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Czech Republic and Hungary exempt U.S. film crews from EU travel ban

Prague, Czech Republic – Czech Republic and Hungary, along with other European countries, have moved to exempt U.S. film and TV crews from the EU travel ban in a bid to restart production as soon as possible.

EU opens up to selected third-country nationals, maintains travel ban for U.S. citizens

The EU, which closed its external borders back in March to stem the spread of coronavirus, has allowed citizens from 14 non-member countries to travel to the bloc as of July 1 in an attempt to save the tourism and travel industries, heavily impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Countries from the “safe” travel list include Serbia, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Rwanda, Canada, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. The U.S., along with Brazil and Russia, have been excluded due to the scope of the coronavirus epidemic.

The EU’s decision is not legally binding however, and a number of EU member states have drawn up their own “safe” travel list. Hungary, for instance, still bars non-EU citizens from entering the country, except for Serbians, while the Czech Republic narrowed down the original EU list to 8 countries.

In order to allow U.S. audiovisual productions to resume as early as possible, several countries, including the Czech Republic and Hungary, have exempted American film and TV crews from the travel ban – meaning they will be able to cross the borders and resume shootings interrupted by the pandemic and lockdown.

Czech Republic allows U.S. productions to resume

“Czech Republic welcomes filmmakers from the US”, said Pavlina Zipkova, head of the Czech Film Commission. “In relation to the EU declaring a travel ban on the U.S., please let me assure you this is not valid for the economic workers but tourism travelers only. Filmmakers of all nations are welcome in the Czech Republic”, she explained in a note sent to Hollywood-based studios.

International film crews will still have to procure themselves with all the necessary documents, including employment of a local production partner, to enter Czech territory and resume production.

Amazon Prime’s The Wheel of Time and Carnival Row, along with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Marvel series are among the high-profile productions that should soon be able to re-start shooting in the country, while others might relocate their production to the Czech Republic, widely recognized for its success in containing the pandemic but whose local film production has faced a major crisis since the start of the lockdown.

“I’ve received more than a few calls from studios and producers looking to relocate their productions to one of our European bases in Prague, Budapest and Bucharest,” said David Minkowski, a local producer cooperating with the Amazon and Marvel shows. “They are looking for safe havens from [what would otherwise be] hot spots in the U.S. and also certain European countries”.

With major U.S. streaming platforms like Amazon Prime and Netflix flocking to the Czech Republic, foreign productions generated record revenues in 2019.

With U.S. cases soaring, studios and filmmakers look to Europe despite EU travel ban

As the number of daily new cases continue to surge in the U.S., producers are getting increasingly anxious to restart production, even if it means finding new shooting destinations.

Speaking anonymously to Variety, a senior executive at a major U.S. production company said: “Obviously, from the studio’s perspective, from a bunch of people who are looking at their quarterly numbers and not going to be on set, there’s a tremendous desire of ‘We’ve got to go go go go go.'”

Before adding: “Your natural bent as a producer is, like, ‘Great, let’s go!’ We want to get stuff going. But, you know, I think the producers, and certainly the filmmakers and the actors are all like, ‘OK, it’s all well and good to have these hypothetical ideas, but safety is paramount.'”

As the sanitary situation remains uncertain in most parts of the U.S., EU states, especially Central and Eastern European countries who for the most part managed to contain the spread of the virus early on, now appear more attractive than ever for American and foreign film crews.

Hungary and other CEE countries also welcome U.S. film and TV crews

Hungary, which will serve among others as the backdrop for scenes from Denis Villeneuve highly-anticipated Dune, was also quick to reassure U.S. and foreign cinema crews that they could enter the territory despite the EU travel ban.

“Now that the state of emergency has ended, restrictive measures have been eased and the travel restrictions are continually being lifted”, said the Hungarian government’s film commissioner Csaba Káel. “Special exemption can be granted for non-EU residents to enter Hungary without mandatory quarantine, international projects are being prepared, making it possible to restart production at full capacity”.

Last year, more than 300 productions were shot in Hungary, including over 80 foreign projects and approximately 230 Hungarian productions.

Hungary has long been one of the most attractive destinations for foreign film productions in Europe.

Other CEE countries, including Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Estonia, have taken similar steps, although film crews will have to adhere to the coronavirus health and safety guidelines and restrictions in effect in every individual country.

Other EU member states have not explicitly barred entry to U.S. film and TV crews, who would have to check on a case-by-case basis whether they would qualify as key economic activities allowed in the country outside of tourism and leisure trips.

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