Filming in India – Alan McAlex

By Pickle  November 1, 2022
Filming in India – Alan McAlex, 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 visionshe 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-avis 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 costeffective 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.

Filming in India – Alan McAlex, Pickle Media

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!

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