Opinion: Why CEE is in the spotlight now more than ever

Martin Kaše

Central and Eastern Europe has found itself at the centre of an event-laden schedule this month and it is clear why interest in the region is peaking so much, says Big Media’s co-founder Martin Kaše.

As two media conferences go head-to-head in Budapest this month – Content Budapest and NATPE Budapest – those of us in the international media business are deciding which to attend.

Just a couple of weeks apart, each is hoping to be able to claim dominance by the end of June, but no matter which one draws more attendees, I think the clear ‘winner’ is obvious: Central and Eastern Europe!

The Witcher

Production gold mine

CEE has long been recognised for its talent base and the quality and quantity of outstanding TV and film being produced in the region, but with two big conference organisers vying for position to attract the best and the brightest, it seems that more people in the international TV business are focusing on the exceptional opportunities to produce series there.

This includes CEE’s wide variety of landscapes for on-location shoots and top-notch post-production facilities.

The recognition of CEE as a goldmine for production talent has been a decade or so in the making. In fact, not only have we seen great local editors, colorists and other skilled workers get more and more work from international studios, but there are also more post-production talent from the UK, US, Germany and Spain settling in places like Prague, Bratislava and Budapest where jobs are plentiful and the cost of living is more economical.

Czechia is a favorite of film producers looking to secure high-quality, post-production services at favorable price. Director Guy Ritchie used post-production house MagicLab, which has facilities in Prague, Warsaw and Slovakia, for the visual effects on two of his films: Wrath Of Man and Aladdin.

Meanwhile, Hungary has been the location of a number of international horror films and series, including the very popular Witcher series and the films Don’t Breathe, Underworld and World War Z. Other Eastern European countries – especially Slovakia and Romania – are also becoming sought-after production and location hubs thanks to their attractive tax rebate programs.

Big Media has had production offices in Prague for the last 12 years. We’ve grown our full-time staff to over 90 people, with 25 of those being focused on recreations and re-enactments.

Producing a lot of popular military and historical documentaries, we often rely on re-enactments to tell stories of what happened in the past and have found the level of talent to film and produce these to be outstanding.

In fact, one of our co-pro partners for our series CIA vs Bin Laden commented that the reenactments were the best they had ever seen. And during the pandemic, our company worked with several major studios on reenactments for their popular true crime series, which helped fuel further interest in our services last year and this year.

CIA vs Bin Laden

Local talent investment

While the influx of talent from the US and Europe into CEE has been a big factor in driving the TV business in the region, the fact that there are a number of excellent schools in the region that focus on training the next generation of film and television production and performing artists cannot be overlooked.

The Prague Film Institute and the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague are just a couple of examples.

As the TV and film production business continues to mature and grow throughout CEE, look for more media companies to establish production hubs and field offices in the region.

Especially now that our industry seems to be in a constant state of change, and opportunities coming as quickly as the challenges, those in the production business need to be looking to places like CEE that can provide the talent, resources and locations needed at a price that is considerably less than that associated with the top media centers of the world – LA, New York, London, Paris, etc.

Over the years, we have found working in the region gives us a competitive advantage – and from which our international co-production partners and broadcast clients benefit.

No matter if you are attending the well-established NATPE Budapest market, or are planning on being at the inaugural Content Budapest market, it is certain that you’ll find that CEE is not only a great place to buy and sell international content, but also an excellent place for the production industry to do business year round.

Martin Kaše is co-founder & global head of production at Big Media, an international production and distribution company with offices in Prague, New York, Munich, Miami, Delhi, Warsaw and London.

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