PRAGUE – Hollywood flocked to central Europe during the pandemic when film producers were allowed to run cameras there, making the region an irresistible draw to streaming giants captivated by castles and tax breaks.
Now, however, some production companies may have bit more than they can chew as the region, one of the world’s biggest hubs, has seen a record leap in the new film and entertainment industry. television in the United States to about $ 1 billion (S $ 325 million) this year. .
Like many peers around the world, they are struggling to find enough qualified staff to keep pace with the huge appetites of customers like Netflix, Amazon and Apple who compete to deliver new content and meet supercharged consumer demand. by blockages across the world.
Even Hungary’s leading studios Korda, an industry giant with one of the world’s largest soundstages, told Reuters they were focusing on fewer shows and movies to maintain quality. And he had to find imaginative ways to do more with less.
“Set directors and designers need to be smarter about shooting angles,” said managing director Gyorgy Rajnai. “Now we are building a house with three sides instead of four. We save resources, time and people. “
Korda also imports film crews and set construction from countries like Slovakia, Romania and Croatia, he said.
Other production companies hire less experienced staff and in some cases refuse new work altogether, according to interviews with several executives and workers in the industry.
“Either we can get the crew back or we say no to the project. It’s a green light or a red light,” Rajnai added. “It’s the bottleneck in the industry.”
The challenges in the region, which recently hosted the epic sci-fi film Dune and Amazon’s fantasy series The Wheel of Time, reflect a shortage of skilled production workers across the globe from Hollywood to Queensland.
Jonathan Olsberg, executive chairman of London-based film industry consultancy Olsberg SPI, expects global production spending on feature films, TV series and documentaries to return to pre-pandemic levels of $ 177 billion dollars in 2022.
“This is a fundamental global problem and we will experience these shortages in the years to come,” he said.
Central Europe has also experienced skills shortages in many sectors for a long time. A tight labor market – the Czech rate of 2.8 percent is the lowest in Europe, for example – makes it difficult for some companies to find workers and specialties.
Pavlina Zipkova, head of the Czech Film Commission, said the skills shortage in the country’s film production industry was severe, although there were no specific estimates.
“There is pressure on national film commissions and film institutions as well as on local studios and film production companies,” Zipkova told Reuters.
Netflix, Amazon and Apple declined to comment on production staff shortages in the region and the possible consequences.
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Experienced crews, lower labor costs, and generous tax incentives have attracted filmmakers to the Czech Republic and Hungary over the past decade. The region now ranks as the second largest international film production center in Europe after Great Britain, with its rolling countryside landscape and castles ideal for historical and fantastic shows.
This year, investments in filming projects in Hungary and the Czech Republic are on track to surpass the record figures of 2019 (around $ 405 million and $ 512 million respectively), according to domestic industry officials.
One of the problems that small production companies face is that giant projects, like the $ 200 million Netflix action thriller Gray Man which recently ended in Prague, are sucking up a lot of local talent. according to people in the industry.
As a result, they compete for a limited pool of expertise.
At Prague-based Dazzle Pictures, whose credits include work for international films and content for Netflix and Amazon, chief executive Geoffrey Case said the post-production studio receives offers from potential clients around the world daily. seeking help to complete movies and TV series. shows.
This has created a situation where the amount of work on offer far exceeds what some companies can handle, especially as they push away competitors looking to add employees, he added.
“Most of the artists in our company have been approached by competing companies,” said Case, whose team focuses on high-end visual effects.
“They get offers all the time. There used to be respect for the competition. You weren’t just trying to poach people. But it’s constant now because people are desperate.”
Vojta Ruzicka, who has worked for almost 20 years as a logistics specialist on productions in Prague including Mission Impossible 4 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, said this has also created an opportunity for people looking to break into the industry or take it to the next level. the scale.
“If people are keeping their eyes open and wanting to work in the film industry, now is the right time,” he said.