When Samuel L Jackson came to shoot Big Game in Munich in the German region of Bavaria in 2013, he made sure to visit Oktoberfest and sample some famous German beers.
“For him, Oktoberfest was unforgettable, really fun,” says Anja Metzger, head of FFF Film Commission Bayern, a division of FFF Bayern, the Bavarian film and television fund. But she knows beer and lederhosen alone are not enough to attract film production to the Bayern region.
“Money makes the world go round. International producers go where the money comes from,” she says.
There are plenty of financial incentives to bring those producers to Bavaria. FFF Bayern is Germany’s second-largest regional fund with an annual budget of $36m (€32m). International producers working with local co-producers can apply to this fund. Also, international projects set up as official German co-productions can access further funding via a repayable loan from FFF Bayern’s $3.3m (€3m) programme for international co-production. There is further financing available for projects that carry out their VFX work in the region, while producers can also access support at a national level from the German Federal Film Fund.
If the fiscal incentives are plentiful, so are the locations. This is a land of castles, lakes and the nearby Alps, which have all attracted international shoots including Dexter Fletcher’s Eddie The Eagle and Werner Herzog’s Salt And Fire, plus high-profile German titles such as Oliver Hirschbiegel’s 13 Minutes and Bora Dagtekin’s Suck Me Shakespeer.
International shoots in 2016 include Rupert Everett’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince and Motion Picture Capital’s UK-Germany thriller The Jester, starring Peter Dinklage and Tom Waits.
German actor-director Matthias Schweighöfer takes drama series Wanted for Amazon Prime to Bavaria, and Netflix is working on German-language drama Dark.
Bayern sets the pace
Film Commission Bayern was the first of its kind in Germany when it launched in 1989. Since the start of 2016, the local government has its own film office that focuses on helping productions coming to Bavaria. “This makes it much easier to handle all the applications for shooting permits,” says Metzger.
Bavaria Film’s Bavaria Studios is steeped in history. Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder and Max Ophüls have all shot films there, and in recent years the studio has been employed by TV productions. Oliver Stone used the facility for his Edward Snowden biopic, Snowden. There have also been occasions, for example 2010’s The Three Musketeers, that saw Bavaria partner with Studio Babelsberg, located just outside Berlin, to cater to big international productions. The region’s crews all speak English and many also speak French.
Bavaria doubled for the French countryside in The Three Musketeers, and Venice and the Louvre were also recreated in the region for the film. For Snowden, Stone used locations in Bavaria to stand in for Hong Kong, Moscow, Virginia and Geneva. The production closed down roads and streets in Munich and transformed the area into Switzerland, circa 2003. While Munich itself did not double for the seething exterior streets of Hong Kong, Stone shot the crucial hotel scenes — in which the young whistleblower was hiding from the CIA and the media — in the city. “We have a really wide range of locations,” Metzger says.
While international production brings investment to the region and creates jobs, it also foregrounds Bavaria’s attractions as a tourist destination and somewhere to do business. Filmkulisse Bayern is a joint venture between the Bayern Tourism and Marketing Board and Film Commission Bayern, created to take advantage of the interest.
“Once we have a production in the region, we educate the tourism department as to what they can do afterwards,” Metzger explains.
The Bavarian authorities will help foreign film-makers secure deals on hotel accommodation and introduce them to suitable co-production partners.