At the 67th National Film Awards 2019, Sikkim was adjudged the most film friendly state in India. The picturesque state in northeastern India well deserves this honour. For, besides providing beautiful locales to filmmakers, it also offers all necessary support to them, thus emerging the most film friendly state of the country.
Sikkim is also home to glaciers, alpine meadows and thousands of varieties of wildflowers. Steep paths lead to hilltop Buddhist monasteries such as Pemayangtse, which dates to the early 1700s.
Eminent filmmaker Shaji N Karun was Chairman of the Jury that selected Sikkim as the most film friendly State in 2019. The other Jury members in the panel were Ravi Kottarakara, Manju Borah, Firdausul Hasan and Abhishek Shah.
Announcing the Most Film Friendly State Award to Sikkim, Jury Chairman Shaji N Karun stated that Sikkim by virtue is very beautiful. “Our Jury visited Sikkim. They found that this is the probably the best state to be discovered in India. The jury members were impressed with Sikkim being develped as a filming state and even offer incentives to filmmakers, develop infrastructure and as well as encourage skills and talent development, despite limited resources. Moreover, Sikkim impressed with their honest approach and film friendliness towards filmmaking community with their vision and concern, which was far above than any other Indian State — especially, given the difficult terrain, location and size,” said Shaji N Karun.
Thirteen Indian States were considered by the Jury for this Award. The jury also gave a list of 30 recommenations to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting for examination and consideration of States in the Most Film Friendly Awards category
Film industry leaders maintained that Sikkim bagged the Award because of the film friendly gesture and leadership of the Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang, better known as P S Golay.
Prominent shooting locales of Sikkim include Gangtok, Tsomgo Lake, Yuksom, Khangchendzonga National Park, Nathula Pass, Lachung, Lachen and Yumthang Valley, Ravangla, Namchi and Zuluk.
But, fully understanding that pristine locales alone are not enough to attract filmmakers, the government there has implemented a string of measures.
The state has planned concrete steps to ease out the process of planning and shooting films in the state and is committed to offer an investor-friendly policy to make the work of filmmakers easy.
Sikkim Government provides financial support to eligible local film with the maximum limit of Rs 20 lakh per movie. Departments have to complete the clearances within a stipulated time frame of 15-30 days and can issue permissions to shoot films in the general areas under forest cover after verifying the requisite documents and credentials.
So, all these things have made Sikkim a preferred destination of filmmakers and propelled it to bag the most film friendly state in India honour.
The institution of the ‘Most Film Friendly State’ Award, is positioned to promote ease of filming across India. The State of Gujarat was selected as the most film freindly state in India in 2015, the State of Uttar Pradesh in 2016, the State of Madhya Pradesh in 2017, the state of Uttarakhand bagged the honour for most film friendly State in 2018 is a unique initiative in this direction.
EVERYTHING ABOUT SIKKIM
Sikkim is the 22nd state of India came into existence with effect from 26th April, 1975. Sikkim has been divided into four districts and each district has further been bifurcated into two sub-divisions for administrative purpose. Sikkim state being a part of inner mountain ranges of Himalayas, is hilly having varied elevation ranging from 300 to 8540 meters. But the habitable areas are only up to the altitude of 2100 mtrs. Constituting only 20% of the total area of the state. The highest portion of sikkim lies in its north west direction.
A large number of mountains having altitudes of about seven thousand meters stands here with – Kanchenjunga (8598 m.), The third highest peak in the world. The high serrated, snow capped spurs and peaks of Kanchenjunga look attractive consisting of Kumbha Karna (7711 m.), Pendem (6706 m.), Narsingh (5825 m.), Kabru Dome (6545 m.), etc. A number of glaciers descends from eastern slopes of Kanchenjunga into Sikkim where snow clad line is found above 5300 mtrs. The biggest of them is Zemu, from whose snout above Lachen monastery rises the river Teesta. Teesta is the main river and its main tributaries are Zemu, Lachung, Rangyong, Dikchu, Rongli, Rangpo and Rangit which form the main channel of drainage from the north to the south.
It boasts of the great mount Kanchendzonga as its crown. Ethically Sikkim has mainly three groups of people viz. Nepalis, Bhutias, Lepchas. The local language is Nepali. English is the official language. This jewel- like mountain state of ethereal beauty with an area of 7299 sq. kms , nestles in the heart of Himalayas. Cradled in the manifold splendors of nature deep within the snow clad Himalayas is Sikkim’s capital Gangtok. Wrapped in mists and clouds, a garden state with an incredible variety of rhododendrons & a host of other flowers.
FOR FILM SHOOTING IN SIKKIM CONTACT
Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Sikkim EMAIL: email@example.com
India, land of beautiful locales and great talents, has reopened its doors for filming in India for global producers and studios. Film Facilitation Office (FFO), set up by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), is currently accepting online applications for foreign producers to shoot in India
At the recent India Global Week 2020 address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India is laying a red carpet for all global companies to come and establish their presence here. Very few countries will offer the kind of opportunities that India does today. India has opened doors for filming in the country, easing the permission process, a single film visa and facilitate single window clearance systems.
India is committed to welcome the global film community to come and do business in the country and work closely with the domestic media and entertainment industry.
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting views cinema as the ‘soft power’ of India, and is working towards making India as film shooting and film friendly destination for the audiovisual sector.
“Our Film Facilitation Office has facilitated over 80 foreign film shootings. Now, it will function as a single window for all Central and State government permissions. I appeal to the global film fraternity, to come invest and shoot in India,” said Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javdekar in a recent interactive session.
At the recent India Global Week 2020 address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India is laying a red carpet for all global companies to come and establish their presence here. Very few countries will offer the kind of opportunities that India does today. India has opened doors for filming in the country, easing the permission process, a single film visa and facilitate single window clearance systems.
The M&E industry is one of the champion sectors, enabling the vision of the Prime Minister to achieve a $5 trillion economy. India has enabled digital transformation by increasing economic freedom for the traditional M&E business.
In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, Indian film locales have captured the attention of global producers and viewers.
Christopher Nolan’s ‘Tenet’ (Produced by Warner Bros’) for filming portions of the movie in Mumbai. Mira Nair’s TV series ‘A Suitable Boy’, a six-episode, 349-minute long series, adapted from Vikram Seth’s classic novel, was extensively shot in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, India. It is currently streamed on Netflix across the world and BBC One (in UK and Ireland). Netlflix’s action thriller ‘Extraction’ starring Chris Hemsworth was filmed in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. Netflix has revealed that ‘Extraction’ tops the list in its 10 most-watched original movies of all time, as of today.
Now that the Government of India has opened business visas for overseas companies to travel into the country, global film producers and studios with Film Visa are exploring options to come and film in India. The aviation restrictions have been lifted for foreign business travellers and companies into India.
Already, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has announced guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for film shooting and media production in the country. Various State governments have also issued SOPs for film shooting in their respective States detailing dos and don’ts aligning with prevailing local Covid conditions.
Italian filmmaker and producer Sergio Scapagnini is soon set to shoot in India for the new India-Italy co-produced film directed by Goutham Ghose. UK-based Collin Burrows of Film Treats Production is looking to film in India for forthcoming project. Late last year, Paramount Pictures had announced producing web series ‘The Bear’ for Apple TV to be shot in Madhya Pradesh. The Hollywood project was based on a bestseller novel by Gregory David Roberts ‘Shantaram’.
In the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, Indian film locales have captured the attention of global producers and viewers.
“Opportunities exist for great visuals, well written scripts and award worthy acting, but what the Internet has taught us is that consumers want every type of story. The government has allowed hundred per cent foreign direct investment in the filmic content productions. This sector has the potential to create thousands of jobs including opportunities for the unskilled and semi skilled workforce. The incentives under the champion sector scheme will be open not only to film shooting, but also for TV web series filming and foreign filming,” said TCA Kalyani, Joint Secretary (Films), Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, participating in a recent interactive session.
