The exotic locations of our amazing planet heralds a massive draw card for filmmakers all over the world. Features like The Painted Veil and The Lord of the Rings are prime examples of films tailor-made for the countries in which they were shot. Yet as international competition to attract filmmakers increases, those in each country have quickly learned that stunning scenery alone will not suffice Incentives are an integral part of the production process - producers and directors look to top-of-the-line production facilities, safe and experienced support crews and depth of local talent when scouting filming destinations. Finally and most importantly, the vital addition of an enticing financial incentive will enable the film to actually get shot. These incentives have helped to seal the deal of some of the biggest films in recent years, such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Avatar and The Dark Knight. As worldly competition heats up in 2010, P3 takes a look at some of the stand-out locations that producers should keep an eye on.
The UK offers some of the best film crews and production facilities in the world, making it a filming mecca of Europe. Twickenham, Ealing, Shepperton and Pinewood studios constantly entice producers away from the highly competitive incentives of the United States, and they are fully geared to deal with massive franchise projects like Harry Potter and small art-house films alike. The UK benefits from strong co-production treaties and the softening of the British pound, and there is a solid tax-rebate system of 25 percent for films budgeted at less than 20 million pounds (and 20 percent for films larger than this). Dama Claire of the Incentives Office states that Disney's Alice in Wonderland, the Warner Bros. remake of Clash of the Titans and Universal's Robin Hood are all set to anchor in the UK. Claire is intimately involved with finding the best locales for films throughout Europe, and she says that producers greatly enjoy the UK studio experience. Following the highly successful Sherlock Holmes, the UK provided the location setting for Green Zone (starring Matt Damon) and is hosting part of Clint Eastwood's Hereafter for DreamWorks.
Known for its beautifully unspoilt rural countryside, Ireland continues to add to the country’s film portfolio with the Irish Film Bill, which raises the 20-percent qualifying rebate spend to 28 percent.
Ireland also has generous co-production treaties with Canada and Australia and is a member of Eurimages, which keeps product flowing in from Europe. With Ardmore Studios just an hour from Dublin Airport, Ireland has provided the production base for the hit show “The Tudors” and Ridley Scott’s project “The Pillars of the Earth.”
Always a popular filmmaking destination, Germany’s high-quality production facilities, expert technicians and state-of-the-art infra-structure attract a constant flow of studio films like Valkyrie, The Reader and Speed Racer. Studio Babelsberg is used for many big-budget flicks, and the 20-percent cash-grant program (off qualifying local expenditures and up to 80 percent of the total production costs) ensures that the country’s solid filmmaking history will remain in good stead. Dama Claire reports that the German Federal Film Fund has recently been renewed until 2012, and there are various regional incentives, such as Hamburg, Berlin-Brandenberg and Bavaria, that can also reduce the cost of filming.
The Cine Tirol Film Commission is a government of Tirol, Austria and the Tirol Tourist Board, which promotes Tirol as the forefront of international film production. Cine Tirol offers production grants of up to 50 percent for reimbursement of eligible expenditures from filming in Tirol. The production grants are distributed to selected film projects upon review of applications and are subject to budgetary constraints. Production grants are contingent upon the economic effect of the production in the region and/or the relation to the theme of the production.
The “Tirol Effect” is fulfilled when the filming of a project in Tirol generates income, such as general and domestic film industry expenditures for the region.
France has asserted itself strongly as one of Europe’s best filmmaking options - the country maintains a 20-percent tax rebate and offers over 80 studios to choose from. France averages approximately 200 films a year with Éclair and Quinta providing state-of-the-art postproduction facilities and Duran Duboi featuring full-CGI animation. With over 130,000 multilingual crew (speaking English, Chinese and Japanese), the region can sustain several productions at one time, and the varied terrain includes villages, farms, industrial grounds, forests, plains, churches and castles.
Of course, Paris is the country’s cinematic darling - every street corner is lined with grand historic sites, such as the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles and Sacre Coeur, the glorious white church featured in the magical film Amelie. Yann Marchet, marketing manager of the Ile de France Film Commission, says that their website lists over 1,000 locations that are available for shoots, and sites like the Palace of Fontainebleau are very encouraging of film productions. Historically, the city has been a popular locale for American shows, such as “The Sopranos,” “ER” and “Sex and the City,” and the recent films Inglourious Basterds, Killers and Julie and Julia.
