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It’s a Hollywood set, it’s just taped in Hungary

The Martian, A Good Day to Die Hard, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Terminator 6 all have one unusual thing in common -- they were all filmed in Hungary. The Central European country has emerged as a top staging destination for Hollywood and streaming services, drawn to not just its beauty and cheaper crews but also a rebate for filmmaking investments. Christopher Livesay reports.

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  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    This could be Paris or Rome or Berlin or even New York. But in fact, this is Budapest, Hungary where more and more you see scenes like this. Everything from streaming series to big Hollywood blockbusters are being filmed in this city. A kind of Hollywood on the Danube. Remember the movie Inferno? Well there's Tom Hanks about to get kidnapped in Florence, except he's right near Budapest's famous Opera House. The list of big budget movies shot in Hungary is impressive: The Martian, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, 47 Ronin, World War Z, Atomic Blonde, A Good Day to Die Hard. And right now the buzz around town is about the hush, hush Terminator 6! Supposed to be secret but the star has been spotted on the streets of Budapest.

  • MAN:

    There's Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's riding his bike. (laughs)

  • MIHALY KOROM:

    You will find in this city any locations you may ever dream of within easy reach.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    Mihaly Korom is Head of Production Services for the Origo Film Group. One of two major new studios in Hungary. Korom says in this country of just 10 million people movie making has meant big money and lots of work opportunities.

  • MIHALY KOROM:

    It creates a lot of jobs. I would say today about 25,000 people is like in some way connected to the movie industry.

  • MAN:

    This is also an editing room.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    We took a tour with Origo's Marketing Director Mihály Tóth. He showed us what he called state-of-the-art screening and editing facilities.

  • MIHALY TOTH:

    This is the Baseline 8. Eight super-computers.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    How does this computer compare to the kind of technology they are using in Hollywood for instance.

  • MIHALY TOTH:

    It's actually the same.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    Origo has nine sound stages. Toth took us inside the biggest. Stage 6. It's more than 60 feet high and the size of two football fields. Scenes from Blade Runner 2049 were shot right here.

  • MIHALY TOTH:

    We are proud that really big productions came to Hungary. It's good for the economy. It's good for American movies because you can save some money. It's good for Hungarian filmmakers. It's good for everyone.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    The draw for filmmakers is not just the many experienced and professional crews, not just the large sound stages and beautiful locations. In a business where blockbuster films can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make, there's another incentive. Okay, so it's know-how. Sound stages.

  • MIHALY KOROM:

    It's rebate.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    The sound stages and then the rebate.

  • MIHALY KOROM:

    No rebate! That's the most important.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    Okay. (laughs)

  • MIHALY KOROM:

    You can have so many stages. If you have no rebate there are no clients.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    He's talking about tax rebates. The government began offering them at a rate of 20% to film companies in 2004. Recently it raised it to 30%. Can you explain to me how the rebates work?

  • MIHALY KOROM:

    Generally we can say if you bring 100 dollars here to make a movie and you get back 30 dollars from the government so your net investment is 70 instead of 100.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    There are also no trade unions here, which means film companies can pay lower wages. Korom says that while other countries offer tax incentives, Hungary has the edge.

  • MIHALY KOROM:

    Serbia is a good example. They put this rebate alive like last year in April or May if I remember correctly. It will take them at least 10 years to put altogether this. Build the stages, train the crews, and have external locations.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    And it's not just films. More and more, series like the period crime drama The Alienist that airs in the U.S. on TNT and around the world on Netflix call Budapest home.

  • ADAM GOODMAN:

    The range of projects that can be done here is pretty incredible.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    Adam Goodman is co-founder of the Budapest-based Mid Atlantic Films company which helped arrange for The Alienist's turn-of-the-century New York set to be built here.

  • ADAM GOODMAN:

    If I'm in a meeting and someone is talking about another project which has nothing to do with Hungary and it can be the most you know disconnected conversation, we can do that here. There's nothing we can't do.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    Budapest has proved a good place for American actor Nick Wittman. So how did American guy from Indiana wind up making movies in Hungary?

  • NICK WITTMAN:

    I was actually I was only going to be here for three days and that was 10 years ago.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    He plays small parts, but he gets star treatment here.

  • NICK WITTMAN:

    If I'm working on a film, they'll put me up with a chauffeur, they drive me to set, I get a trailer, I have an assistant.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    We met him near Parliament where he told us about his role in a long-running German crime series shot here called Alarm for Cobra 11.

  • NICK WITTMAN:

    And I'm basically a bank robber.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    Oh really?

  • NICK WITTMAN:

    Yeah I came out with Kalashnikovs and lit everything up. Kind of make a run for it. For some reason the FBI is in Budapest. I don't think they have jurisdiction here but they're here. We fight the FBI for a while. Run off that way. And I don't wanna, I can't, oh wait, yes this is gonna premier after the episode has already aired. Yeah, we get blown up over there.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    Wittman's also scored small roles in a couple of major films and more regular work in series like National Geographic's "Mars."

  • NICK WITTMAN:

    And yeah, I started as an extra. Became a stuntman, sort of as a fluke moved into acting and I'm just really grateful to have the opportunity. I mean I don't make much money but I have a really high quality of life that I wouldn't have in the United States.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    And although he'd like to maybe work in the U.S. someday, for now Wittman is happy to call Budapest home.

  • NICK WITTMAN:

    And I speak Hungarian fluently.

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    Give us an example

  • NICK WITTMAN:

    (Speaking in Hungarian)

  • CHRISTOPHER LIVESAY:

    What does that mean?

  • NICK WITTMAN:

    That means I love shooting films in Budapest.

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