“I’m very fond of saying that my country has as diverse locations, whatever you want to see in a film, whether it is the mountain, the river, the sea, the island, the desert the crowds and post production facilities, you name it, we have it and you need only one visa to see it all for tourism and one visa for shooting.” said Kalyani.
Speaking about the internet revolutionising the entertainment sector, Kalyani said that India has enabled digital transformation by increasing economic freedom for the traditional Media and Entertainment businesses to operate. They are also nudging the industry for a better quality of service. The best example for this is that the OTT segment has grown phenomenally during the pandemic, she added.
The Media and Entertainment sector through innovation consistently has the potential to create jobs, especially in new areas of animation, gaming, etc. “The government has allowed 100 per cent FDI in film content productions. This sector has the potential to create thousands of jobs including opportunities for the skilled and semiskilled workers,” she said.
In the aftermath of Covid-19, India has announced Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for media production and film and TV shooting.
Soon, incentives under the champion sector scheme will be open to films, TV and web series filming. The guidelines are currently being finalised by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
Film Facilitation Office (FFO), set up by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, acts as a single point of contact for filmmakers to get all the relevant information about India’s film industry ecosystem, and help them navigate through filming guidelines of key Central government Ministries and State governments.
To bring more transparency, coherence and convenience, FFO’s web portal www.ffo.gov.in equips filmmakers to submit their applications online.
FFO acts as a facilitation point for the foreign producers and production companies along with their Indian Producer/Line Producer in assisting them to get requisite permissions, disseminate information on shooting locations and the facilities available with the Indian film Industry for production/post production. FFO also works closely with State governments in assisting them set up similar facilities. Visa facilitation is available in over 120 Indian Embassies and Consulates across the world.
Global producers and crews with Film Visa can get to shoot in India and this Visa facilitation is available in over 120 Indian Embassies and Consulates across the world
FFO is currently accepting online applications for foreign producers to shoot in India. FFO which was set up with a view to promote and facilitate film shootings by foreign filmmakers in India has also been extended to Indian filmmakers as well.
Alan McAlex of Jar Pictures and Production Scope, whose services started off with A Suitable Boy, a BBC mini-series adapted from author Vikram Seth’s eponymous book, directed by Mira Nair, says, “India now offers an entire ecosystem for foreign productions. India’s diversity allows a filmmaker to tell both India focused and global stories from here. We are able to recreate say a rural South African exterior, or urban London office interior right here.”
According to Pravesh Sahni, Co-founder of 25-year-old ITOP Film Productions Pvt Ltd and worked on projects including the sensational Extraction, “We have amazing locations in India, with professional technical crew to meet up with International Standards. The cost of shooting is far cheaper here than other countries like the US, the UK and Europe.”
Dileep Singh Rathore, CEO and Co-founder of On The Road Production, says when he got in touch with the FFO office for scouting filming locations in India, they were very happy to help him in connecting with a lot of people. He said they are making a coordinated effort to ensure that everybody is together on the same page.
Rathore, India’s most successful Line Producer for leading Hollywood Studios and European filmmakers, confirmed to Pickle that global producers are “expediting the process” to film in India in the new scenario of opening business to overseas companies.
Rathore’s On the Road India was the line producer for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (produced by Warner Bros) for filming portions of the movie in Mumbai.
“We are constantly getting calls over the last some days on filming in India,” says Rathore. “Interest to film in India is top in the radar of global producers. I am very optimistic that foreign film projects which were stalled in the beginning of the year will soon get activated.”
Another leading line producer stated that in recent times Film Visas have streamlined foreign film shooting in India. “Quick visa clearances for the foreign crew is one of the reasons why more foreign filmmakers are coming to shoot in India. For shooting in India, foreign filmmakers have to get clearance from the I&B Ministry. The Ministry officials coordinate with the Indian embassies abroad, and help in getting visa clearances faster.”
Over 118 international films have been shot in the last four years and the FFO has been offering all support to filmmakers to shoot in India. The country is now all set to emerge the favourite destination of foreign filmmakers post Covid.
Soon, incentives under the champion sector scheme will be open to films, TV and web series filming and post production services. The guidelines are currently being finalised by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India
India is sending right signals to foreign filmmakers. As a result, the country is witnessing warmth from Hollywood studios. Christopher Nolan’s experience in filming in India for Tenet has grabbed global attention. Dilip Singh Rathore, CEO and Co-founder of On The Road India was incharge of production services for Tenet in India. Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s Film Facilitation Office is currently wooing international studios and incentive package is on cards. Rathore says India is prepared for post-COVID shooting and expects a flurry of new projects. Excerpts from Rathore’s chat with Vivek Ratnakar
Pickle congratulates you on the completion of 25 years of On The Road India, which has undertaken many reputed international projects to keep us all entertained. Please tell us about your journey. It’s a good thing that we have now completed 25 years or more in the film production and production services and made many films with international filmmakers. Our journey started very differently. Back then it was a much different industry and production services were looked at in a very different way. I happen to be from a very popular filming destination State called Rajasthan. I was very fortunate to become a part of the productions coming to the State 25 years back. I worked with Mr Shashi Kapoor in the film Ajooba which was shot in India and Russia, among other projects. Eventually I decided to start On The Road India, and it has taken 25 years to reach where we are today. When we were starting, the production was quite different and government’s outlook towards production services and international filmmakers was quite different. Today, the things are much easier with government support. So it has been a long journey.
Founded by veteran producer Dileep Singh Rathore, since 1996, the work ethic and service of On The Road India has earned the trust of Hollywood studios, international filmmakers and production companies. Its team is based between Mumbai, Jaipur, Los Angeles, Sydney and Rome. This enables the firm to better understand project requirements and to deliver the best location and budgetary solutions for production in India.
On The Road India understands the challenges and risks of shooting abroad and the added complexity and diversity of shooting in India and South Asia. While there is no question India offers a wealth of opportunities to filmmakers, the challenges that face productions can prove daunting, even to the most experienced producer. On The Road India will help mitigate many of these challenges with honesty, integrity and transparency.
Do you think India’s outlook has changed vis-a-vis foreign productions in recent times?
Some of the major changes include the ways the government supports the industry. There has been a significant change in the government mindset
and now they are more forthcoming in inviting international filmmakers to come and shoot in India. Earlier, government officials were quiet
skeptical and used to be very critical about film productions. Even the Information and Broadcasting Ministry permissions used to take
anywhere between 6 to 14 weeks and we had to make many rounds to Delhi. But now the production process has really eased off with the
government taking it very positively. Also, earlier we used to bring a lot of crew from abroad as the local crew was not very efficient. But now any
international company brings only the key members while the rest of the crew is sourced from India itself. Also, they used to come with a lot of equipment. There used to be a ‘J-Visa’ for filmakers and crew that was complicated and confusing because the J-Visa was mainly for journalistic work in India. Also, the visa process was time consuming. Now the government has introduced a new category of visa called Film Visa which is very easy to get and the process is quite transparent. On The Road India has executed some of the finest executive productions for Hollywood Studios including
Tenet and The Dark Knight. Tell us about your experience of working on the Tenet in Mumbai India.
How did it feel to be working with Christopher Nolan?
Interestingly, I have also worked with Mr Nolan’s brother. So I had a very long relationship with them. The Dark Knight was shot in Jodhpur and the film required a very different kind of location. So we had to prepare the backdrop of Mehrangarh because of the filming requirements. To shoot the film, we had to completely shut down the entire Fort. We had to make a special arrangement with the royal family of Jodhpur. We would shoot the film during day and open the fort for the public during night. We shot there for 6 to 7 days and then achieved what Mr Nolan wanted to.
Similarly, for Tenet it was very challenging to shoot here in Mumbai. Without the support of the Maharashtra government we could not have achieved what we did. The government got us all the permits for shooting at a landmark location like Gateway of India. We had a huge crew of over 1,500 people and a part of the Gateway of India was frozen. We cordoned off the area with the help of the transport department that diverted the traffic
and we finished the shooting without any issue. The building where we were shooting was a high rise and to light around 40 buildings around
for a fortnight to shoot an action sequence was a mammoth task that was accomplished with the help of the State government, local crew and
our international technicians. Mr Nolan left India on a very positive note.
