Updated: May 28, 2019
What can be more cinematic than a glamorous small palace shining on a filthy old street in Bucharest?
Bucharest is well-known for its beautiful palaces and proud old mansions among cinematographers, film locations managers, expats and tourists, places that nowadays host also a wide range of events and themed parties. However, very few of them can offer a filmmaker the touch of modern glamour or at least a common ground between history and modern architecture.
Back in 2017, I’ve been hired as the head of “Marry My Son” TV Show production made by Paprika Studios for ProTV, a very complex and complicated project with a crew and cast of over 200 people to coordinate and with operations all around Romania, Tenerife, London, and Cyprus. In the locations department, the season began and ended with a gala-type setup for which we needed a glamorous modern wide place with many rooms and stunning outdoors, something representative for Bucharest and for our modern times.
After having a look in our hired location manager database, in my own film locations portfolio and analyzing all logistic needs, we concluded that is a palace we are looking for.
Now, the problem with the palace was the budget. Not necessarily with the location renting for shooting which is usually expensive, but with art design and lighting departments. The showrunner wanted each room to have a different look and vibe, while at the same time a typical palace has usually an image unity, rooms with high ceilings and wide hallways, and poor lightning. He also wanted rich decorations with flowers everywhere, a thing that blew up the budget in the case of a palace.
After scouting every day for two weeks, we could not find in the entire Bucharest and surroundings this type of shooting location. The palaces in Bucharest do not have wide and beautiful outdoors, while the palaces outside Bucharest do not have the glamorous indoor we were looking for. Alternatively, we also scouted newly built glammy events locations, but that did not work.
Eventually, we decided to combine two palaces to solve all our problems, Noblesse Palace for interiors and Ghica Tei Palace for outdoors. The third option for much better outdoors was Snagov Palace, the dictator Ceausescu’s office residence located at about 30 km from Bucharest, but that one involved too many logistics problems for the volume of shooting and the very short time we had.
The big surprise was Noblesse Palace, a historic monument establishment on Sfintilor Street built in 1881 following the plans of the famous architect Alexandru Săvulescu, being the first eclectic building in the historical center of Bucharest, the capital city of Romania. An absolute piece of jewelry shining on a filthy street in Bucharest, otherwise the Cinderella many filmmakers use to chase when shooting outdoor scenes in Bucharest.
The building has had several historical periods, ranging from Berkowitz's aristocratic beauty to the Palace of the Pioneers and Homers of the Homeland in the 2nd sector of the nationalization period, the post-communist period and the abandonment until 2012.
In 2012 Noblesse Group International takes over the ownership of the building, being also the owner of several brands and working in the field of interior design and cultural industries. After a complex process of consolidation, restoration of original elements, interior, and exterior design, the building becomes what it is today: one of the most important centers of culture, art, and design, a unique concept in Europe.
The design by Noblesse Interiors and Studio Insign is a journey through countless periods and styles: Baroque style, Louis XV and XVI, Rococo, found on the ground floor of the building, to other top styles (art deco, Victorian, Neoclassical, Contemporary) to industrial and design style in the basement of the building.
Noblesse Palace today enjoys the beauty of carefully restored original elements: stuccoes, stoves, interior carpentry, along with luxurious finishes and technical endowments. Noblesse Palace harmoniously combined pieces of furniture and decorations from various top producers, alongside artworks, creating truly exclusive and valuable interiors.
Essentially, the palace is the business card of the owner company.
The surroundings are from another era, something that Bucharest is very good at ‘preserving’. Sfintilor and Mosilor streets are filled with ruined buildings still occupied by poor families, buildings left unfinished, and of course, churches, one standing proud right across the palace.
For us, such a beautiful building on such an ugly street that was castrated by its identity a long time ago was not something of interest from content and visuals perspectives, but it may be for other types of film scenes and photo shootings, as it offers a very particular type of contrast.
If you need to shoot scenes showing a piano player entertaining a small royal audience, glamorous private concerts or parties, art gallery or the house of an eccentric character, Noblesse Palace is your answer, the owners being able to provide also the type of decorations and furniture your art design department will need for such scenes.
If you need to shoot scenes involving a ballroom or wide hallways and spaces, then you need to find another palace, as Noblesse is, in fact, a mansion with a generous entrance and space at the ground floor and plenty of rooms on the floor.
In the basement and semi-basement, you will meet a totally different vibe and style very well integrated into the location’s architecture, as they host the owner’s offices and the Bibliotek Hub.
Logistics and Operations for our TV show production
The palace had everything we needed for the interior shootings, but for the large team we had, we needed to look outside the palace to solve our logistic issues, as we had a lot of parallel operations flows that required plenty of space, parking spots, and additional locations.
Eventually, we settled for the Atrium Hotel on 112 Mosilor Street to solve the meals and make-up spaces and we also rented a small space next to the palace to keep the production team as closest to the set as possible, the entire palace being a set.
We also wanted to rent the bar across the street as it was big enough to host us, but it was so dirty and messy that I eventually chose to forget about it, no matter how much I needed it due to its closeness to the set. Being a very trafficked street, parking was a red flag. We rented a big parking plot for our cars at about 150-200 meters from the palace, full of holes and bumps, but good enough to cover the big number of cars we had and our transport department challenges.
The location manager had, as usually, the extra stress with making sure that our operators won’t damage the walls and the very expansive furniture we eventually chose to keep, being well-known the fact that electricians, camera and sound operators don’t really give a shit about the locations where they shoot, their main focus and concern is all about getting their stuff done. So, it’s on the location manager to-do list to keep them and everyone else in a leash, as the costs with covering damages and ruining relationships with the owners may prove to be quite big challenges to address.
Locations Transformation. A Business Opportunity in Bucharest.
Location transformation is a very good business if you know how to do it. More than anything else, it involves a good entrepreneurial eye and a sense of business.
Bucharest hosts many old beautiful architected mansions and monument buildings, Cinderellas waiting for their princes to turn them into princesses.
The capital is also a cinematography hub for both national and foreign productions of all kinds, from movies to tv shows, commercials, documentaries, and photo shootings, but also an art and culture hub and consumer.
Of course, location transformation is a business involving both generous budgets and plenty of creativity and imagination. The backbone of this business is the story it tells because it is the story that makes people want it. The story it tells and the story people experience in it.
Whether you transform a location to make it a themed restaurant, a cultural or themed parties hub or, a tourist thing, another secret ingredient to make such business successful is to think of it as an attraction.
Creating cinematic locations is quite an art, but also a nice revenue stream generator as it attracts clients also from media, photography, and cinematography.
If you are an expat, foreign investor or local entrepreneur with a budget and desire for new business, location transformation is a venue to take into account, as Bucharest hosts quite a distinctive world of such business opportunities, especially in its central zones well-known for their architectural and history good stories.