. We can double or triple the number of potential local extras for projects shooting here thanks to our contacts. For the film Jan Palach, set during the 1960s, we were looking for period chairs and other props. Many people sent us tips, the response was incredible. And we were able to find the chairs we needed right here in our own region. In return, we invited some of these helpers to the filming. It’s important to have the locals on your side.
How do filmmakers find out about you?
Word-of-mouth works best. When we show how much easier filming is with us, how we can help grease the wheels of bureaucracy, offer suggestions for atypical locations, make connections with the right people and institutions that help save time, energy, and even money, filmmakers gain confidence, recommend us to others, and gladly come back themselves. We also work with the national film commission, which was behind the founding of all our regional offices and puts us in touch with filmmakers. It’s great that filmmakers can find film offices throughout the Czech Republic. There’s eleven now, two of which opened just this year — in Plzeň and South Bohemia.
How well do you get along? Have you noticed any competition between the film offices?
We get along very well. I believe that every corner of our country is unique, and the opportunities are different everywhere. We just help filmmakers find what they need. For many projects, we’ve even recommended locations in neighboring regions, because it would be a shame not to use them when I know they’d be perfect. I see the regional offices as one big family, with the members helping each other out. We get together several times a year, along with the Czech Film Commission, to advise each other and exchange experiences. It’s a group of really great people who have something in common: They love their regions. And together we want to show what a great place the entire Czech Republic is.
What would you say to foreign filmmakers about filming in the Czech Republic or doing a coproduction with the Czech Republic?
They’ll find a concentration of all kinds of locations in a relatively small area. Plenty of high-quality services, good value for money, a rich tradition of filmmaking, great craftspeople, experienced filmmakers. Enthusiasm, creativity, the motto “nothing is impossible,” a friendly filmmaking environment, and of course perfect service from the film offices!
It’s clear you enjoy your work. What’s your approach? How do you make your job fun?
We always try to do whatever is possible, but never promise anything that’s not in our power to fulfil. We communicate openly and straightforwardly, and I think we’re very accommodating. Sometimes the challenges give us a bit of an adrenalin rush. It can get wild sometimes, but it’s an amazing feeling when we succeed. My colleague Helena Matuščinová and I try to solve issues with a positive attitude and a healthy dash of humor, which is often the key to resolving complications. I think that’s why filmmakers like to come back to us.
After Prague, Zlín is considered to be the second center of the Czech film industry. Filmmaking in Zlín dates back to the late 1920s, when the world-famous footwearmanufacturer Baťa began making in-house news programs. Now, the Zlín Film Office, launched in December 2016, is one of the newest additions to the family of regional film offices in the Czech Republic.
Baťa began building film studios in 1935 — the first was a small one for shooting advertising spots — and in the second half of the 20th century, the studio became the country’s leading producer of animated films. But that wasn’t the only reason Zlín was known as the city of children’s film. Since 1961, it has hosted the world’s largest animated film festival. Since the privatization of the Czech film industry in the early 1990s, however, the studio has been repeatedly threatened with liquidation, but one of the goals of the local film office now is to revive Zlín as a filming city and make it a modern, filming-friendly destination.
“From the very beginning, we’ve been committed to continuing the venerable film tradition of the Zlín region and to getting it back on the film industry map,” says executive director of the Zlín Film Office Magdaléna Hladká. “There are so many interesting and incredibly nice people working in film here, and in the studios themselves you can still feel the sense of ‘genius loci’. You won’t experience that anywhere else. And as a ‘Baťa-ite’, I'm especially thrilled that I can help continue the vision of the Baťa brothers, the founders of the film tradition here in Zlín,” she adds.
The Zlín Film Office is responsible for the entire Zlín Region, which offers a wide variety of locations, from modern urban architecture and industrial complexes to stupendous castles, colorful natural scenery, and folk architecture. The city of Zlín lies 300 km east of Prague, and the region itself, one of the smallest in the country, borders Slovakia. The strategic challenge of being located three hours’ drive from Prague is overcome by the abovestandard benefits, such as waiving shooting fees when filming in public areas or providing accommodation for location managers during scouting trips.
Of the 13 small and large projects that were carried out here in 2017 with the assistance of the Zlín Film Office, two are worthy of special mention. The two-part television period drama Maria Theresa, a unique Czech Slovak-Austrian-Hungarian coproduction for public television directed by Austrian Robert Dornhelm, spent 18 shooting days in the Zlín Region. “A one-hundred member crew filmed the late Baroque scenes from the life of the empress who was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dynasty that ruled Europe for three hundred years. We helped in particular with coordinating contacts with local municipal offices and the Archbishop’s chateau in Kroměříž, where many scenes were shot,” says Magdaléna Hladká of the role her office played.
