No Mission is Impossible

A damsel in yellow silk pressed tightly against his body, special agent Ethan Hunt (alias Tom Cruise) is roping down from the roof of the Vienna Staatsoper. It’s a spectacular scene crowning the 2015 blockbuster Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, made possible by the behind-the-scenes efforts of the Vienna Film Commission. Celebrating 8 years of supporting filmmakers while shooting in Vienna, it both helps find suitable locations and acquires the necessary filming permits.

Marijana Stoisits, the Commission’s CEO and the city’s special agent for all things celluloid, says producers and directors can have the most brilliant, ingenious ideas. In 2016 alone it processed 873 shooting permits, 111 of them from international production companies. Supported by, among others, the city’s cultural department and the Filmfonds Wien (Vienna Film Fund), Stoisits’ team helps make creative visions reality.

In the movie business, as in most other fields, good rapport and ample funding can make or break a deal. After months of hesitant courtship by the Mission: Impossible producers, including visits by location scouts, Stoisits brought good news to a -Paramount producer at a networking reception in Los Angeles: Film Industry Support Austria (FISA), which funds national and international movie projects, had been revived. The choice of Vienna over competitors Istanbul, Barcelona and Tel Aviv followed soon after. During the shoot, the Ring was closed off for four nights, but, as Stoisits highlights, the inconvenience payed off, with an estimated €100 million in advertising value generated for the city.

The Fixers

The film commission has long recognized the value of dependable relationships, both creative and administrative. With directors and producers, Stoisits stresses, “it’s so vital that the chemistry is right.” Hollywood in particular is a close-knit community, and it is essential to build a lasting reputation. In addition, financial incentives for international production companies to shoot in Vienna are often the crucial extra.

Marijana Stoisits. // © Vienna Film Commission, Sandra Kosel

The commission therefore cultivates contacts with various municipal bodies, such as the public transit authority Wiener Linien or the local administrators of -Vienna’s 23 districts. After all, famous as Austria is for its breathtaking scenery, it is equally notorious for its serpentine bureaucracy. The constant troubleshooting, however, is what Stoisits loves most about her job. Her maxim is “geht nicht, gibt’s nicht” (“impossible doesn’t exist”).

Besides the high-profile Hollywood blockbusters, the lion’s share of projects filmed in Vienna are national TV dramas and serials, commercials and European coproductions, such as the 2016 action-thriller Die Hölle by Academy Award-winning Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky. The primary difference between local and international projects is scale: When Jennifer Lawrence shot a few scenes for Francis Lawrence’s Red Sparrow this year in April, the team arrived with an entourage of 40 trucks.

It is hard to predict which projects will materialize in 2017, as international ventures are long-drawn and many Austrian scripts are still awaiting funding approval. What we do know is that the Vienna Film Commission’s annual presence at the film festivals in Cannes and Shanghai helps lay the all-important groundwork for future ventures. Any pending projects, however, remain top secret.

For now.