Has filming in India eased after the formation of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s Film Facilitation Office?
The government set up the Film Facilitation Office as an example to give foreign filmmakers confidence that they can come and shoot in India. The role of Film Facilitation Office has been very important as they did all the heavy lifting and worked as hard as us when we were shooting for Tenet. The FFO helped us get all the permissions, whether it was from the Aviation Ministry, Defence Ministry or Information and Broadcasting Ministry. They were working very closely with us shoulder to shoulder. They also played a key role in making all the right introductions and coordinated
with the State government to get all the clearances.
Could you list out some of the challenges that you faced?
The message has to be transmitted efficiently to the very local level when it comes to allowing film shootings. Tenet was a big project and an
important film. But if you don’t take any project seriously it brings bad publicity to the country. There has to be a total transparency between the agencies which are involved in the commissioning so that all the permissions granted in Delhi are also transmitted at the local level. A lot of people do not understand the urgency of the filmmakers to complete the shooting in a limited number of days. Anybody coming from abroad does not have an infinite time. He might be coming for a month or a few days and he needs to do the preparation and shoot within a tight schedule. All the agencies need to go an extra mile to make things happen at the right pace. If that doesn’t happen filmmakers will keep on going to other countries or they may
not choose India as there shooting destination. Any permission that needs to be granted should be given within a fixed timeline as filmmakers
are ready to pay for that.
What according to you are the three things that attract global productions to look at India now?
The first is story, the second is locations and the third most important thing is the dollar value, as the skill set in India is a lot cheaper than many other countries. We can build a lot of sets at cheaper rates. The day India becomes as expensive as any other place, fewer people would come to shoot here. They will only come if the story is related with India or for an interesting location.
The government is planning to incentivize filming in India as well for co-production treaties? Will this be an advantage?
The incentive plan is not there yet but talks are going on. A lot of states like UP, Gujarat and Goa are doing it at the local level but major Incentive from the Government of India is talked about and yet to be finalized.
How are various State agencies coordinating with the Centre to promote film shooting in their respective States?
Every State now is connected to the FFO office in Delhi, which has placed nodal officer in every State. I think they are all coordinating. Recently, I got in touch with the FFO office for scouting filming locations and they were very happy to help me in connecting with a lot of people. They are making a coordinated effort to ensure that everybody is together on the same page.
Popular filming destinations in India are Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Kerala and Gujarat. Some States are not that popular due to information gap as very few filmmakers know about their filming policies. There are also infrastructure and connectivity issues, and little awareness about how to reach those States.
What impact has the COVID-19 lockdown had on the industry, especially for people who were on ground?
The pandemic has put everybody one or two years behind their growth targets. It has been very tough for the industry not only in India but across the world. The sectors that have been most affected are entertainment, aviation and tourism. Filmmaking is a collective effort and the crew needs to be together to pull off a project, but the pandemic has prohibited them to do so. The governments have opened film shootings but people are still skeptical. Besides, there are a lot of protocols to follow which is not easy. The people are afraid, cautious, and they are not very comfortable which has made a huge negative impact on the industry.
Now that India has given permission to shooting (to those who have film visas), what kind of calls you are getting? Are the safety protocols in line with global practices?
It is very early to say that things have improved. Although India has opened up, ours is mainly international film production. America has the highest
number of cases and the Europe has been shut down again. We were supposed to do 2-3 projects but they have all been put on hold. We are just waiting for the world to get rid of the disease. People are talking about going back to work but everybody is very cautious. Hopefully things may change in the next couple of months and some vaccine comes out. The safety protocols are good as we are required to keep a safe distance from each other, wear a mask and carry out periodic sanitization of sets and crew. A couple of my friends who are shooting in Germany have said that it had been very difficult to shoot with all these protocols in place, but people are still doing it. They are following it and it has been successful so far.
How do you explain the on ground situation in India as we speak now to a potential global producer looking to film in India?
There are different ways of doing things now. We have to do most of the work online as the number of people travelling has reduced drastically. We are still waiting and watching. There have been a lot of talks that happened in the last 4-5 months, and now we are scouting and sending pictures of locations and also looking for some scripts.
Earlier, we would do location scouting and the key filming crew from abroad would come to India for a physical visit. But now we are doing local scouting with the help of movie cameras and Go-pro to give a virtual tour of the location. We upload the 3D shots online so that the director and producers can have a look at it. I want to get back into action and I know that people are dying to get back on the location. But even if we start working on a certain project the shooting will happen only next year. So, people are working on script level or location level. So it’s looking very positive and I hope situation remains under control. I am keeping my fingers crossed that everything moves in the right direction.
What are the new facilities that you have added to your production services especially in pandemic times? What safety measures are being undertaken by your production?
We conduct more virtual discussions rather than physical interactions. For example, I was supposed to be in the US but I have not travelled for the last nine months. We are working from home and computers have become our important assets. We spend a lot more time in conducting virtual scouting. We have opted to use just one person for scouting as it is easier to manage that one person with gloves, proper mask and sanitizer. Our crew would never leave without taking proper safety measures.
Are you thrilled to going back to work?
I can’t wait to resume work. Like I said I have not been on the set and have not travelled in the last nine months, not making a film is the biggest depression for me. So I am looking forward to get back on the set again.
India now offers a high quality, end to end solution to foreign productions. An entire ecosystem awaits foreign productions in India, thanks to proactive measures by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India. India’s diversity allows a filmmaker to tell both India focused and global stories from here. A rural South African exterior or urban London office interior can be recreated right here with equal expertise and ease. Alan McAlex of Production Scope shares his experience of filming Mira Nair’s Suitable Boy. He chats with Pickle and wants nothing but to go back to making movies
In visualization to match the script, Suitable Boy transports us to fifties of India. What are the behind the scene experiences?
It is great to know every single shot of Mira Nair’s TV series was filmed in India… That’s right; every single shot was filmed in India on location. We didn’t create any period sets in studios. That was Mira’s vision- she wanted the look to be as authentic as possible, depicting post-independence India in the series. As a co-producer, I strive to ensure that the Director’s vision is implemented on screen. For A Suitable Boy, we scouted every nook and corner of the historic cities of Lucknow, Kanpur and Maheshwar. We also shot in smaller towns and villages in and around these cities such as Kakori, Mahmudabad etc. It was amazing to experience the rich heritage of India while shooting at these locations. We shot in several interesting places – tanneries in Kanpur, palaces in Lucknow, forts in Maheshwar. I was quite mesmerized by the beauty of these locations. Every location we shot in had such an interesting history and story attached to it.
With diverse experience in film production, Alan McAlex formed Jar Pictures in 2011 with Ajay G Rai. Together they have been producing commercial and arthouse films. Killa, that opened at the 64th Berlinale in 2015, winning the Crystal Bear; Liar’s Dice, that opened at Sundance and was India’s official submission to the 87th Academy Awards in 2015; and Moothon that opened at TIFF in 2019, are a few titles from their oeuvre. As a part of Alan’s several individual projects as an Executive Producer, he has worked on Dangal, which was the highest grossing Indian film, as well as the Amazon series Made in Heaven. In 2019, Alan initiated Production Scope, a company focusing only on production services that started off with A Suitable Boy, a BBC mini-series adapted from author Vikram Seth’s eponymous book, directed by Mira Nair, for which Alan was the co-producer.
Lucknow also had a rich collection of vintage cars that were an extremely important part of creating the 1950s’ visual experience on screen. We didn’t realize it at first, but these cars were very popular. On days when we shot with the cars, we had huge crowds gather just to see these cars. Our crew also enjoyed posing with these cars when they weren’t filming.
How has India and its outlook changed vis-a-vis foreign productions in recent times?
