Essential International Studios

Illustration: Antoine Corbineau

Where to find Forbidden Cities, Sistine Chapels and the clear horizon water tanks you need in the era of global production.

AUSTRALIA |  Adelaide Studios

Backstory: Adelaide Studios is Australia's newest studio complex, having formally opened in October. The purpose-built facility, owned by the state government and managed by the South Australian Film Corp. (SAFC) agency, aims to attract film and TV projects with budgets between $1 million and $30 million.

Location: Five minutes from Adelaide's central business district and a 20-minute drive from Adelaide International Airport (where you can catch a two-hour flight to Sydney), the studio hopes to get a leg up on the competition thanks to the region's mild climate, which allows for shooting year-round.

Facilities: Adelaide offers two key soundstages, a Dolby Premiere sound-mixing theater, ADR/Foley studio, a 96-seat screening venue and a full suite of production offices. Twenty-six production-related businesses are housed within the complex, including the SAFC.

Cost: The SAFC's free and confidential locations and production liaison service helps producers source locations, facilities and crew. The SAFC also can assist with costs, offering financial assistance on a case-by-case basis. South Australia offers an exemption on payroll tax for qualifying productions. Worth about 4.95 percent of crew wages, the exemption offers more cash-flow benefits than a rebate.

Recent Projects: The studio is expecting its first major production, a local television drama series, to move into soundstage two in several months. The local young-adult series Prank Patrol shot eight episodes on location in and around Adelaide this year and used the studio as its production base.

Testimonial: "The Foley studio performed flawlessly, the mixing theater was a joy, and the staff are world-class," says acclaimed Aussie director Rolf de Heer, who is doing the sound mix at Adelaide on his 2006 Cannes jury prize-winning drama Ten Canoes. "I can think of no better place than the new Adelaide Studios to do one's sound postproduction."

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BRAZIL | Quanta Studios

Backstory: Quanta Studios is the largest audiovisual rental complex in Brazil. Founded in 1979, Quanta has established itself as one of the region's main players in broadcasting, advertising and film production. Quanta also has affiliate locations in Rio de Janeiro and Paulinia.

Location: Quanta is located about six miles -- a 20-minute drive -- from downtown Sao Paulo and about 45 minutes from the International Airport of Guarulhos.

Facilities: The total area of the complex is slightly more than 25,833 square feet, which includes four main studios. The facility offers technical and professional infrastructure, including HD and film systems.

Cost: The daily price for Studio 1 -- the largest at nearly 14,000 square feet -- is approximately $7,000 per day.

Recent Projects: Fast Five, The Clown, Blindness.

Testimonial: "Quanta Studios is very good," says producer Junior Malta (Elite Squad 2), who has shot a number of commercials there. "Its advantage is having everything to rent in one place. In Brazil, none of the studios are like this; we have to carry equipment from different rental companies in order to make a movie."

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CHINA | Hengdian World Studios

Backstory: The largest film studio in China, Hengdian World Studios offers a sense of time travel that spans millennia. Found within the walls of the studio, known as "Chinawood," are re-creations of Beijing's Forbidden City, a Qin Dynasty palace, palatial gardens and street scenes resembling Hong Kong and Guangzhou. Designated an official "national tourism spot" by China's National Tourism Administration, the studio drew more than 10 million visitors in 2011.

Location: About a five-hour drive from Shanghai and a half-hour from the city of Dongyang. Within the studio, there is a four-star hotel and multiple restaurants.

Facilities: The studio -- built and expanded from investments of more than $476 million since 1996 from the Hengdian Group -- boasts 13 shooting bases at a total area of 2,500 acres and building areas of nearly 54,000 square feet.

Cost: Studio rentals are charged as a service fee of $48 per day. Accommodations, which are within the studio compound, cost between $11 and $63 a room per night.

Recent Projects: The 2008 Jackie Chan-Jet Li blockbuster The Forbidden Kingdom, Universal's The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and the upcoming adaptation of Journey to the West, produced by Stephen Chow.

Testimonial: "The biggest draw about Hengdian, and the reason why so many productions choose to shoot there, is the low price," says director Derek Kwok, who spent six months last year -- without a break -- at Hengdian to film Journey to the West. "In terms of location outside the studios, you can get to the mountains, rivers or forests just with an hour drive. It's also close to civilization, so you can get any equipment or material quite easily."

