When archaeologists find this city in 2000 years from now, they will be stunned. They will discover that Bulgaria, a small and beautiful country on the south-eastern edge of Europe, once had a secretive city, with streets very similar to those in London and New York. The difference is that neither of those cities gives residents a view of a huge, snow-covered mountain.
In this city of cities, the stairs to the Underground (or the Subway, of course) do not lead anywhere. Entering the United States Post Office located here is not really possible either. And if it was, there wouldn’t be any stamps.
A large parking lot in front of this “city that does not exist” is plastered with used rifle bullets. A bank right next to it was obviously robbed by a violent gang. At least all of its windows are broken.
At this place, everything looks real, but hardly anything is. The Vitosha mountain massif, which dominates everything around here due to its size, is pretty hard to hide. So, yes, the snowy mountain peaks with an elevation of up to 2,290 metres are very real indeed. In fact, these premises are located at the foot of Vitosha.
Nu Boyana Film Studios is Hollywood. And it isn’t. This studio provides everything Hollywood does, but it is exactly 10,621 kilometres (6,600 miles) away. And it’s good that way.
Over here, there are no arrogant individuals showing off their Cadillacs on Hollywood Boulevard. There are no sexual harassment scandals the entire world would talk about. This place, Nu Boyana Film Studios in Sofia, is European.
Every day is “casual Friday”. Lots of smokers do their thing in front of the studio buildings. At the studio cafeteria, they do not offer burgers, but sandwiches and European meals.
From the New York, London and bank heist sets, a 5-minute walk will take visitors to a medieval village. Walking through it feels like time travel. From here, the Roman city and the Colosseum are just a few steps away. So are other sets.
In the main building, Yariv Lerner, this fascinating location’s director, has his office. Casting, accounting, PR and countless other offices are at work, just before Christmas.
But Nu Boyana is far more than a few sets and some offices. This studio offers anything film directors or creative directors at advertising agencies see in their wet dreams. Nu Boyana is a high tech haven. It is Hollywood without the BS, and without the exaggerated prices.
Not only will this studio in Bulgaria provide all services anyone having to do with film will ever need, from script to screen, but also the very latest technology.
What Nu Boyana calls “World Expertise in Filmmaking” in their shiny new booklet is exactly what it says. Sound stages, production, post production, services and equipment of all kinds and reliable crews are included. And, an even more important aspect, they do have a lot of experience up here, on the foot of the mountain.
Sure, they have camera drones, camera cranes and dollies. Everyone does. But they also provide the very latest camera and lighting technology. Motion Capture Stage is the very latest gimmick directors use, since it saves time and money while helping to achieve stunning results. They have that too. And one of the largest new water tanks for filming purposes.
There is something else Nu Boyana Film Studios offer to movie, TV series and TV commercial directors: locations which are not on the premises.
Within a 10 kilometre radius, they have an entire capital to shoot in, and a pretty exotic one of top of that. The mountain top is just minutes away.
The Black Sea coast, which provides excellent shooting opportunities, is less than 400 kilometres away from Nu Boyana. Besides, Bulgaria provides a lot more than that.
Hardly any tourists who come to Sofia on cheap airline seats for sightseeing trips even know Nu Boyana exists. Most of them have seen Gerard Butler fighting mean gangsters in “London has Fallen”, but they do not know the flick was actually shot in Nu Boyana.
The same applies to all of those EU officials and other visitors who are expected in Sofia soon. Most of them just don’t know.
Nu Boyana does offer tours now and then, especially in summer. Also they organise public events such as “Action Day”, during which an action movie director shows teenage boys how to film knights, Vikings and SWAT teams while they are beating each other up.
They have even had a concert on their premises, in spring. But their main business consists of all aspects of filming. In this case all really means all.
Nu Boyana is the place where vistors might end up standing in the middle of a bank heist, where they might meet Samuel L. Jackson in the corridor, where they might have to duck down in order to make sure they don’t get hit by a camera drone. Nu Boyana is Hollywood in Europe, and the most fascinating place in Sofia.
Photos by Imanuel Marcus.