In recent times, when foreign producers look at India, they see much more than a country where they shoot one offs such as a Gandhi or a Slumdog Millionaire, in which the script requires a film to be shot here. India now offers an entire ecosystem for foreign productions. India’s diversity allows a filmmaker to tell both India focused and global stories from here. We are able to recreate say a rural South African exterior, or urban London office interior right here.
Productions are also more attracted to India because the overall risk of filming here has gone down significantly. With the formation of the FFO, we have a one-stop-shop to obtain clearances and support. We’ve always been a cost-effective destination for production and now there’s an abundance of talent and skilled professionals in our industry as well. We also have superb postproduction and VFX capabilities.
India now offers a high quality, end to end solution to foreign productions. Over the last one decade, the diversity of films that you have (co-produced/executive produced) is amazing. Some of the Indian films have travelled globally and won awards. What fascinates you in an Indian location?
Yes, over the last decade, we were lucky to find the right scripts and work with amazing filmmakers. Our films went on to garner critical acclaim, Killa that went on to open at the 64th Berlinale in 2015 won the Crystal Bear, Liar’s Dice which opened at Sundance and was India’s official submission to the 87th Academy Awards in 2015 and Moothon that opened at TIFF and MAMI in 2019, would be to name a few from our oeuvre.
Do you see Advantage India in the aftermath of pandemic for filming? What’s possible and what’s not?
In terms of the number of cases, unfortunately, we’ve been one of the worst affected countries in the world and this is likely due to our sizeable population. Efforts of the government and vigilance of the people have helped keep fatality rate relatively low. Productions in India have slowly
restarted with extreme precautions and strict health and safety protocols on sets. Some had to shut down again if a crew member tested positive but
overall there’s definitely progress. Things will slowly but surely get back to pre-pandemic levels. As long as we’re vigilant and keep flattening
the curve, filmmakers will be more confident about shooting in India. We have a cost advantage which definitely gives us an upper hand in these difficult financial times. In the long term, India will certainly be back as one of the top destinations of choice for filmmakers.
Now that India has opened up shooting (to those who have film visas) and business for overseas businesses do you see positive momentum? Are the safety protocols in line with global practices?
Yes, there’s definitely positive momentum. We’re already planning several projects, for next year and beyond. These are a mix of international and domestic projects. There are several companies that offer COVID safety protocols that are at par or even exceed global practices. It’s quite amazing to see the market react such quickly to offer these solutions.
Your reflections on how tough it has been during the lockdown times…
The pandemic has been personally, professionally and financially devastating for everyone and there’s no question that the people on the ground have been the hardest hit. It was very unfortunate to see so many productions come to a grinding halt due to which the livelihood of so many people, especially the daily wagers were several affected.
What are the lessons learned during lockdown?
The biggest lesson has definitely been that we’re all in this together. This pandemic has touched everyone’s lives, irrespective of boundaries. And we need to be cautious together to fight the spread of the virus to protect everyone around us. Another lesson we’ve learnt is that we need to be better prepared for downturns. When an industry such as ours is growing, one doesn’t expect such a bad thing to happen and that too so quickly. But, this
pandemic has taught us that black swan events can happen, so we need to be better equipped to manage them. Ultimately, tough times teach us to be more resilient and stronger for the future.
Do you see visible changes after the formation of Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s Film Facilitation Office? Is filming in India eased now for facilitation?
When it comes to international productions helmed by companies here in India, the onus to deliver all expectations smoothly is on us and that includes visas for the foreign crew, shoot permissions, initial project clearance formalities with Ministry of Information & Broadcasting to name a few. FFO has been the singular point for all these crucial parts and speed up the process, right from liaising with the visa office to sanctioning permissions for filming in desired regions of the country. Once we have these clearances we can seek local authorities’ permissions for the respective locations.
The government plans to incentivize filming in India as well for co-production Treaties? Will this be advantage India?
Co-production treaties are extremely helpful in creating the right incentives for filmmakers to shoot in India. Having foreign films made in India helps promote the local economy and tourism in the country. It’s a win-win situation. We already have treaties with 15 countries, but it would be nicer to
have more, because nowadays, film making is an exceedingly global endeavor. As an example, Canada has treaties with over 50 countries. In addition to co-productions, production services is also an area that the government can look at for incentivization. In my experience, sometimes the incentives, especially the State/local ones, are limited to feature films. With the advent of digital platforms, there is an opportunity to expand those incentives to web series as well. All in all, we’re on the right track and I am confident we’ll get better and it will definitely be advantage India!
What are the new facilities that you have added to your production especially in pandemic times? What are the best practices followed by Production Scope?
Even before COVID, safety of our cast and crew was of utmost importance to our productions. We followed international safety protocols and standards during the shoot of A Suitable Boy. An ambulance and a doctor were on standby on every shoot day for emergencies. Fire safety is also very important – we had several scenes in which we depicted props being set on fire. So, we had a Fire Brigade on standby at all times. We also had a dedicated safety officer on set that assessed safety risks prior to shooting at any new location. We were pro-active in addressing any safety concerns. In fact, we were ready to stop shoot if we thought that there was risk to the safety or wellbeing of our crew. The lessons we learnt during A Suitable Boy, we’ve incorporated in our Indian shoots as well. These are now a part of our standard operating procedures of our new exclusive Production Services company – Production Scope. Specifically for COVID, our productions have added additional safety measures such as masks, shields, UV tunnels, sanitizers for all crew members. We also have a task force that ensures social distancing protocols are followed at all times on set. We monitor, track and record compliance to all safety protocols as well.
How thrilled are you to going back to shoot…
It’s been almost a year since we finished shooting A Suitable Boy. I’m honestly quite eager to get back to shoot. But COVID is still a risk and we have to be cautious. I am hopeful that things are improving, and that we’ll be back to doing what we love most – making movies!
Films / Series produced by Alan McAlex
A Suitable Boy (TV Series) (coproducer – 6 episodes) 2020
Children of the Sun (producer) 2019
The Elder One (producer) 2019
Made in Heaven (TV Series) (supervising producer – 9 episodes) 2019
Pravesh Sahni Co-founder of 25-year-old ITOP Film Productions Pvt Ltd has executed production services for Oscar winners like Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi and Lion in India. ITOP did production services in India for Netflix’s action thriller Extraction . In a chat with Pickle, Pravesh Sahni expects 2021 to be great year for filming in India
The year 2020 marks the silver jubilee celebration for India Take One Productions. It is a landmark occasion. Congratulations from Pickle. How has been the journey?
Yes indeed, we have accomplished 25 successful years of Foreign Line Service Production in India and we would mark many more milestones. In our journey of film production we have worked with top studios globally. We have been extremely proud of the fact that our company handled the production of Oscar nominated films like Slumdog Millionaire, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pie , Lion, and many more which were well acclaimed and
well rewarded. I being the co- founder of this company appreciate the hard work of each member of our team who work 24×7 to streamline and
make the impossible possible for us. This is 100% teamwork and I would like to thank each member who has contributed to help us achieve this.
India Take One Productions comes with experience and professionalism. It helps its clients plan entire production process and execute it with ‘full perfection’. Since the company’s inception, it has been working on fulfilling its clients pre-production and production needs which include arranging a skillful crew, finding the best locations, obtaining permissions, constructing magnificent movie sets and overcoming all sorts of governmental restrictions.
With offices in Los Angeles, New Delhi and Bombay, it is a one-stop shop for all production needs before the crucial “Lights, Camera, Action!” is called.
Has India and its outlook changed vis-a-vis foreign productions in recent times?
In our journey of film production one has seen a complete change in production. It has no doubt improved tremendously from shooting on film and then processing to the world of digital and special effects and the fun of post production.
It’s fantastic that India Take One has accomplished some of the finest executive productions for global productions including four Oscar winning films (Slumdog…, Life of Pi, Lion that we’re shot in India)… Thank you so much. Things actually changed after Slumdog Millionaire, when the world cinema realised that we in India could deliver the finest production services as our professional technical crew is as competent and efficient and at par
with the international crew.
Tell us about the Extraction shooting in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It is now the all-time number one movie in Netflix?
