India Vies for Global Production Hub Status With Attractive Filming Incentives

India is making a concerted push to become a global production hub with enhanced incentives, diverse locations and a strong presence at Cannes

Published Time: 16.05.2024 - 08:31:31 Modified Time: 16.05.2024 - 08:31:31

India is making a concerted push to become a global production hub with enhanced incentives, diverse locations and a strong presence at Cannes.

It is a record year for India at Cannes, with its first title in competition in 30 years, Payal Kapadia’s “All We Imagine as Light,” and seven more Indian or Indian-themed films across the festival’s various strands. In addition, the country has a strong Cannes Film Market presence, while the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, on behalf of India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), has organized a range of events aimed at global content co-producers, sales agents and distributors at the India Pavilion on the Croisette.

“India has all types of locations, from mountains to beaches, to city life to villages to countryside. Everything is there from modern places to old monuments,” says Prithul Kumar, joint secretary (films) at the MIB and managing director of India’s National Film Development Corp. “Filmmaking requires much more support than just the location. India is one of the largest filmmaking countries in the world, making more than 3,000 feature films every year. We have all sorts of resources already available for filmmaking, be it people or the equipment. It also becomes very cost competitive when you are shooting in India.”

In 2023, India enhancedincentivesfor filming in the country with the Indian federal government reimbursing up to 40% of qualifying production expenditure, up from the previous 30%. The cap limit for the reimbursement was raised to $3.6 million, with an additional 5% rebate bonus for significant Indian content. International productions that have been granted shooting permission by the MIB and the ministry of external affairs (for documentaries only) since April 1, 2022, are eligible for the incentives. India also has similar incentives for VFX and animation, making it a popular destination for Hollywood. “VFX and animation of the same quality of the same level would cost two to three times more anywhere else in the world than in India,” Kumar says.

In addition, several Indian states offer their own incentives. “If you top it up with what the states have to offer, it goes up to $4 million, which is a very good incentive,” Kumar says. “That makes India really very lucrative for any film producer to come here and make films and create films with India.”

Since 2016, some 200 International projects have been shot in India, with 80 of them, including Canada’s “Waiting for the Storms” and Netflix’s “Lucca’s Two Hemispheres,” shooting in the last two years. Most of the applications to India’s Film Facilitation Office (FFO) are from the U.S., followed by the U.K., France and Canada. Over 30 upcoming projects have applied for incentives, with 50% of them animated projects. Of these, eight are from the U.S., followed by Australia and France with four projects each. Seven projects have received full rebates since application, according to statistics provided to Variety by the FFO.

Among the beneficiaries of the previous 30% incentives is Karan Kandhari’s Mumbai-set “Sister Midnight,” which is a Directors’ Fortnight selection -

this year. The film is backed by Film4 and BFI, and produced by Alastair Clark for Wellington Films (U.K.), Anna Griffin for Griffin Pictures (U.K.) and Alan McAlex for India’s Suitable Pictures. Clark, who had never filmed in India previously, was initially taken aback by the large size of Indian film crews but quickly realized that it was an advantage. “The infrastructure was just fantastic because so many people that were able to do stuff that needed doing,” Clark says.

“The biggest difference was anything was possible … the team had the contacts and knew the possibilities and the things we achieved, like having a train for an entire day and being able to drive it up and down the track within reason in-between the train schedule — it’s just not possible in U.K., you’re subject to being on a scheduled train, and you have a carriage maybe or two but you’re being driven around at the national timetable schedule, you can’t drive your own train up and down the track to your whim, that was just incredible,” Clark says. “The money goes further on screen in India, to what it does in the U.K.”

McAlex is also a producer on Sandhya Suri’s BFI-backed “Santosh,” which is bowing in Un Certain Regard this year. He says that the process of getting reimbursed by the Indian government has gotten faster from “Sister Midnight” to “Santosh,” with the latter receiving a check 90 days from the date of application. “Whatever the FFO is asking is very fair, it was all generally like how it would be in other parts of the world with all the documentation. I’m glad that it’s all very structured, and every producer who will be applying for the incentives will at least get the structure and there’s paperwork in place,” McAlex says.

It is a fiercely competitive market globally, with several countries offering generous filming incentives. Within Asia, in recent times some productions have moved from India to Thailand, including Apple TV+’s Mumbai-set “Shantaram” and Justin Lin’s “The Last Days of John Allen Chau,” set in India’s North Sentinel Island in the Andamans archipelago.

“We are trying to attract, of course, the filmmakers with the help of incentives, that’s one part of it, but I think the broader thing is that we also need to ask people for their requirements. We have to tell them that this is all available with us and there is no more powerful medium than using the website,” Kumar says when asked how the country is planning to retain projects. “The government has embarked upon revamping the whole FFO portal, which was merely taking just the applications online and then processing it.”

The revamped portal, which is expected to launch in two months, will have, in addition to the clearances and incentives process, a resource directory for locations, equipment and crew, Kumar adds.

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