India Needs Film Commissions to Attract More Foreign Shoots, Study Finds

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - H 2012
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - H 2012

The report also says the country needs to offer more incentives to boost location shoots

India can further enhance its position as a shooting destination for foreign productions and boosting tourism and the local economy, according to a new report.

“Made in India: Attracting and incentivizing film productions” was presented by the LA-India Film Council and consulting firm Ernst and Young.

The LA-IFC was established in 2010 by a joint declaration between the City of Los Angeles and partners in the Indian film industry along with U.S. film industry bodies to increase cooperation between Hollywood and Bollywood.

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The report was unveiled this weekend in New Delhi at the Big Picture Summit organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry's entertainment wing.

Strongly emphasizing the need for film commissions – which are lacking in India – the report states that since central and state governments have different administrative powers, this can sometimes lead to red tape and other delays for obtaining shooting permits and restrict other potential incentives. But film commissions, both at the central and state levels, could streamline existing procedures, the report suggests.

In addition to non-monetary benefits, film commissions can implement monetary benefits ranging from cash rebates, tax credits, exemptions and other forms of financial assistance.

The Indian film industry has been lobbying the government to implement a central tax system to replace the current system where each state has different taxation. As a first step, last year India launched a much-awaited single-window clearance system to simplify shooting permissions to make it easier both for domestic and foreign productions to shoot in the country.

“The single-window clearance system is a step forward to help increase transparency and reduce delays in obtaining permissions,” Motion Picture Association of America senior vp and deputy managing director & regional policy officer, Asia- Pacific, Frank Rittman told The Hollywood Reporter.

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Recent Hollywood projects to partly shoot in India include The Hundred Foot Journey, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Eat Pray Love.

Importantly, the India units of the Hollywood studios have also become active in local productions in recent years. Disney-UTV, Viacom18 and Fox Star Studios have backed major Bollywood and regional-language blockbusters. One of the much awaited titles is FSS' Bang Bang!, the upcoming Bollywood-reworking of Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz starrer Knight and Day.

“Studios bringing their international productions to shoot in India could be the next growth area,” said Rittman.

Asserting the impact of foreign shoots on the local economy, the report states that a “studio-based feature can spend upwards of $ 250,000 per day while a large international television commercial can generate local spending of up to $ 1 million in less than two weeks.”

Citing U.S. examples, the report mentions how The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – which filmed in New York – generated a stream of revenues for the state. These included everything from $1.9 million spent on catering services, $4.5 million in local taxes and $44 million in wages for New York residents to $150 million in spending throughout the state.

“If you want to shoot in Mumbai (India's film capital), you require almost 70 permissions from various departments,” Viacom18 Motion Pictures CEO Ajit Andare said at the panel discussion following the report's launch. “Clearly, production norms need to be simplified if India is to be a more attractive film shooting destination.” Viacom18's slate of Bollywood titles includes recent sports biopic Mary Kom, which premiered in Toronto.

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Comparing India to other Asian countries, Rittman pointed to the example of Malaysia, “which doesn't have a strong local film industry like India, but has been promoting itself as a very attractive shooting destination. And this has been possible because of strong government support.”

Malaysia has attracted high-profile projects such as The Weinstein Company's upcoming Netflix series Marco Polo. In addition, the country offers production facilities such as the Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios, a joint venture between the U.K.'s Pinewood Shepperton and the investment holding arm of the Government of Malaysia.

The report also offers examples of how Bollywood films shooting overseas boost local economies and tourism. Superhero film Krrish – which was partly filmed in Singapore – propeled Indian tourists from previous figures of about six million to seven million in 2006, following the film's release. Road movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara – filmed mostly in Spain – saw a 65 per cent jump in Indian tourists, with 115,000 visitors in 2011 compared to 75,000 in 2010.

According to an earlier MPA report, in 2013 the Indian film and TV industries contributed $8.1 billion to the Indian economy, equating to 0.5 per cent of GDP.