The second project the Zlín Film Office is particularly proud of is The Smiles of Sad Men, a Czech bittersweet comedy, currently in post-production, that takes place in an alcohol detox clinic. Over the course of seven filming days in the Zlín Region, nearly all the film’s exterior scenes were shot and the film has a few local coproducers, including the city of Zlín itself. The film office arranged financial support for development as well as the production of the film.
“The Zlín Region offers three attractive forms of financial participation. The first is the regional-level Program for Support of Audiovisual Productin in the Zlín Region, which has CZK 10 million available to support projects in the pre-production, production, and postproduction phases. The city of Zlín founded its own film fund, intended primarily to support development of scripts based on the city’s history or present day. And for many years now, the Filmtalent Zlín Endowment Fund has supported students and beginning filmmakers,” says Hladká of the financial incentives available in Zlín.
Finally, the Zlín Film Office also helped found a project that’s unique in the Czech Republic: Film Towns. The project’s aim is to bring together and promote cities and towns in the region that are eager to support film crews — for example, by providing public locations free of charge, helping clean up trash from film shoots, and assisting with arrangements between the film crews and local police, firefighters, and medical services.
“They’re really quite progressive in the Zlín Region. In the year since their founding, they’ve accomplished a great deal,” says Ludmila Claussová, head of the Czech Film Commission, on the regional office’s activities. “As the national film commission, we stood behind its founding, and it was clear from the start they wouldn’t have it easy in Zlín, since most producers tend to film close to Prague. The significant economic benefits brought by hosting larger film crews seems to make incentives such as waiving some location fees worthwhile, and we can see by the projects that have taken place in the Zlín Region in 2017 that this approach is paying off,” she adds.
“Within five years we want to be one of the top three film regions in the Czech Republic. This represents a commitment to our predecessors, who took the Zlín film industry to the very top in their day,” concluded Hladká.
There are currently nine regional film offices in the Czech Republic, all of them established with the assistance of the Czech Film Commission. One of the most active is the Liberec office, which is proving how important it is for filmmakers to cooperate with people who know the region. It was this approach that led the Liberec Film Office to be honored with the “Film Friendly” award last year.
“Each year, in cooperation with the Audiovisual Producers’ Association, the CzechTourism agency, and location managers, we acknowledge one regional office. The decision is always a difficult one, but it goes to the office that handles their mission most efficiently: actively communicating with filmmakers, connecting them with local service providers and governmental agencies, and maintaining contact with local residents and communicating the benefits of audiovisual production for their areas,” says Nela Cajthamlová of the Czech Film Commission, which as of this year is part of the Czech Film Fund.
Liberec, a north Bohemian city about an hour’s drive from Prague, has a colorful history, with the former German population having left a strong mark on the local architecture. In the 19th century, there were some 50 textile factories here, as well as the RAF automobile plant. This period gave rise to the sumptuous mansions of industrialists, monumental religious structures, and urban development, all surrounded by romantic natural environs.
Albert Einstein and Milada Horáková
The local film office has been in operation since 2015 as part of the municipal government, working with film crews from not only the Czech Republic, but also the US, China, and Germany. Scenes from Genius, the National Geographic series about Albert Einstein, were shot in Liberec. Pavlína Sacherová, head of the Liberec Film Office, describes how it played out: “We set up quick and effective communications for them in every direction — with the municipal authorities and institutions, the public, and reporters. Most of the episodes were shot here, with a lot of technical scouting in advance, so it was important to harmonize the city’s normal operations with the shooting schedule. We also helped get permits for all the complex street closures and public transport detours.”
She adds, “It was also our job to communicate with the public, to avoid any complications. We also kept a strict eye on the urban shoots, to keep interference with the residents to a minimum. All in all, working with the filmmakers involved a lot of tasks, large and small, that bore fruit in the end. When director and producer Ron Howard met the city mayor, he praised Liberec, saying it could be compared to major film offices abroad.”
Sacherová says it’s easy to explain why filmmakers work so well in Liberec: a film friendly mayor, a flexible municipal government, and obliging inhabitants.
Last year, the office also assisted in shooting for the biographical film Milada about Milada Horáková, a Czech member of Parliament sentenced to death during the Communist show trials of the 1950s. The filmmakers selected a ceremonial hall and corridors of the Liberec City Hall for the film.
“It wasn’t a large scale shoot, but we had a hard time finding available dates,” Sacherová says. “At that point, the winter shoot for Genius was in full swing, and they were using the ceremonial hall as Albert Einstein’s lecture hall. What’s more, the filming coincided with the Christmas holidays, so there were also Advent concerts in the hall. But the film was very important to us, so we found a way to work it out, and the ceremonial hall appears in the film as the room in Parliament where Milada Horáková delivers her speech.”
A Theater for Bertolt Brecht
Recently, the film office worked with a TV docudrama on Bertolt Brecht for the German station ARD. The F. X. Šalda Theater in Liberec was the only one to meet the production’s demanding historical criteria, and plays the part of no less than five different theaters in the film. The icing on the cake was shooting the exterior winter scenes in a sweltering July and closing down a busy intersection in the city center, which made preparations truly intense.
