Discover the Joy of Filming in India

By Pickle  May 18, 2022
Discover the Joy of Filming in India, Pickle Media

India now provides a high-quality, turnkey solution to foreign productions. Because of proactive measures taken by the Government of India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, an entire ecosystem awaits foreign productions in India, say leading producers of India who have made India proud by undertaking and successfully implementing some of the most prestigious co-production projects in India

Discover the Joy of Filming in India, Pickle Media

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. As India prepares to bounce back after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, renowned film producers who have successfully implemented many international projects in thecountry are hopeful that things would get better in India with production activities attaining the pre-COVID levels aided by enabling film policies, safety protocols being strictly implemented and norms for filming in India further eased to transform foreign producers’ vision to reality.

Discover the Joy of Filming in India, Pickle Media

Alan McAlex
Co-founder, Jar Pictures

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.

Here is what Alan has to say about his experiences of filming in India:

Experience of filming Mira Nair’s Suitable Boy

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.

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’s outlook changed vis-a-vis foreign productions

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 post-production and VFX capabilities. India now offers a high quality, end to end solution to foreign productions.

Advantage India for filming in the aftermath of pandemic

Efforts of the government and vigilance of the people have helped keep fatality rate relatively low. 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.

Projects in Pipeline

We’re already planning several projects. 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.

Visible changes after the formation of Film Facilitation Office

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.

Thoughts on Co-production Treaties

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. 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!

Discover the Joy of Filming in India, Pickle Media

Dileep Singh Rahtore
CEO and Co-founder, On The Road Production

Born and raised in Rajasthan, Dileep Singh Rahtore is highly regarded as a production expert in the Indian and South Asian region with over 20 years of experience facilitating international feature projects, award winning documentaries, commercials and high-end photography projects for American, European and Asian studios and production companies.

Dileep’s experience as Producer/Line Producer extends throughout South Asia and has filmed in Russia, France and USA. Some of his feature credits include Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, The Way Back, Blood Diamond, Hexe Lilli, Eight Miles High among others.

Here is what Dileep has to say about his experiences of filming in India:

Experience of filming Tenet and The Dark Knight in India

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 entry to the Fort for tourist visits for the whole day. 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 building 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.

How has India’s outlook changed vis-avis foreign productions

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.

Visible changes after the formation of 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, Defense 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.

Three things that attract global productions to India

The first is story, the second is locations and the third most important thing is the dollar value, as shooting as also 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.

Thoughts on incentivize filming and Co-production Treaties

The incentive plan is not there yet but talks are going on. Almost two years back in Goa, a lot of states like like Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat talked about incentives. They have incentives for local filmmakers but I don’t think there is any significant incentive for international filmmakers. We are in talks with the Rajasthan Government and Uttar Pradesh Government but I don’t think there is anything in place as of now.

Shooting in Indian states

Every state now is connected to the FFO office in Delhi, which has placed nodal a officer in every state. I think they are all coordinating. Recently, I got in shooting in their respective states? 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.

Discover the Joy of Filming in India, Pickle Media

Pravesh Sahni
Co-founder, ITOP Film Productions Pvt Ltd

Pravesh Sahni, Co-founder of 25-yearold ITOP Film Productions Pvt Ltd, has executed production services for Oscar winners like Slumdog Millionaire, Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty and Lion in India.
ITOP also did production services in India for Netflix’s action thriller Extraction.

Here is what Pravesh shares with us about his experiences of filming in India:

Experience of shooting of Netflix’s Extraction in India

Extraction was one of our first international films which was full of action and stunt sequences. The Gujarat Government helped us to a great extent in cordoning off the roads during shoot to
make the entire process for our Director Sam Hargrave and Netflix US a 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.

Visible changes after the formation of Film Facilitation Office

Things have really changed a lot. The NFDC is a big support and backs the Indian producers. Now we have a government organization that understands the problems we face. We have solved many problems, but honestly a lot still needs to be done to achieve the goal we want to.

Three things that attract global productions to India

We have amazing locations in India, with professional technical crew able to match the highest international standards. The cost of shooting is far cheaper here than other countries like the US, UK and Europe. If we have an incentive program in place, we would be even more competitive.

Thoughts on incentivize filming in India

We have been waiting for the incentive scheme for very long. I have been a key member of the film fraternity who is helping draft this policy with the government. I hope it comes out soon as we
will need the incentives to get productions rolling smoothly. It is also needed to compete with other countries.

Discover the Joy of Filming in India, Pickle Media

Déborah Benattar
Executive Producer and Founder La Fabrique Films

After working as the audiovisual attache for the French Embassy in India from 2010 to 2013 in Mumbai, Déborah Benattar founded La Fabrique Films in 2013, a Production company based in Mumbai, India. La Fabrique Films manages and executes projects all over India & Sri Lanka with a team of strong & experienced professionals working on feature films, TV series, documentaries & commercials.
Her international projects include feature films like “And tomorrow you will be dead” directed by Michael Steiner; “The best is yet to come” directed by Alexandre de la Patelliere et Matthieu Delaporte; “Fahim” directed by Pierre-Francois Martin-Laval; Maya directed by Mia Hansen-Love. Her Documentary Film “Animal”, directed by Cyril Dion, was selected for the Cinema for the Climate Section at Cannes Film Festival 2021.

Here is what Déborah has to say about her experiences of filming in India:

What fascinates her about India?

India is fascinating as it has an incredible variety of landscapes to offer. And apart from the variety of locations, one of the main advantages India has compared to several foreign countries, is that the technical crews are very skilled and experienced. It is always a great collaboration between the foreign and the Indian crew.

Visible changes after the formation of Film Facilitation Office

The Film Facilitation Office (FFO) has tremendously improved and speeded the permission process for international projects as well as the delivery of film visas for the cast and crew. We are hoping
to see similar improvements in terms of permissions with other institutions: Indian Railways, ASI, DGCA, etc.

Thoughts on incentivising filming in India and Co-production Treaties

Once the government introduces incentives like other foreign countries, India will definitely become one of the best shooting destinations in the world. Also, we would really appreciate it if the government took care of a few hiccups like streamlining the taxation processes to make it a win-win for all.

On filming in post-COVID India

The lockdown time has allowed us to become more creative and work more digitally. But we are very thrilled to go back to shoot and allow foreign and Indian crew to collaborate as they share the same passion for cinema.

Discover the Joy of Filming in India, Pickle Media

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