I recently contributed to an article for Lions Daily News a magazine that is distributed to all the delegates at the world famous Cannes Film Festival. The article, ‘Focus on India’, was written by Andy Fry and was very optimistic about the prospects for the India film services market.
Excerpt from the article…
“If there is an issue that is yet to be addressed, says Pandey, it’s the stereotypical Western perception that the Indian experience is all about poverty – and that the only campaigns worthy of recognition are those that address fundamental rights issues. “Campaigns with a social conscious are hugely important, but sometimes this job is just about selling products that make people happier. The kind of work that the international community focuses on is all to do with poverty – not progress. But India is a strong, happening economy.”
While India’s domestic advertising market is booming, the country has never really been a first-choice location for international producers – mainly because of the bureaucratic permissions process and lack of familiarity with the way things get done in India. But that is now changing says Tony Cordeaux, founder of producer and production services firm Goa Film Services: “Historically, filming in India has not always been easy. But the Indian government has started to recognise the value of people seeing India on screen. As part of that, 2016 saw the launch of the Film Facilitation Office, a division of the Ministry of Information and Business. They have had an immediate impact in simplifying the system for certain kinds of content including scripted projects and reality TV. We’re now seeing quicker turnaround times and greater responsiveness.”
Commercials are handled by a different process, which involves securing permission from India’s Ministry of External Affairs and the local embassies in the applicant’s country. “This process has also been liberalised,” says Cordeaux, “with the result that permission is easier to obtain. However I would still stress that it makes sense to work with a local production services company to make sure you’re going down the right application route and don’t encounter unexpected obstacles.”
While India doesn’t offer Malaysia-style tax incentives to woo producers, it is a cheap place to shoot. There is also a growing cadre of production services companies that can smooth the process of filming in India. Aside from Cordeaux’s company there are firms like New Delhi-based Elements Production Services, Mumbai-based Kriti Productions and India Take One Productions, which has offices in LA, New Delhi and Bombay.
India is also home to extraordinary locations including the Himalayas, Andaman Islands, Rajasthan, Goa, the Taj Mahal and Varanasi. “You can double here,” says Cordeaux, “but what people really come for are the unique stories and characters. India is irresistible. Everywhere you go there is something amazing and unpredictable – whether you’re pointing a camera at a street vendor or one of the wonders of the world.”
India’s case as a location has been helped in recent times by acclaimed films such as Slumdog Millionaire, Eat, Pray, Love, The Life Of Pi, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (and sequel), The Darjeeling Express, The Man Who Knew Infinity and Lion, which shot sequences at Kolkata’s famous Howrah railway station.
Many of these films star Dev Patel, who used the production notes for The Man Who Knew Infinity to express his excitement at filming in Southern India: “I’d never worked in the South before, but it is beautiful. We shot on some lovely locations in Chennai, and we went to Pondicherry, this French colony in India that blew my mind; it was truly spectacular. We filmed inside a really old beautiful temple, and the crew had to be very respectful and had to remove their shoes before going inside.”
Patel sums up the exuberant magic of India when he says: ‘I always enjoy shooting movies there. The energy of the crews is extraordinary; it is absolute chaos but in that chaos you see all these smiling faces, as everyone is so pleased to be working on a film set. It’s a great but chaotic energy that I really feed off.'”