In the previous part, Gábor Rajna talked about the ASTRA film studio’s expansion plans, and now he talks about the environmental protection of the studio and the new COVID-friendly terraced design.
You can read the first part here.
BpR: In the studio under construction, is the focus more on built or virtual sets?
GR: There’s a part of this area that’s relatively this secluded, quiet, big place, where all these backlots, exterior, built sets, New York, London, Auschwitz, are being built.
We’ve got an idea about that, we’ve come up with the technology. The idea is that if a film builds a set like this, it’s very good, but the only problem is that if the film builds a set like this with its own money, it’s perfectly normal for it to build it to such a high quality that it shoots in it for six months, but then if it collapses in five days or breaks down in a month, they’re not interested at all.
Logically, because they needed it for one film. We, on the other hand, have another theory, even if it’s pre-built, but with different technology and a different method, to create opportunities for foreign crews that, like I said with the airplane pool or the water pool.
It has to be a timeless, very high-quality thing. After all, if the production itself is doing it then it’s not going to have any regard for how good it would be to keep it because it’s not in their interest.
BpR: This is not negligible from an environmental point of view, have you paid special attention to this?
GR: Indeed, in the film industry there is an increasing focus on all kinds of environmentally conscious investments and I’m not saying that in the current situation, but the future it could be an important consideration of how environmentally conscious a studio is if you have to choose.
BpR: Also, does Astra have other environmental efforts?
GR: We have a green team that we are in constant contact with, and we are already looking at the design of the building, which when it is operational will need to reflect an environmentally conscious approach. This is certainly a good point with the Americans.
We are looking at solar energy, we are going to start using solar panels soon, we are looking at large green areas in the Astra Filmland area, which is not a nuisance or a burden because I think that a studio should look so that if anybody moves in for a year, they will feel comfortable. It has an important psychological effect, and you feel much better if you have a bit of green around you.
BpR: Speaking of design, how did you make use of the land?
GR: There’s another aspect that’s very interesting here in Mogyoród, the h3 phase 4 is in the planning stage, hopefully, phase 3 phase 4 can open by the end of September next year if all goes well. This is already on the extra land that the investors have bought. There’s a feature of the site that’s very good, it’s a hillside that will have terraces and basically, every terrace is a production terrace so within that you’ll have the studio, the office, the storage, the parking and everything you need.
There are bigger terraces and smaller terraces, bigger terraces with bigger studios, more studios, more storage, smaller terraces with a little bit less of everything.
We are hoping that there is a production that wants to come to Hungary, for example, and then you can choose your production terrace according to what your needs are.
BpR: What are the other advantages of this terraced design?
GR: Now why is this very exciting nowadays, we are hopefully out of the covid period, but I think that this uncertainty, this fear, will remain in people. So the fact that we can create terraces in this area, and that there are access roads to the terraces on the sides, so that if a production rents one, it can close it off with two barriers, and from then on no one else can enter except the production’s crew.
In the current situation, this will be a very good feature of this filmland. These days there is an incredibly strict protocol for such films, and this terrace system will make it much easier to comply.
BpR: Will this level of studio development keep the industry going?
GR: The problem is that in Hungary there are various plans to build studios, Mafilm is building, and studios are being built in Budakalász, but we can only fill them if we have the right amount of qualified staff. The film institute has a training program, which is very cool, but training is always a tough job because you have to spend a lot of time on it, you pay very little money for it, you have to give the best professionally, you have to train the best people.
We think it is very important that within Filmland, hopefully in cooperation with the Film Institute, there will be training courses that will serve to train extra crew members who can jump into these productions in the shortest possible time and to the highest possible standard.
We developed a concept for this a year ago, which is of a very high standard and certainly, so it’s important to mention that the importance of training and education, which we pay a lot of attention to, is just not the responsibility of a studio.
BpR: Is that why you want the government to get involved?
GR: That’s why we would like all the other players in the market to get involved, it’s a totally common interest, it’s in everybody’s interest that we need people, we need professionals.
For these productions to come here in a way that we can give them not only all the capacity but also trained professionals.
This is an export activity in Hungary because foreign money is coming into the country. It is very important for the country’s image, beyond job creation, beyond the significant amount of GDP. To show that we have an industry in which we are a leader in Europe.
BpR: How do you see film production in Hungary developing in the future?
GR: It was Andy Vajna who laid the foundations that we now have to continue to build on.
It’s a conceptual idea, there are already many existing studios, Origo, Korda, Mafilm, Stern, Astra, you have to understand that all film production investments in Hungary, whether it’s new studios, in my belief, are not competing with each other at all, but as a street of cafes, if another one opens, there is no less of one, but rather you end up with a cafe party place where everyone who is there fills it up.
It’s very important to make sure that there is no competition, no battle, no contest, and that all these separate objects if we’re talking about the studios, will all have a job, the only question is whether someone can bring them together, and again I’m only thinking of the state’s involvement, and coordinate it, and whether these participants can sit down at the same table, so that we can build and you can build, and let’s discuss the fact that we shouldn’t do two special things that are the same because they are unnecessary, but one should do one thing and the other.
These capacities will not be in competition with each other but will be added together, and an image will increasingly develop from Hungary as a country where all kinds of film-making opportunities are available.
It will not be a problem of too many studios, but rather a street of studios, Budapest will become a city of films.