The Film in Iceland Agency is the Film Commission of Iceland, run by Invest in Iceland Agency, which is an agency of the Trade Council of Iceland and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. Iceland has recently been gaining a higher profile in the international film industry. Internationally-acclaimed actors and directors have been working in Iceland with highly-skilled local crews available on hand. The Commission’s focus is on introducing Iceland as an enticing locale for foreign filmmakers with the possibility of a 20-percent reimbursement of costs incurred in the production of film and television programs shot in Iceland. Although the special legislation has been passed to support motion picture and television production, it’s important to know that commercial and music video productions do not qualify for the program.
According to Ausfilm, the Federal Australian Screen Production Incentive Scheme is comprised of three categories: a 15-percent rebate for a location offset; a 15-percent rebate on post, digital and visual effects, which does not have to be filmed in Australia to qualify; and a 20-percent rebate for television productions and a 40-percent rebate for feature films containing significant Australian content.
As part of the Film Victoria Melbourne Film Office’s efforts to attract interstate and international productions, it offers two incentive programs in addition to the Federal Incentive Scheme: The Production Investment Attraction Fund and the Regional Victoria Location Assistance Fund. HBO’s “The Pacific” filmed throughout Melbourne and Victoria and took full advantage of the RLAF and PIAF grants.
“The Pacific” Co-executive Producer Tony To is very happy with the collaboration efforts from Melbourne. “The team from Melbourne - the film commission - did such a good job of persuading us to take a good look at Melbourne,” he says. “Even the support team from the film commission [and] the scouts did such a thorough job that we were convinced to come to Melbourne. My overall filming experience in Melbourne can be summed up with one word: fantastic.”
One of Melbourne’s busiest streets closed for a couple of days to allow for some scenes from “The Pacific” to be shot. “The creative team, the local council, public transport authorities, local police and Film Victoria all worked together to make the shoot a success,” says General Manager, Film Victoria Melbourne Film Office Kate Marks.
New Zealand’s breathtaking locations, cutting-edge postproduction facilities and attractive incentives captured the attention of James Cameron for his award-winning film Avatar. Weta Digital handled the film’s 3D special effects and CGI work was carried out at Peter Jackson’s Stone Street Studios.
Film New Zealand offers a Large Budget Screen Production incentive in the form of a 15-percent grant for feature films with a minimum spend of NZ$15 million. Dramatic television movie and television series or mini-series can qualify but certain requirements apply. The PDV is a grant for post, digital and visual effects projects between NZ$3 and NZ$15 million. Under the Screen Production Incentive Program, the Fund provides a grant of 40 percent for qualifying New Zealand expenditures on feature films or a 20-percent grant for television or other productions. Director Taika
Waititi utilized this grant for his film Boy, a feature inspired by his Academy Award-nominated short Two Cars, One Night. Recent blockbusters shot in the country were The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, and preparations are currently underway for acclaimed Director Guillermo del Toro’s remake of The Hobbit.
According to the Fiji Audio Visual Commission, the island’s rich culture, breathtaking landscapes, beaches, islands, rivers, lakes, dense forests and very friendly people aren’t the only incentives that could entice you to make this your next filming destination.
Fiji is fostering its tax rebate of 35 percent for qualifying Fiji expenditures with a minimum spend of F$250,000. The F1 or F2 Audio Visual Production (AVP) incentives are schemes that allow producers to raise money from Fiji taxpayers, who can claim a tax deduction of either 125 percent (F2 AVP) or 150 percent (F1 AVP) against their tax liability.
Recent productions filmed in Fiji include Pump up the Mandali, Boot Camp, Pirate Islands: the Lost Treasure of Fiji and Welcome to the Jungle.
Thailand was chosen as one of three top filming destinations in Asia and announced in the February issue. A magnificent photo of a scene from Benetone Film’s Luck, taken by world-renowned Photographer Kulthep Narula graced the cover of that issue. Thailand’s ranking as one of the top three locations in Asia and now one of the top international locales for filmmaking is because it offers an abundance of scenically-spectacular locations, multilingual/cultural crews, postproduction facilities, technologically-advanced production equipment rental companies, sound stages, animal wranglers and much more. It is very economical to shoot in Thailand, and the Thai government is focusing on establishing tax credits and incentive programs for foreign productions. Plus, the Thailand Film Office and the Foreign Film Production Service Association (FFSA) is preparing a proposal to present to the Thai Government for enactment.