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CZECH REPUBLIC | Barrandov Studios

Backstory: Founded in 1921, Barrandov was the brainchild of brothers Milos and Vaclav Havel (father of the former Czech president of the same name). It has a rich history, enduring everything from the Nazi occupation of the 1940s to the 1960s Soviet invasion and the post-Velvet Revolution economic downturn in the 1990s. It came perilously close to shuttering during this period, only to make a dramatic comeback by the late '90s thanks to increasingly frequent big-budget Hollywood shoots.

Location: Ten minutes by car from downtown Prague.

Facilities: Barrandov boasts 14 soundstages, the largest of which measures more than 43,000 square feet. It also has a 39-acre backlot with a clear horizon. English-speaking crews are highly skilled, having cut their teeth on numerous Hollywood productions.

Cost: The studio does not make its pricing public but says it offers competitive rates that are negotiated on a case-by-case basis.

Notable Projects: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol.

Testimonial: "I am fascinated by what the Czech craftsmen accomplished," says German director Oliver Hirschbiegel while working on Tom Fontana's TV series Borgia at Barrandov. "Rome was built on the soundstages, and I even have my own Sistine Chapel."

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INDIA | Reliance MediaWorks Studio

Backstory: Built at an estimated cost of $20 million (that's 1 billion rupees!), the 200,000-square-foot Reliance MediaWorks Studio complex is Mumbai's largest film facility. Designed by Los Angeles-based firm Wylie Carter & Associates, RMW opened its doors in 2010.

Location: RMW is located in Mumbai's northern Goregaon area, which is accessible to the city's metropolitan and suburban areas. Mumbai's main airport is about a half-hour drive away, and the area has a mix of budget and five-star hotels.

Facilities: Three stages are operational, of which two are about 9,000 square feet each, with one large stage at 17,500 square feet. The studio soon will expand to include on-site postproduction and high-speed connectivity to off-site post and effects sources.

Cost: While RMW doesn't reveal details about rental and other costs, industry sources say the facility is "about 30 percent cheaper" than comparable facilities in the U.S. and Europe.

Notable Projects: Local Bollywood productions, including the blockbuster Agneepath, as well as moderate hits Singham and Agent Vinod.

Testimonial: "The biggest advantage at RMW is that everything is under one roof, which is unusual in Mumbai, where most services are scattered everywhere," says director Vikramaditya Motwane, who is following up his 2010 Cannes Un Certain Regard entry Udaan with Lootera, which recently lensed at RMW. "It's a very polished facility with great staff and easy accessibility for crew and cast members, and all departments are well organized."

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MEXICO | Baja Studios

Backstory: Built in 1996 by 20th Century Fox in Rosarito, Baja California, the complex is primarily known as a facility for water-related shoots. James Cameron put this 46-acre oceanfront studio on the map with the filming of Titanic.

Location: A half-hour drive south from the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing.

Facilities: Baja boasts exterior and interior water tanks with a combined volume of more than 20 million gallons. The largest exterior tank, which holds up to 17 million gallons, affords a seamless horizon view of the Pacific Ocean.

Cost: An average rental per week for the water tanks ranges between $14,000 and $28,000. Stages average an estimated $10,000 per week.

Recent Projects: Pearl Harbor, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Tomorrow Never Dies.

Testimonial: Says L.A.-based Mexican director Alejandro Monteverde, who recently shot the World War II drama Little Boy at Baja Studios: "It was perfect because I needed a coastal town similar to California in the 1940s, so I literally built a town at the studio, and it's a fully equipped studio right on the water."

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NORTHERN IRELAND | The Paint Hall

Backstory: Dating to the early 1900s, this massive studio space was originally a paint hall for ships on the Belfast docks, the most famous being the Titanic. The owners opened two additional soundstages this year alongside the hulking main studio that has seen full-scale city-street networks, housing and shops created inside the 90-foot-tall hangar.

Location: A five-minute drive from Belfast.

Facilities: It contains four 16,000- square-foot "cells," which are set out in a square and connected by internal roads and streets, five dedicated workshops and its own internal electrical substation. The untouched surroundings offer an ideal backdrop for period pieces.

Cost: Terms are negotiated on a project-by-project basis, but if you shoot at Paint Hall, you're eligible for the U.K. tax credit in which projects with a budget of $100 million spent entirely in the U.K. would be able to obtain a credit of 20 percent of expenditure up to a maximum of 80 percent of the budget.

Notable Projects:Walden Media's City of Ember, Universal's Your Highness and the first season of HBO's Game of Thrones.