Extraction was one of the first international films, full of stunts and action. The Gujarat government helped us to a great extent and made Netflix USA and our director Sam Hargrave’s dream come true. We are thankful to Netflix US in trusting us with their first project in India. It is only because we could deliver and make things happen that they trusted us for facilitating the production of their next film called White Tiger which is due for release in December 2020.
Are you able to see visible changes after the formation of Ministry of Information & Broadcasting’s Film Facilitation Office? Is filming in India eased now for facilitation?
Yes, things have really changed a lot. FFO, housed in NFDC is a big support and backs the Indian producers. We now have a government organization
which understands the problems we face, we have solved a many problems but honestly a lot needs to be still done to a goal we want to achieve.
What according to you are the three things that attract global productions to look at India now?
We have amazing locations in India, with professional technical crew to meet up with International Standards. The cost of shooting is far cheaper here than other countries like US, UK and Europe. If we have an Incentive in place we would be even more competitive.
Will the government’s plans to incentivize filming in the country as well for coproduction treaties be an advantage to India?
We have been waiting for the incentive scheme for very long. I have been a key member in helping draft this policy with the government and hope this can come out soon as we will need this incentive to get productions rolling smoothly. This is needed to compete with other countries. All the productions have been hit with COVID, this will help boost the Indian industry 100 per cent.
Do you see positive intent among various State governments in India for film shooting in their respective States?
All States will have to observe strict safety protocols to ensure safe shooting. All States are taking out rules and regulations, we at ITOP would have to follow the guidelines of the foreign studios which are far more strict. The success will lie only if we ensure all the rules and regulations are maintained for the safety of the crew, which will give other producers the comfort to come and shoot in India.
What has been impact of COVID-19?
We were in the phase of handling two projects parallel with each other. We were doing production of the TV Series The Bear based on the novel Shantaram which we closed on 14 March and Tarus which we shut down on 22 March. Because of the lockdown, India like the entire world has been also affected due to COVID. We were hoping that things get better in India in a few months and we would have been on the floor by September, but things got worse. Today we are positive that foreign production houses will resume production in India like pre-COVID times in mid of 2021.
Now that India is allowing shootings, do you see positive momentum? Are the safety protocols in line with global practices?
We are all hopeful that by March 2021, we will be in a better frame to handle things. Our company has always taken the health and safety of our team and the foreign crew as a priority. We want to ensure that we can create a bubble for our team and provide safety for all. We may lose a job or two to other countries which is beyond our control but we are 100 per cent sure that things will be streamlined and we will do our best to make things happen like before.
Tell us some of the few positives and some challenges for overseas people to shoot…
The number count in India may be high but our mortality rate is much lesser. So sure enough like Bollywood has resumed its production gradually, our production team is working on various ways to ensure safety to keep the crew confident that they are safe in India. We will bounce back like pre-COVID times and handle 2 to 3 big productions starting mid-2021. This is our goal and we are positive that we will achieve it.
How do you explain the on ground situation in India as we speak now to a potential global producer looking to film in India?
For International Producers we are advising to start Pre-Production in the summer and shoot in winter. Hopefully we will have a vaccine by then and a full safety guide line to follow to give all a comfort to all. We are in touch with three production houses with these time lines.
What are the safety measures undertaken by your production house?
We have always had an ambulance and doctor on our sets even in pre- COVID times. Now we plan to set up a full COVID testing lab on our set in one of the vanity vans, and see that all crew is tested twice a week, maintain three rings of crew on set with colored bands, sanitize the set before use and also during all breaks and see all the crew members maintain proper distancing possible and sanitize at regular intervals. No one will be spared from main cast to crew, drivers, spot boys. We have also planned to keep all crew in one hotel to maintain a bubble.
How thrilled are you to going back to shoot?
We are looking forward to get on the sets again. We all are passionate about filming and implementing our foreign producers’ vision to reality. For this we are planning a full plan to make our sets COVID free. On sets we plan to have enough infrastructure created to keep our members safe with tests at regular intervals. We will ensure all safety measures possible in our production. We have been known for our safety standards even before COVID. We would sanitise and disinfect the sets and all the offices on regular intervals. The list may seem complex in long but along with production we want to ensure the safety of each and every member. Our production house is ready to take the baton and charge on to implement everything very efficiently. Our key production team is already handling production in Indonesia and we would not leave any stone unturned to lift the curtain in India and generate the same kind of job opportunities and revenue for our country. COVID has come as an intermission but it is not the end of the film. The show has to go on, and will go on; we need to adjust our wings to sail through 2020 and fly even higher in 2021
India is probably the world’s most culturally and linguistically diverse nation. Its people speak 22 different languages, besides hundreds of dialects. No wonder then that India is a land of many cinematic traditions. The 1800-odd movies that the country annually produces are made in a number of languages, each with its own distinct literature, history, theatre and music.
Indian films are produced in several centres around the country. Each of these filmmaking cities serves as the hub of cinema in one prominent language.
Mumbai, regarded as India’s movie capital, hosts the Hindi film industry that has a pan-Indian footprint. Marathi-language films are also produced in the city (besides neighbouring Pune) that is inextricably intertwined with the history of Indian cinema.
Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore, Bhubaneswar and Guwahati are the other major Indian cities where films are produced.
While the distribution of these so-called ‘regional’ films is largely limited within the territories for which they are made – they do not have the nationwide reach of Bollywood blockbusters – they add immensely to the depth and range of Indian cinema.
The centre-point of Indian film industry, Mumbai, popularly Bollywood, is a land of cinema. From commercial grandeur to arthouse movies, there is no short of cinema in the capital city of Maharashtra
The bustling western Indian metropolis is the heart of the Indian movie industry, producing nearly 200 films a year in the Hindi language. It also, along with the nearby city of Pune, produces Marathi-language films, which, in the silent era and beyond, thrived in the hands of pioneering stalwarts like V Shantaram and Bhalji Pendharkar, among others. A large chunk of the Hindi films produced in Mumbai constitute what is usually described as Bollywood, a label used for an old cinematic tradition built on a formulaic and crowd-pleasing mix of melodrama, romance, moral conflict and music. This extravagant form of storytelling is extremely popular in the other filmmaking centres as well. However, it is by no means the only kind of cinema that emerges from Mumbai.
The city has always had two distinct streams of filmmaking – one aimed at providing glitzy and emotionally satisfying entertainment to the masses; the other designed to appeal to a niche audience with a taste for more realistic movies. There have of course been occasions when these two separate approaches have merged in the same film and resulted in timeless classics such as Mother India, Mughal-e-Azam, Deewar and Lagaan. The A-list Mumbai cinema stars, objects of adulation around the country and by the Indian Diaspora, power the mainstream Bollywood industry. Mumbai played a key role in the evolution of parallel films in the late 1960s and 1970s,thanks to the efforts of directors like Shyam Benegal and Govind Nihalani. Its filmmakers also drove the global spread of the Bollywood narrative idiom in the aftermath of major commercial successes in the past decade and a half. A breed of younger Mumbai filmmakers, migrants to the city from different parts of the country, have scripted a new kind of popular cinema that blends social awareness, aesthetic clarity and stylistic accessibility. Several of these films have travelled to international festivals in recent years while finding takers on the domestic distribution circuit as well.
Located down south of India, Chennai is the birthplace of Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada film industries. While the last three moved to their respective neighbouring states, Tamil movies continue to be made in this city, thus making it a sought after destination of movie making in the country
Chennai (formerly Madras) is home to the hugely successful and productive Tamil movie industry, which has, over the decades, given Indian cinema a few of its biggest and most abiding stars. The Tamil movie industry has seen film production since the mid 1910s. It has constantly kept pace with the growth of the rest of Indian cinema. In fact, at several junctures in its history, it even set the pace for others to follow, especially in matters of technology and film production practices. Tamil cinema has a following not only in the state of Tamil Nadu but also in the other southern states of India, besides among the Tamil expatriate community across the world. Hindi versions of Tamil box office hits as well as bilingual productions mounted in Chennai have been successful around India ever since 1948’s Chandralekha opened the sluice-gates for nationally distributed films from this part of India.