Hong Kong has been having a field day attracting film productions from all over the world. With its stunning locations, like the spectacular skyscrapers of Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong just hit 100 years of filmmaking history and had almost 150 local and international film and television productions in 2009. The country also maintains a simple and predictable tax regimen that features low-profit tax rates that are currently being offered at 16.5 percent for corporations and 15 percent for unincorporated entities.
Korea has had a difficult track record of attracting foreign productions because, like Japan, it is one of the most expensive countries in the world. However, it does have a bustling domestic film industry, particularly in the main filming centers of Seoul and Busan, and the country has been aggressively seeking international productions since the institution of the Seoul Film Commission (SFC) in 2007. The SFC has laid out a plethora of location and filmmaking incentives, such as a 25-percent rebate on in-city spending and a Location Scouting-Support program that provides round-trip airline tickets and accommodations for foreign production scouts.
According to the Media Development Authority of Singapore, the emerging cinematic stronghold of Singapore also posted record film and TV production outputs last year, capitalizing on the millions poured into the most comprehensive cinematic ecosystem in Asia. Singapore’s professional crews, high-tech postproduction facilities and overall incentive market - comprised of funding schemes, co-production initiatives and a number of government-to-government agreements - provide the full package for foreign filmmakers. Singapore provides ideal east-west gateways to stage cinematic projects deep into Asia, and Western producers are increasingly interested in Singapore’s fresh opportunities and ideas and the readily-available capital and markets given the relative strength of its economy.
Canada offers some of the highest tax incentives in the world, starting with a 16-percent tax credit for qualified Canadian labor on a federal level. And additional provincial incentives keep the numbers climbing. Manitoba Film & Music’s tax credit returns up to 55 percent of local labor costs combined with other bonuses that can reach a total of 65 percent altogether; the SaskFilm and Video Development Corporation recommends its tax credit that goes as high as 55 percent for eligible labor on each individual project; Alberta Film Commission is advertising its grant that gives producers up to 29 percent of all eligible production expenditures incurred within the province, which calculates to a labor tax credit of 36 to 53 percent; Film Nova Scotia offers up to 60 percent in eligible labor and an additional five-percent frequent filming bonus; the Québec Film & Television Council just improved its “All-Spend” tax credit of up to 30 percent, which includes 25 percent cash-back on all expenses, a 20-percent bonus on CGI for extended eligible labor with no minimum spend and no caps. When combined with the federal 16-percent credit, the total effective tax credit can reach up to 47.7 percent. Be sure to check details on all provincial programs to best suit your needs.
Just across the other border from the U.S., Mexico has cheaper labor and a wealth of to-die-for locations, and the country has historically benefitted from a spate of American productions seeking a better deal. International productions are enticed by Mexico’s VAT return financial incentive, which ranges from between 10 to 15 percent, depending upon the region selected for the shoot. Mexican crews are both friendly and hospitable while maintaining top professional standards and the raw talent to match. The country’s film industry is also backed up by solid postproduction facilities.
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
The Trinidad & Tobago Film Company (TTFC) provides free logistical support and production facilitation to all on location productions and great incentives. “We provide a ‘one stop shop’ service from location sourcing and crew recruitment to production facilities,” says TTFC Marketing Manager Patrice Matthews. “Trinidad and Tobago is the first English-speaking Caribbean island to offer cash rebates of up to 30 percent on productions filmed on location. The twin island republic offers the unique combination of ethnic and cultural diversity, lush tropical rain forests, white sand beaches, industrial estates, quaint colonial architecture and a modern ever-developing cityscape. The feature Limbo directed by Maria Sodahl and produced by Gudny Hummelvoll and Petter J. Borgli of SF Norge filmed in the region and is scheduled for release in 2010.
The Cayman Islands Film Commission is promoting its rebate of 30 percent on qualifying expenditures for film, video, commercial and television productions that shoot on the island. It also offers complete support from the Film Commission to ensure that all permits and requirements are honored by working closely with local vendors and Government agencies to offer special rates on support services and equipment for a smooth, film-friendly production environment.