Scope looks to establish Prague as film center


LONDON -- Prague's newest co-production service, Central Scope, opens for business Tuesday in the Czech capital with a mission to provide incoming U.S. and European features with a full range of production and financing services.

An independent subsidiary business unit of Berlin's Babelsberg Studios, Central Scope managing director Henning Molfenter -- who previously headed Studio Babelsberg Motion Pictures -- said the new outfit aims "to maximize Prague's cost efficiencies and locations" by seeking to combine the range of "soft-money" deals available across Europe.

"Moviemaking in Europe is driven by soft-money," Henning said Monday, referring to the range of tax-shelters, subsidies, grants and rebates available across the European Union and in various different jurisdictions.

"Central Scope will combine soft-money deals from around Europe to help structure productions. Prague is a perfect center for this. We shall be bringing productions to Prague, but may also take Czech crews and services to other European locations or other European services here. We strongly believe in Europe's value as a production center," Henning said.

Henning, whose filmography includes credits as co-producer on the new Bond film "Casino Royale" and executive producer on Roman Polanski's "The Pianist," said he and Cinema Scope manager Jasmina Torbati -- who most recently worked as a production manager on "Royale" for Prague's Stillking Film -- bring both financial and practical knowledge and experience to the new company.

"We combine the abilities to both oversee the financing and engineering of projects with the experience of working directing with crews, sets, locations and productions," Henning said, adding that he was "happy to be on set, overseeing production -- getting my hands dirty when the trucks arrive at five in the morning."

Based at Prague's Barrandov Studios, the new company will keep costs low by minimizing overhead. Henning and Torbati are the only full-time employees, although up to 100 or more contract and freelance staff will be taken for the duration of a production.

"I strongly believe that Prague is just beginning a new phase (as a co-production center) and is not just seen as a budget location, although actually there have been no crew price rises here for the last five years," Torbati said.

"With so much experience built up in Prague over the last 10-15 years, these days it really is on a different plane from Budapest, Bucharest, Sofia and other budget locations in the ability and knowledge of filmmaking," she added.

Central Scope may use Babelsberg Studio services but is under no obligation to do so and the first choice of studio space would be at Prague's Barrandov, Henning said.

"We are an independent company. Babelsberg owns Central Scope but our mission is to find our own, new ways (to offer services in Europe) which is why they did not put Babelsberg in the name," Henning said.

He stressed that establishing Central Scope was entirely unrelated to Babelsberg's recent announcement of major job cuts among its Berlin workforce.

Central Scope is currently engaged in budgeting for a number of U.S. and European feature film projects and the company expects to begin work on its first production in late spring, Henning added.