Working with filmmakers is not the only domain of the film office, though. Equally important is the office’s role as gobetween with local residents. In Liberec, for example, they organize popular film tours of City Hall, and provide information on any obstructions if film crews are working or parking in public areas. The office also stays in touch with several Liberec groups that work with disabled people, informing them in advance of any closures or changes in public transport.
The success of the Liberec Film Office is also evident in its public image. Sacherová explains how important this is to her office’s activities: “It’s not only about the media giving locals the hottest news on the stars filming here. Feedback is extremely important to us. When people read that filmmakers had a good experience shooting here and liked our region, that it left a good taste in their mouths and they’d like to return, you tell me, is there anything nicer you could hear?”
In spite of its small size, the Czech Republic offers filmmakers an unparalleled range of locations and architecture. In the six hours it takes to drive across the country from west to east, you find textbook examples of European architecture, from its beginnings in the Romanesque period all the way up to the most contemporary works in glass and steel.
You also find a stunning variety of gorgeous natural scenery: mountains, ravines, valleys, waterfalls, lakes, forests, plains, rivers and more. Add to that the variability of four distinct seasons and it’s easy to see why filmmakers love coming here so much.
“The Czech Film Commission has been promoting the country as an attractive filmmaking destination for over a decade now. Unlike most other countries, where the film offices were initially established in regions and towns, here in the Czech Republic the national Czech Film Commission was established first — in 2004 — and close connections with the regions were sorely missing,” explains film commissioner Ludmila Claussová.
“That’s why we took the initiative seven or eight years ago and started talks with the regional authorities. We explained the benefits, offered advice on how to attract filmmakers, how to establish cooperation, what services to offer, and how to market their locations.”
The first regional film office was established in late 2011, in Ostrava; the ninth, just a few months ago, in the Moravian capital of Brno. The Czech Film Commission was the driving force behind the founding of all nine regional film offices, and works with them on a daily basis.
The Karlovy Vary Region: Film-Friendly and Looking Forward
One of the most active regional film offices is the one in Karlovy Vary, established in 2012 as part of the Karlovy Vary Region’s tourism department. In 2015, it received the Film Friendly Region award, a joint initiative of the Czech Film Commission, the Audiovisual Producers’ Association and CzechTourism. We caught up with Petr Židlický, who heads the Karlovy Vary Region Film Office.
How would you describe your region?
The Karlovy Vary region in western Bohemia is famous for its spa towns and as home of the renowned Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. It offers a unique blend of luxury hotels, spas, well-preserved historical buildings and monuments, as well as abandoned industrial complexes and dour mountain scenery.
What interesting projects have you worked on recently?
Our most recent accomplishment was our involvement with Josef Tuka’s film The Absence of Closeness. Almost the entire film was shot on location in the Karlovy Vary region, and I was delighted to hear that the director said it would have been tough to make without our help.
How well did you and the crew work together?
We clicked right from the first time we met. They already had locations picked out, but with some there were problems getting access, so our main role was to act as intermediary between the filmmakers and the locations’ owners. We arranged everything and got whatever the crew needed. The fact that it was a low-budget film made no difference to us. If anything, it just made us more eager to help.
Are you getting any feedback from people in the region? How do they feel about having film shoots going on?
A good, professional film office should work closely with the public and understand their needs. Obviously, a film crew, especially in a small town, causes a commotion and upsets the daily routine, so we had to learn how to communicate with people and explain the benefits — not just economic, but also in terms of tourism and publicity for the region. And it worked. Now, people usually get used to film crews pretty quickly, and they’re absolutely fine with it, as the filmmakers themselves have told us.
What has been the biggest film shoot in your region to date, and how do you feel about it looking back: What did it bring to your region?
The most famous films shot in our region have been Shanghai Knights, Last Holiday with Queen Latifah, and the James Bond film Casino Royale. These were made before the regional film office came into existence, though. Casino Royale was the impetus for a tour of locations used in the film, in Karlovy Vary and Loket, and the Grandhotel Pupp still offers a package called “In the Footsteps of 007.”
And the biggest film or television success since your office was established?
Definitely Rapl (Madman), the detective series produced by Czech Television. It was shot in our region in 2015 and aired in fall 2016. The show had excellent ratings and got praise from critics and audiences alike. It was also very visually appealing. The locations were almost like a character in the story, which gave a glimpse into some of the region’s lesser-known corners. This tourist season, we’re organizing a new program called “Has Travel Madness Got to You? Follow in the Footsteps of Detective Kuneš,” which should stimulate interest in visiting the region and exploring sites connected with the series. Besides that, we’re in talks with Czech Television again, and things are coming together for the second season now.