Testimonial: "The Paint Hall is located in the heart of Belfast yet is no more than one hour's drive to many locations used to shoot exterior scenes for Game of Thrones," says producer Bernadette Caulfield. "We're excited about the growth of the studio with its two additional soundstages. We also continue to be impressed with the caliber of the Belfast-based crews and technicians."

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PHILIPPINES | Bigfoot Studios

Backstory: Privately owned by an international venture-capital subsidiary of the Bigfoot Group and Fashion One, Bigfoot Studios opened its doors in 2004. While its focus is to provide exclusive content for Fashion One Television -- a 24-hour, cross-platform fashion channel broadcast globally -- the studio is equipped to handle foreign shoots and hopes to benefit from the scarcity of shooting facilities in the region and some very reasonable prices.

Location: A 10-minute drive from Mactan International Airport in Cebu, one of the fastest-growing cities in the Philippines.

Facilities:The studio contains six soundstages -- one of which is 11,000 square feet -- along with a Dolby mix theater, four large edit and effects suites and 10 dedicated editing bays. Bigfoot also has an "underwater" studio with a main shooting tank 16 feet deep.

Cost: The studio's two main soundstages cost $750 a day, plus $350 for power and air conditioning. Sound editing suites can be had for $30 an hour or $150 for the day; Foley stages go for $600.

Notable Projects: Fashion One TV

Testimonial: "I work with the most talented people from all around the world in a picture-perfect paradise," says Andrew McMennamy, a producer-director who has shot multiple projects at Bigfoot for the Fashion One TV network, including Design Genius and Eco-Fashion. "Bigfoot Studios is a crossroad of culture, talent and ideas. Options are limitless, and creativity is unrestricted."

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SOUTH AFRICA | Cape Town Film Studios

Backstory: Having officially opened in December 2010, Cape Town Film Studios is the first custom-built Hollywood-style film studio complex of its kind in Africa. The majority owners are producer Anant Singh's Videovision Entertainment and Sabido Investments. Led by chairman Singh and CEO Nico Dekker, the facility is envisioned as a hub for new media, entertainment, film and related industries in South Africa and the African continent.

Location: The studio is just a 15-minute drive from the airport and 25 minutes from the city center of Cape Town. Beaches and shopping malls can be reached in a 10-minute drive. Daily sunshine of 14 hours in the Southern hemisphere's summer allow fair weather shoots in the winter.

Facilities:The studio features four soundstages, two workshop areas of 33,976 square feet each, a green screen and a 37-seat cinema with Dolby 5.1 surround sound. There also is a medieval backlot based on a 13th century town in Europe than can be transformed into a sci-fi or biblical setting.

Cost: Productions with Qualifying South African Production Expenditures of $1.5 million and above are soon expected to qualify for a 20 percent cash refund (now 15 percent), provided that at least 50 percent of the principal photography happens in South Africa for a minimum of four weeks.

Recent Projects: Dredd, Chronicle, Safe House.

Testimonial: "It is truly a world-class, state-of-the art facility,' says Jim Dodson, executive producer of 20th Century Fox's Chronicle. "I hope to bring another feature back there real soon."

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UNITED KINGDOM | Pinewood Studios

Backstory: Pinewood is home to the iconic 007 stage, named after the famous secret agent and the James Bond franchise that has filmed there for more than 30 years, including the shoot for the 23rd outing, Skyfall. The facility, which became a dedicated film studio in 1936, recently opened the 30,000-square-foot Richard Attenborough Stage, named after the British filmmaking icon, boosting Pinewood's stage capacity by a sizable 7 percent.

Location: Situated just six miles outside London, with easy access to Heathrow Airport and various freeways.

Facilities:It features 18 stages, two digital TV studios, a permanently filled underwater filming stage with a dive specialist and 60 acres of backlots and filming locations.

Cost: Pinewood negotiates on a project-by-project basis. Generally, a large soundstage begins at $20,000 a week, while offices on a lot start at about $800 per week.

Notable Projects: Sony's Skyfall; Universal's Snow White and the Huntsman, 20th Century Fox's Prometheus.

Testimonial: "I love the place," says Joe Roth, producer of Snow White and the Huntsman. "It's not only steeped in great tradition -- our offices were in the Stanley Kubrick Building -- but its craftsmen work in the extraordinary tradition of great British craftsmen. When we shot Snow White there, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp were shooting Dark Shadows 50 yards away, and the James Bond movie was 100 yards up the road."

 

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