Berlin provides international filmmakers with a wealth of possibilitiesGenerous government-funding bodies. Top-notch yet affordable crews. State-of the-art facilities. Inexpensive housing and a cool, cosmopolitan vibe. When it comes to attracting international film shoots, Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg have a lot going for them. But their secret weapon? A bend-over-backwards bureaucracy willing to go to (almost) any lengths to make sure you want to come back. Take just five recent examples of Berlin's "Yes We Can" attitude to accommodating shoots.
"Ninja Assassin" and the Victory Column
James McTeigue needed a big motorbike chase scene for his tentpole actioner. His idea: Shoot it at Berlin's Victory Column, the city's central traffic hub. City Hall's answer: "No problem!"
"I don't know any other major city in the world where they would agree to let you essentially gridlock the place for three days," says Markus Bensch, head of locations for "Assassin" co-producer Studio Babelsberg Motion Pictures. "But Berlin's politicians really understand how important film is for the city, both economically and as a prestige factor."
"The Reader" and Zehlendorf City Hall
While it was a breeze for Stephen Daldry to get space in an historic government building for the key trial scenes in "The Reader," he insisted the room had to have a balcony to facilitate particular camera angles. That left only one possibility: the still very much in use city hall in the southwest district of Zehlendorf. But again, art trumped politics. Government and opposition partiers agreed to clear their legislative chambers for the duration. "It was quite amazing, really," says Bensch. "If any party had said no, it wouldn't have worked."
"Valkyrie" and the Bendlerblock
OK, so it wasn't the smoothest of shoots. Lost footage, crew injuries and a firestorm of controversy around the casting of Tom Cruise to play would-be Hitler assassin Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg. But in the end, Berlin gave director Bryan Singer everything he asked for, even permission to shoot at the famed Bendlerblock, the location where Stauffenberg was executed. Singer could have done that closing scene on a soundstage, but then he would have known he'd faked it.
"The Bourne Supremacy" and the Tiergarten Tunnel
Arguably the film that established Berlin as an ultra-hip location. The German capital played itself, Naples, Amsterdam and, in the legendary Russian taxi chase scene, Moscow. City authorities let director Paul Greengrass shoot his elaborate car crunching sequences in Tiergarten Tunnel -- while it was still under construction and building crews worked a few feet away from the film set.
"Around the World In 80 Days" and the Gendarmenmarkt
Imagine going to mayor Bloomberg's office and asking for permission to shut down Times Square for two months. Well, that's essentially what Frank Coraci and Jackie Chan did in Berlin for the production of adventure comedy "Around the World in 80 Days." The city obliged, closing down the Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin's most picturesque square, for eight weeks while Coraci set up and shot one of the film's most elaborate set pieces.