Hawaii Film Blog

Monday, October 03, 2005

Romania: Hollywood (Way) East

Bon Voyage, Hollywood. (Source: L.A. Times)

Until Romania joins the European Union in 2007, making movies there will continue to be dirt cheap, attracting producers who are always looking to reduce the bottom line.

The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that although the Eastern European nation is still riddled with poverty, film producers have been flocking there for the cheap labor, particularly after "Cold Mountain" shot there: "For the big studios, making movies overseas is no different than Nike stitching shoes in Vietnam."

Whereas a driver in L.A. could make as much as $470 a day, a driver in Romania could be paid as low as $9.52 a day. And extras can be gotten for the rockbottom price of $16 a day. Despite what may be obvious exploitation to us, Romanian workers are happy to make more as camera assistants, grips, and make-up artists, than they ever hoped to make as doctors and economists. Some of them are in fact quitting school to partake in the "economic development" spurred by Hollywood production.

"Cold Mountain" saved $20 million by shooting in Romania. In addition to cheap labor, the country offers "pristine rural landscapes, Paris-like cityscapes and an almost endless pool of Caucasian extras who blend easily into the background of Hollywood's very white movie world." And, another unspoken advantage is that there are no unions breathing down the necks of producers about working conditions, a fact which often presents dangerous situations like poorly rigged lights and poorly grounded electric lines.

For advantages like that, producers don't mind that it takes a day to get to Romania from L.A., that basic equipment is often unavailable, that shipments may be delayed in customs, and that there are no luxury accomodations for stars. But, anticipating Romania's entry into the E.U. in two years, producers are already eyeing other money-saving locations like Morocco, China, Bulgaria, India, and Turkey.

Domestic film unions and workers are feeling the pinch. Much like Detroit car workers protested against the decimation of the domestic workforce by cheap overseas labor, domestic film workers are up in arms about their own loss of employment. Many are trying to pass state-based film incentive legislation to keep production at home. Such legislation was working for Louisiana until Hurricane Katrina hit. Now California is trying to get an incentive bill passed, but chances for that happening are slim. How will California and other states (and their workers) fare? We'll have to wait and see...

>> Filmmakers Are Swept Away by Romania [L.A. Times, 10/2/05]

>> Hey, Whatever's Cheapest
>> Incentive Mania
>> Katrina Devastates Hollywood South
>> Goin' Back to Cali
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