Romancing Romania

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The rustic, beautiful country of Romania might be popular in the West for its vampire folklore but, in the East, the land has barely been explored, as far as films are concerned. Romania’s landscape has abundant forests that are perfect backdrops for thriller stories. Thanks to the old-world charm with green fields and restored castles, romantic films also have many options to choose from.

Romania borders Ukraine in the north, the Republic of Moldova and The Black Sea in the east, Bulgaria in the south and Hungary and Serbia in the west.

The South-Eastern European nation has been featured in many films across the globe. The Academy Award-winning war drama Cold War was shot in Romania in 2002, which saved the producers 20 million USD. Since then, the influx of film activity has made the country even more feasible for filmmakers around the world. A few from India, like Sohail Khan and Vikram Bhatt, have already taken advantage of Romania’s easy working culture having shot their respective films, Jai Ho and Raaz Reboot, here.

One of the important advantages of shooting in Romania is that permissions for almost all locations come with a very low fee. Furthermore, the system is much more flexible via-a-vis other European countries.

Several picturesque backdrops that are scattered across Europe can be collectively found in Romania. It has retained its historic value and is apt for films which have a period storyline or a plot based on the world wars. Natural scenery-wise, there are gorgeous green hills as well as snow-clad mountains, giving filmmakers an easily accessible and cost-effective taste of Austria and Switzerland. The country also has a strong urban side with modern architecture and skyscrapers.

Bucharest is the capital of Romania and also its largest city. Sitting on the banks of the Dambovita River, it is a mix of old meets new as it boasts medieval, neoclassical and art nouveau buildings dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. Amid its historic appeal is a city that never stops partying. From concerts to casinos, the capital shines bright on the Romanian map.

Climate

Romania’s temperate climate has four regular seasons. The country sees pleasant, cool days in spring, extended sunny days in summer, dry, cool and colourful autumn weather and cold winters with abundant snowfall.

The warmest month to shoot in Romania is July and the coldest January. While the Southern side enjoys a more balanced climate, the temperatures drop drastically towards the hills.

Permits

Permits are easy to acquire in Romania as special rules are not applied to foreigners. Filmmakers have to manage to take the permission of the owner or the authority who governs the location. For scenes that require shooting on streets, temporary traffic control will be needed and it will be necessary to request the help of the local district police. Permissions across the country usually do not take more than a week to be generated. In some cases, permission to shoot at a particular location is granted within 48 hours.

Non-Romanian citizens must apply for a visa according to the updated regulations through the nearest Romanian diplomatic office. No tax is enforced on arrival or departure. 

Equipment

The Romanian Film Promotion states that it is quite easy to rent all the standard camera and lighting equipment from Romania itself. The leader in this field, Panalight, offers a range of modern equipment and even has an office in Bucharest to be more accessible to filmmakers.

Crew

Castel Films and MediaPro Studios also offer a wide range of camera kits. They also have a number of talented cinematographers, designers, technicians, managers, etc., on their staff along with a growing list of freelance workers.

Along with this, several English, French and Italian speaking talents are available through casting agencies. They can be used as extras, supporting actors and crew members of the production team.

Tax Breaks

In Romania, no tax incentives are generated for foreign productions. The local industry has been lobbying for certain tax breaks but the government, who is looking into this area, is yet to have a legislation passed in this department. External invoices from Romania do not require VAT tax.

Low labour costs and location fees are strong bait from a financial point of view. Romania has also signed the European Union co-production treaty. There will be no major increases in shooting costs in Romania for the next three to four years. The recently increased costs in production in other Eastern European countries are due to the EU ascension of these countries.

When joining the EU, each country artificially increased the average salary of state-owned companies and put pressure on private sector salaries. This will not happen in Romania, where the average state salary is 300 Euro and average private sector salary starts at 500 Euro.

Shooting in Romania cuts down the budget of North American, Western European and big Asian productions by 30-50 per cent, without lowering the quality of the end product.

Getting There

Travelling to Romania is hassle-free. Direct and stop-over flights are both available, although options under the latter are more. Several airlines like Qatar Airways, Jet Airways, Turkish Airlines, Fly Dubai, etc run regularly from Mumbai and Delhi to Bucharest with stopovers at Dubai, Amsterdam, Doha and London. The average cost of a return ticket is around Rs 45,000.

Travelling inside the country offers many options. Apart from flying to required destinations, train travel can also be experienced. Romania’s well-developed railway network covers almost the whole country and makes trains one of the most popular modes of transport, especially as they are usually inexpensive and on time.

Private and public bus companies offer many travel packages too. It is a fast and cost-effective way to get from one city to another in Romania. Car rental services are also very popular where you can drive to your exact destination in your own time, exploring more remote areas.

Bhakti Mehta
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As on 17th November, 2017
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