The dominant strain of Tamil movies, like that of Hindi popular cinema, hinges on the crowd-pulling power of its male superstars, notably veterans Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan. A new generation of stars have continued the tradition. But in the past as well as in recent times, the industry has seen a steady output of films from young directors working outside the conventional star system with great success. For audiences around the country, Mani Ratnam, who also makes films in Hindi, is one of the better known Chennai directors.
Kolkata has given the world some of the best movies and filmmakers. Right from the black and white era, Bengali films carried the stamp of reality and social awareness, and the flag still flies high.
Bengali-language cinema, known the world over for the celebrated masterpieces of Satyajit Ray, is produced in Kolkata from studios located largely in Tollygunge in the city’s southern suburbs.
Many of the pioneers of early Indian cinema worked in this city in the silent era. In fact, Hiralal Sen is known to have made films here well before India’s officially recognized first full-fledged fiction film, D.G. Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra, was screened in Mumbai. Commercial Bengali cinema has thrived right since the silent era, barring a few troughs in the 1980s and 1990s caused by the death of its most luminous superstar Uttam Kumar and the retirement of his on-screen partner Suchitra Sen.But it is for the critically acclaimed works of three masters – Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen – that Kolkata enjoys global fame. Directors such as Tapan Sinha and Tarun Majumdar built their careers around films that struck a fine balance between artistic merit and commercial potential.
More than their counterparts in any of the other film production centres of India, screenwriters and directors in Kolkata, especially those that work in the non-mainstream sphere, continue to draw inspiration primarily from literature. It is a tradition that dates back to the silent era, a period during which Bengali cinema, unlike other cinemas that were beginning to take roots in that period, produced social satires and dramas adapted from literary works rather than mythological epics.
Not just the land, but its films too are known for their spicy nature. It will be no exaggeration if we call Hyderabad the capital of commercial cinema. For, most of India’s colourful and costly movies are made here.
Hyderabad is the hub of Telugu cinema, which is one of the most prolific and commercially consistent of all the cinemas of India. Between Telengana and Andhra Pradesh, the two separate states that the erstwhile united Andhra Pradesh has recently been split into, there are 2800 movie halls, the highest in any single region of India. On several occasions in the last decade, Telugu films accounted for more releases in a year than cinema in any other Indian language, including Hindi. Many big-budget Hindi and Tamil films are official remakes of Telugu hits, a sure measure of the mass appeal of movies made in Hyderabad. In terms of artistic quality and global recognition, Telugu cinema may lag behind films made in Malayalam and Tamil, but it continues to be the most robust of the southern industries.Hyderabad has some of India’s best film production studios. They have been set up by established names of the Telugu movie industry – men such as B. N. Reddy, L.V. Prasad, Akkineni Nageswara Rao and D. Rama Naidu. Until about three decades ago, large sections of the Telugu movie industry operated out of Chennai. But today, Hyderabad is where all the Telugu cinema action is focused. Filmmmaker S.S. Rajamouli and male stars such as Prabhas enjoy nationwide popularity thanks mainly to the super success of the period action drama Baahubali.
Known for producing award winning films, Thiruvananthapuram, the hub of Malayalam cinema, is lately carving a niche for itself for new-age content-rich and commercial movies. From Adoor Gopalakrishnan to Mohanlal-Mammootty to Vineeth-Nivin Pauly, the land has a rich legacy of cinema
Thiruvananthapuram (formerly Trivandrum) is the capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala. The city, along with Kochi, serves as the nerve-centre of cinema in Malayalam. Although films were made in the state in the silent era, cinema in Kerala was late to flourish and at the time of India’s Independence in 1947, only a handful of Malayalam filmshad been produced. But when the movie industry in this part of the country took off in the 1950s, it not only quickly caught up with the rest of Indian cinema, it also established itself at the forefront of the Indian parallel cinema movement. Malayalam movie superstars Mohanlal and Mammootty are known across the country and directors such as Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Shaji N. Karun and the late G. Aravindan are feted at film festivals around the world.
When Malayalam cinema began to assume the proportions of a full-fledged industry post-Independence, it was headquartered in Chennai. It was only by the late 1980s that it moved completely to its current location in Thiruvananthapuram. Like the other cinemas of India, Malayalam movies are divided between a popular genre and a socially relevant strand. Cinema from Kerala gained national and international prominence, riding on the films made by Adoor and Aravindan in the 1970s and 1980s. The tradition of making realistic and meaningful cinema continues to this day.
The capital city of Karnataka is the home of Kannada film industry, popularly Sandalwood. It has produced some great talents, from actors to directors to technicians
In Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley, films are made in the Kannada language. The first Kannada film was made in the talkie era, and the industry’s growth was steady until the late 1940s. The 1950s marked the advent of Dr.Rajkumar, whose popularity as a lead actor in mythological epics helped Kannada cinema achieve new heights. The 1970s and 1980s are generally regarded as the golden era of Kannada cinema, which was enriched by the work of directors like B.V.Karanth, Girish Karnad and Girish Kasaravalli. In 1970, Samskara, based on a novel by celebrated writer U.R. Ananthamurthy and directed by Pattabhi Rama Reddy, inaugurated the parallel cinema movement in Karnataka. While alternative cinema has continued to thrive in the state, commercial cinema, too, has sustained itself despite not quite enjoying the financial clout of Tamil and Telugu films.
LUCKNOW, Uttar Pradesh
Bhojpuri cinema, which also caters to third and fourth generation migrants in Surinam, Mauritius, Trinidad & Tobago, Fiji and Guyana, has its own star system and a committed audience base
The central Indian city of Lucknow is one of the bases of Bhojpuri cinema, which is produced largely in and for eastern Uttar Pradesh, western Bihar and Jharkhand. The first-ever Bhojpuri-language film, Ganga Maiyya Tohe Piyari Chadaibo (Mother Ganges, I Will Offer You a Yellow Sari), was released only in the early 1960s. But the industry grew steadily as the demand from people who speak the dialect in India and elsewhere increased. Bhojpuri cinema, which also caters to third and fourth generation migrants in Surinam, Mauritius, Trinidad & Tobago, Fiji and Guyana, has its own star system and a committed audience base, but it has failed to build on the opportunities to break into the national mainstream. The last couple of decades have seen a major spurt in the production of Bhojpuri films, but these have all been run-of-the-mill potboilers designed for an audience that seems to be undemanding and easy to please. In parts of India where Bhojpuri speakers live and work, these films continue to be exceedingly popular. But since most of these films are made on tight budgets and follow rushed production timelines, they tend to be rather low on technical finesse.
The shift of Odia cinema from Kolkata to Bhubaneswar heralded a new era. Since then, Bhubaneswar continues to be the focus point of Odia films
In the eastern Indian state of Odisha, films are made in Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.
The first Odia-language film was made in 1936, but until the 1950s only a handful of more titles were produced. Back then, the Odia film industry did not have production facilities of its own. Films in the language had to depend on Kolkata, which made movie-making in Odisha difficult and unviable.
In the late 1950s, the first cooperative venture to produce, distribute and exhibit Odia films was set up by Krushna Chandra Tripathy. The organization was named Utkal Chalachitra Pratisthan, and it produced several films in the 1960s that gave Odia cinema a distinct identity.
In 1961, another production house, Pancha Sakha, was set up by amateur artiste Dhira Biswal, who produced four hugely popular films. His first production, Nua Bou, created a sensation all across the state of Odisha.
Odia cinema developed its own idiom in subsequent years thanks to the efforts of the husband-wife team of Gour Prasad Ghosh and Parbati Ghosh. The duo produced several National Award-winning films, including the epochal Kaa.
Other production houses took roots in the 1970s, including Diamond Valley Productions, set up by entrepreneur Sarat Pujari.
In 1975, the state government stepped in to promote cinema by setting up the Odisha Film Development Corporation. Five years later, the Kalinga Studio came up with the support of Chennai’s Prasad Studios. Odisha currently produces an average of 20 films a year.
