International Film production is restarting in the Czech Republic, as the restrictions to counter the spread of coronavirus have been relaxed.
Productions that were forced to interrupt their shoots include season two of Legendary Entertainment/Amazon’s Carnival Row with Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevigne, the first season of Amazon’s fantasy series Wheel of Time starring Rosamunde Pike, Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and the Netflix film 473 Transatlantic.
In addition, domestic television, film and advertisement production can continue, as some limited filming did take place even during the restrictions.
Production company Stillking, which is involved with Carnival Row and other productions, has an up-to-date list of rules applying to production and travel on their website.
Czech Culture Minister Lubomír Zaorálek (ČSSD) said film production, as a significant part of the cultural and creative industry, is essentially a type of manufacturing and an independent sector. “The severe restrictions were a result of necessary measures that the Czech Republic was forced to adopt, affecting all areas of society,” he said in a press release.
These restrictions, which began March 12 and later expanded, at their strictest forbid gatherings of more than two people, and required a face covering at work places and two meters of social distance. This made filming impossible.
As of May 1, actors and performers are exempt from wearing a mask while working. Medical tests are required every 14 days.
The Czech film industry has been the first in Europe to adopt coronavirus measures for filming. These were prepared by the Audiovisual Producers´ Association in cooperation with the Czech Film Fund and the European Institute for Health and Safety in Film Industry. Their application has been recommended by the Czech Health Ministry.
“Adherence to these recommendations, including testing actors every 14 days during production and, of course, maintaining sanitation standards on location and in studios, will reduce the possibility of infection to an absolute minimum,” Czech film commissioner Pavlína Žipková said.
Foreign actors arriving in the Czech Republic will not have to undergo quarantine, but will have to take additional tests for COVID-19.
“[The rules] also apply to cross-border transport – foreign actors and crew members must show a negative test when leaving their country, a measure that, according to the latest reports, airlines will also begin to require for all their passengers. Within 72 hours of arrival, they will undergo a second test, and remain quarantined until they receive a negative result. The result is usually received the next day. In this way they can avoid the 14-day quarantine, which would severely impact film budgets,” Žipková said.
The country’s borders reopened April 27 for business travel for citizens of the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and the United Kingdom, and some airlines are restarting flights.
Czech Film Fund director Helena Bezděk Fraňková said that three-quarters of audiovisual productions in the Czech Republic stopped in March. “In full compliance with the Ministry of Health, filmmakers are no longer affected by measures restricting cultural and sporting events and large gatherings. We therefore consider audiovisual production to be resumed,” Bezděk Fraňková said.
“Even during the state of emergency, however, the incentive program ran without interruption, the Czech Film Fund continued to register audiovisual projects, and payment of incentives was not delayed for those projects where all conditions stipulated by law were met,” she added.
Culture Minister Zaorálek pointed out that the incentive system, which has been operating in the Czech Republic since 2010, is an important economic tool for attracting foreign investment.
“It should be emphasized that within the creative and cultural industries, audiovisual production holds a strong and exceptional position, primarily due to its financial contribution to non-cultural industries, which account for up to 60% of individual film budgets. Specifically, these are small and medium-sized companies. That is why it is really crucial for the Czech economy that audiovisual production starts up again,” he said.
U.S. Ambassador Stephen B. King commented on the importance of reviving film production in the Czech Republic: “With its beautiful castles, iconic landscapes, and talented support capabilities, the Czech Republic has always been an attractive film destination for Hollywood. While this crisis has rocked the industry, I am glad that we can start looking to the future and continue this cooperation, the roots of which film historians have traced to the late 1800s. I look forward to welcoming back our filmmakers, actors, and crews,” he said.
While the country’s main film studios such as Barrandov and Prague Studios are in the capital, production takes place across the Czech Republic, which offers diverse locations that can double for anything from medieval villages to sci-fi settings.
Recent films shot in the Czech Republic include the satirical war film Jojo Rabbit, which won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Spider-Man: Far From Home, which garnered several awards for actors Tom Holland and Zendaya. The superhero film Bloodshot, starring Vin Diesel, was partly shot in Prague and is currently in Czech movie theaters.
The release of the DC comics universe film Wonder Woman 1984, partly filmed in Prague, was pushed back to August due to theaters being closed around the world. The action costume drama Medieval, also called Jan Žižka, which filmed on Czech locations in 2018, is currently scheduled for release in February 2021.
International film production in Prague took off after the success of the first installment of the Mission Impossible franchise in 1996.