Snow, fog, abandoned psychiatric hospitals and inspiring silver-birch forests that run on for miles are all on offer in Estonia. The northern European country borders the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Finland and is a short ferry trip from Finland and Sweden. It is also just a road trip from major European cities including Warsaw and Berlin. St Petersburg in Russia is an overnight train from Estonia’s capital city Tallinn.
Author - Stuart Kemp
Cut in half by the Danube river, Budapest, the capital of land-locked Hungary, plays host to medieval castles, neoclassical buildings along Andrassy Avenue, the 19th-century Chain Bridge and Turkish and Roman influences obvious in its mineral spa sites. Hungary also lays claim to the world’s first official wine region (take that, France), the largest lake in central Europe, at nearly 600 sq km, and there are still cowboys on the country’s Vaste Puszta (Great Plain). The 90,000 sq km country is also covered by more than 20,000 sq km of forest.
Bog is not often top of a location scout’s list of must-haves. But if that particular topography is required, Latvia is the country that offers soggy surfaces in abundance. The Baltic state is 10% bog or, more fashionably perhaps, marshland.
Namibia shares 967km of its 3,936km long border with South Africa, a neighbour firmly on international filmmakers’ production and locations radar. The relative proximity to South Africa, political stability and Namibia’s extraordinary landscape, flora and fauna are all factors in the country’s growing presence on the locations map.
Poland offers filmmakers myriad location opportunities, from mountains to beaches, a lake district, castles, palaces and spas, formal gardens and cities packed with architectural gems, modern and historic. But although it has a global reputation for top technicians, studio facilities and competitive pricing, it has lacked a formal incentive scheme to attract international productions. That is about to change as the government prepares to rubberstamp a 25% rebate on qualifying Polish spend this year for incoming productions working with a local partner.
The arrival of Marvel/Disney’s $400m Avengers: Infinity War for more than two months location work in Edinburgh in March shows Scotland is firmly on the map. And filming the Scottish capital as itself indicates Hollywood producers are familiar with the country beyond its hills, glens and other postcard portrayals.
Over the past five years, South Africa has become a popular destination for Hollywood blockbusters, high-end TV series and independent film productions. They are drawn by the ability to make a production for about half of what it would cost in California, thanks to favourable exchange rates on the rand against the US dollar, euro and British pound. South Africa also has generous, government-backed, sliding-scale tax rebates.
Switzerland is a dream for location scouts. It offers everything from famous Alpine vistas of mountains and lakes to medieval towns and castles, as well as modern cities where the old and the new rub shoulders.