Despite heavy influence from Bollywood, Assamese cinema, being made from Guwahati, has carved a niche for itself and its presence in National Awards every year stands testimony to the claim
Assamese films, produced in north-eastern city of Guwahati, are a constant presence in India’s National Awards. Yet the film industry in Assam remains commercially unviable.
Constantly under the shadow of Bollywood films, the state has not been able to develop a distribution and exhibition system that can prop up locally made films and make them viable.
At the turn of the millennium, a ray of hope had emerged in the form of a spurt in Bollywood-inspired Assamese melodrama that found takers among the mass audience in the state. But the trend was short-lived.
Despite the effort of the pioneers and the work of their successors in the 1950s and 1960s (Bhupen Hazarika, Nip Barua, Pudum Barua), Assamese cinema has been dragged down by the paucity of exhibition outlets.
Despite all the odds, the names of the late author and filmmaker Bhabendra Nath Saikia and the still-active Jahnu Barua shine bright. In recent years, Rima Das, working largely out of her native village near Guwahati, has made massive waves globally with her films Village Rockstars and Bulbul Can Sing.
Filmmakers from the rest of Northeast India, notably Manipur and Meghalaya, are also increasingly making their presence felt on the national and international stage. Manipur’s Aribam Syam Sarma has for decades been a leading light of cinema from this region of India and his films have been lauded at festivals, including Cannes.
Netflix’s “Gray Man” is the latest big-budget feature film win for California’s tax credit program. The action-thriller starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans will bring an estimated $102 million in below-the line wages and other qualified expenditures to the state, behind only “Captain Marvel” on the list of big budget tax credit film projects As with all of the state’s film and TV tax credit projects, overall spending for “Gray Man” will be significantly greater than its “qualified” spending with the inclusion of above-the-line wages and other expenditures that do not qualify for incentives under California’s very targeted tax credit program.
The Gray Man got tax credits with $20 million. An untitled Jordan Peele project received $8.4 million, Invasion starring Octavia Spencer received $2.5 million, Losing Clementine received $2.3 million and Sweetwater received $1.4 million, among other films.
“After announcing two relocating TV series earlier this month, our new tax credit program continues to get off to a great start with today’s list of film projects,” said California Film Commission Executive Director Colleen Bell. “Production activity is ramping back up in California amid COVID-19 with safety remaining a top priority, and Program 3.0 is attracting the kind of big budget films that generate a considerable amount of jobs and in-state spending.”
Based on data provided with each tax credit application, the nine film projects (five independent, four non-independent) announced today are on track to generate a total of nearly $284 million in qualified in-state expenditures. They will employ an estimated 1,340 crew, 342 cast and 14,397 background actors/stand ins (the latter measured in “man days”) over a combined 374 filming days in California. They will also generate significant post-production jobs and revenue for California VFX artists, sound editors, sound mixers, musicians and other workers/vendors.
Three of the five independent projects (the Jessica Chastain drama “Losing Clementine,” “Nightfall” and the sports drama “Sweetwater” about the first African American player in the NBA) were accepted into Program 3.0’s new $10 million-and-under qualified spending category, which reserves funds specifically for lower-budget independent films.
“We are thrilled to be part of the new Program 3.0 and to be able to base ‘Losing Clementine’ production in California,” said Renée Tab, the film’s producer. “We searched other locations, but thanks to the tax credit we can film here at home where the story is set.”
“Losing Clementine” and five other projects (the Octavia Spencer sci-fi thriller “Invasion,” “Nightfall,” “Sweetwater,” “Untitled Jimmy Warden Project” and “Untitled Jordan Peele Project”) plan a significant amount of production outside the Los Angeles 30-Mile Studio Zone. Nearly 40 percent (142 out of 374) of the filming days planned by the nine projects announced will occur in Inyo, Kern, Mono, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, as well as other out-of-zone locations yet to be determined.
Bringing production activity beyond the 30-Mile Zone is a key objective for California’s tax credit program. With the projects announced today, more than 45 out-of-zone film and television tax credit projects account for an estimated total of $140 million in qualified out-of-zone spending across the state. “Program 3.0 is working as intended to ensure that we can continue to bring significant filming to regions across the state,” added Bell.
A total of 81 projects applied during the July 13 – 15 application period for Program 3.0’s inaugural round of feature film tax credits. The California Film Commission has reserved just over $50 million in tax credit allocation for the nine conditionally approved projects
The next and final application period this fiscal year for feature film tax credits will be held January 25-27, 2021. The next application period for TV projects will be held September 28 – 30 (for relocating projects) and October 5 – 7 (for recurring projects).
How Projects are Selected and Awarded Tax Credits Under Program 3.0
Projects approved for California tax credits are selected based on their jobs ratio score, which ranks each project by wages to below-the-line workers, qualified spending for vendors, equipment, etc., and other criteria. The top 200 per cent ranked projects in each round (i.e., those that would qualify if double the amount of funding was available for the current allocation round) are evaluated, and those with the highest-ranked jobs ratio scores receive a tax credit reservation. Those not selected are placed on the waiting list. The tax credit program allocates funding in “buckets” for different production categories, including non-independent films, independent films, TV projects and relocating TV series.
“I’m very fond of saying that my country has as diverse locations and post production facilities. You need only one visa to see it all for tourism and one visa for shooting,” said TCA Kalyani, Joint Secretary (Films), Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, while speaking at the e-FICCI FRAMES Summit
TCA Kalyani, Joint Secretary (Films), Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, said that the government will soon be announcing incentives under the champion services sector. “We are going to announce the SOPs for filming in India and we have got the Health Ministry’s clearance regarding the same,” she added.
Addressing the e-FICCI FRAMES Summit ‘The Economic Impact of the Media & Entertainment Sector: A post-COVID-19 Lens & The Way Forward’, Kalyani said that Media and Entertainment industry has always adopted a host of technological advancements. “We have a huge capacity for domestic consumption. In pre-COVID times, more than 2 million cinema tickets were sold on an average, daily. With social distancing norms, even half that number would be great for starting the business of film exhibition. There has also been a steady growth in content export, investment in production facilities and technology in animation, VFX, etc.,”she added.
Kalyani further said that the pandemic has appended all assumptions of usual business for the global economy, but it has only sharpened the market trends that were already visible before the health crisis, such as the increasing demand for digital services. For the Media and Entertainment industry, this means faster transition to digital mediums and more pressure to compete for consumers as well as for advertisers and subscription revenue, she stated.
She added that the incentives under the champion sector scheme will be open to not only film shooting but also for TV and web series filming. Foreign filming in India since 2016, Kalyani informed, has contributed nearly US $ 64 million with 76 completed productions so far.
“I’m very fond of saying that my country has as diverse locations, whatever you want to see in a film, whether it is the mountain, the river, the sea, the island, the desert the crowds and post production facilities, you name it, we have it and you need only one visa to see it all for tourism and one visa for shooting.”
Speaking about the internet revolutionizing the entertainment sector, Kalyani said that India has enabled digital transformation by increasing economic freedom for the traditional Media and Entertainment businesses to operate. They are also nudging the industry for a better quality of service. The best example for this is that the OTT segment has grown phenomenally during the pandemic, she added.
The Media and Entertainment sector through innovation consistently has the potential to create jobs, especially in new areas of animation, gaming, etc. “The government has allowed 100 percent FDI in film content productions. This sector has the potential to create thousands of jobs including opportunities for the skilled and semiskilled workers,” she said.
Citing the Prime Minister’s India Global Week 2020 address, where he said that India is laying a red carpet for all global companies to come and establish their presence here, Kalyani said that very few countries will offer the kind of opportunities that India does today. “We have opened doors for filming in the country, easing the permission process, a single film visa and we are also going to streamline and facilitate single window clearance systems,” she said.
“The M&E industry is one of the champion sectors, enabling the vision of our honorable Prime Minister to achieve a $5 trillion economy,” she said. “We will be announcing the incentives under the champion service sector shortly. India has enabled digital transformation by increasing economic freedom for the traditional M&E business,” she said.
“So opportunities exist for great visuals, well written scripts and award worthy acting, but what the Internet has taught us is that consumers want every type of story. The government has allowed hundred percent foreign direct investment in the filmic content productions. This sector has the potential to create thousands of jobs including opportunities for the unskilled and semi skilled workforce. The incentives under the champion sector scheme will be open not only to film shooting, but also for TV web series filming and foreign filming,” she said.
TCA Kalyani, Joint Secretary (Films), Ministry of I&B, and MD, NFDC, Government of India said the country is open for business and filming for global studios and producers.
Even as over fifty countries across the world have announced resumption of film shooting with safety protocols, India has announced that once there will be normalcy in resumption of international travel, film shooting permissions will be accorded to global filmmakers to shoot in India with standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Participating in the e-panel discussion as part of the India@Cannes 2020 on the topic of ‘Come, Film in India’, TCA Kalyani, Joint Secretary (Films), Ministry of I&B, and MD, NFDC, Government of India said India is open for business and filming for global studios and producers.
“We will release Standard Operating Procedure for film shoots and other related works in the country, later this week,” said Kalyani.
Many Indian states including Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala have permitted film shooting with guidelines on safety protocols.
In an attempt to woo global filmmakers, Indian government is ready with an incentive package for film shoots and co-production under the champion sector scheme.
Given the crisis the country is going through in the wake of Covid-19, the announcement will be made at the appropriate time. “We are ready with the incentive package. We are waiting for the appropriate time to announce,” stated Kalyani.
Kalyani confirmed that in addition to films, Web Series and Television Series will be included in the incentive package for co-production and film shooting when Michael E Ward, film producer specifically asked the question.
Kalyani said over 118 international films have been shot in the last four years and government has been offering all support to filmmakers to shoot in India and the country has a lot to offer to filmmakers from across the world.
The session, moderated by journalist Naman Ramachandran, was also attended by Vikramjit Roy, Head, Flm Facilitation Office, NFDC; Nitin Jawale, IAS, Managing Director, IPICOL and OFDC, Government of Odisha; Michael E Ward, film producer, Pravesh Sahni, ITOPS Film Production Pvt Ltd (line produced White Tiger in India) and Dileep Singh Rathore of On the Road India (line produced Christopher Nolan’s Tenet in India).
Vikramjit Roy listed out various initiatives of the government to make filmmaking easy in India. He said the Film Facilitation Office was set up with the sole aim to help filmmakers to obtain various permissions without facing any difficulty. The FFO is going all out to ensure that foreign filmmakers don’t face any hassle while shooting their movies in the country.
Jawale said Odisha is a beautiful state where filmmakers can find exotic locales to shoot their scripts. He spoke about initiatives by his department to facilitate film shoots in the state.
Michael E Ward appreciated the government of India for taking proactive measures to attract global filmmakers.
Line producer Rathore said they had shot Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (for Warner Bros’) in Mumbai and it was only possible because they got the permissions in time from the state government of Maharashtra and facilitation from FFO.
“We were super happy with the coordination and facilitation provided by Film Facilitation Office set-up by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. It’s best of the facilitations one could get for a film shoot. We are thankful to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India and the co-ordinators at FFO.” said Rathore.
The Film Facilitation Office set up by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in NFDC is going all out to ensure that foreign filmmakers don’t face any hassle while shooting their movies in the country. Christopher Nolan recently shot his film Tenet in Mumbai in a smooth manner and his team is all praise for the Indian officials for their support
Gone are the days when shooting in India was a herculean task for foreign filmmakers. Things have changed for good with the formation of Film Facilitation Office (FFO), which is rendering all support to directors and producers from abroad to make their movies in India.
A classic example is Tenet, the Warner Bros produced Christopher Nolan film which was shot recently with ease in Mumbai, called as the business capital of India and home to Bollywood (Hindi cinema), thanks to facilitation provided by FFO. Over 160 foreign crew members, 600 Indian crew members and 2000 extras were part of the film helmed by Nolan.
This is New India and people are ready to help anytime, feel foreign filmmakers who have lately shot their movies in the sub-continent, land of colourful amalgamations of different cultures, multiple locations and beautiful backdrops.
And, the support by FFO is immense, which is rolling out red carpet to foreign filmmakers to make their vision a reality in India, with all ease.
Nolan’s shoot in Mumbai was rather extensive and ambitious. But, the filmmaker and his team didn’t feel the difficulty at all, despite shooting the movie in busy areas. In fact, the director wrapped up his shoot in well under a week.
Interestingly, Nolan had earlier shot his Batman: The Dark Knight Rises in Jodhpur, Rajasthan.
Tenet stars John David-Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Clemence Poesy, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Dimple Kapadia with Kenneth Branagh and Michael Caine. Tipped to be an action thriller, it is slated to hit theatres next year, on July 17, 2020.
Says Dileep Singh Rathore, the India producer of Tenet: “I recently completed a six-day schedule of Tenet in India, and it was only possible because we got the permissions in time. As someone who has faced a lot of trouble in getting permissions in the past, now, it feels like a red carpet has been rolled out for foreign projects in India. I have four other international projects in the pipeline to shoot in India.”
According to Rathore, “We were super excited by the coordination and facilitation provided by Film Facilitation Office set-up by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and the state of Maharashtra. It’s best of the facilitation one could get for a film shoot. We are extremely thankful to the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India and the co-ordinators at FFO and B A Gagrani, Principal Secretary at the Chief Minister’s Office, Government of Maharashtra. They were instrumental in getting all the permission clearances. This time for the first time, I saw that every department was accountable and FFO office was extremely supportive and they did wonders. I have to specifically point out FFO’s intervention in getting permission from Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) which provides permission for aerial shootings in the country. We could use helicopter for the Tenet film shoot.”
If figures are anything to go by, at least half-a-dozen foreign projects are currently being made in India. “Quick visa clearances for the foreign crew is one of the reasons why more foreign filmmakers are coming to shoot in India. For shooting in India, foreign filmmakers have to get clearance from the I&B Ministry. The ministry officials coordinate with the Indian embassies abroad, and help in getting visa clearances faster,.” says a leading line producer.
It is to be noted that the Information & Broadcasting Ministry, in 2017, consulted the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs, and introduced a special visa category for foreign filmmakers. Also, as foreign filmmakers often want to capture aerial scenes, a separate department has been introduced to cater to these requests. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) provides permission for aerial shootings in the country.
Earlier, getting the permission to shoot in India used to take five-six months. But now, it has come down to three-four weeks.
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India, set up the FFO in the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) with a view to promote and facilitate film shootings by foreign filmmakers in India. The services rendered by the FFO have now been extended to Indian filmmakers as well.
It acts as a single-window facilitation and clearance mechanism that eases filming in India, as well as endeavouring to create a film-friendly ecosystem and promoting the country as a filming destination. The institution of the ‘Most Film Friendly State’ Award, which was won by the State of Gujarat in 2015, the State of Uttar Pradesh in 2016 and the State of Madhya Pradesh in 2017, is a unique initiative in this direction.
In the recently announced 66th National Film Awards, Uttarakhand bagged the honour for ‘Best Film Friendly State’ for ‘furthering the growth of the film industry in the State including creating an environment for ease of filming in the State, encouraging skill/talent development, incentivizing the re-opening of closed cinema halls, formation of film development fund, continuing with the earlier incentive plan for filming, formation of Utttarakhand Film Development Council among other pro active initiatives’.
FFO acts as a facilitation point for the foreign producers and production companies along with their Indian Producer/Line Producer in assisting them to get requisite permissions, disseminate information on shooting locations and the facilities available with the Indian film Industry for production/post production and works closely with State Governments in assisting them to set up similar facilities.
Foreign filmmakers desirous of shooting their Feature Films, Reality TV shows and commercial TV series in India, can apply online at the FFO website. And, the rest will be taken care of in a professional and friendly manner.