India Considering Higher Cap on Filming Incentives

The cap on India’s filming incentives, which were revealed at Cannes in March, could dramatically rise if necessary, the country’s top film bureaucrat has revealed.

Currently, the Indian federal government reimburses up to 30% of qualifying production expenditure to a maximum of INR20 million ($244,000). An additional 5% to a maximum of INR5 million ($61,100) is granted to productions employing 15% or more manpower in India. The minimum qualifying production expenditure spending threshold is INR25 million ($305,500).

“We are open to suggestions and open to ideas, we are discussing with the Motion Picture Association and I’m proposing that we will have a meeting in Mumbai with the larger foreign studios, which are represented in India. And considering their feedback, because we would also like to have some marquee names and some big pictures to come in, and in case this cap is coming as a hindrance and the cap needs to raise, we can consider that for sure,” Apurva Chandra, secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, told News Brig at the International Film Festival of India, Goa.

“Let’s say the cap is $2 million or $3 million, I think that should suffice even for a large film, I would think, and we are open to raising that after discussions and feedback from the industry,” Chandra added.

In September this year, Chandra had revealed that India’s Film Facilitation Office (FFO), the go-to body for international projects shooting in the country, hitherto managed by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), would be run by Invest India, the investment promotion and facilitation agency that helps global investors looking for investment opportunities and options in India. The process is now underway.

Invest India is the face of the government for any international investor and already has raised some $60 billion in Foreign Direct Investment with $196 billion more in the pipeline. The investment has been mostly in the manufacturing industries across India. Some 18 states also have filming incentive schemes.

“The focus has largely been on manufacturing, less so on services, while filmmaking is more of a service oriented industry, you’re not setting up a permanent infrastructure. Invest India is a ready-made backbone. All the state governments are already represented in the permissions, the processes of permissions, the nodal officers, everything is there. And then they are also active with foreign governments and foreign clients for attracting investment in India. So, we feel it will be the right step, because they have a lot of credibility with foreign investors,” Chandra said. “They will be the right fit because at the backend they are connected with the states and in the front end, they are connected with the foreign clients.”

“About the permission for shooting at a particular location, what it essentially means in India is that somebody has to control the traffic, somebody has to control the crowds, because in India of course, any shooting is a very major attraction for the local public. There an automatic permission really doesn’t work because the police, the local law and order machinery has to be on board. That single window will be operated by Invest India because they have a connection right till the lowest field level functionaries and they will be taken on board and the all the permissions will be given through FFO and for a person wanting to shoot in India FFO will be the single point of approach,” Chandra added.

Chandra has more welcome news for international projects shooting in the country. The FFO website, which is being revamped in an FDI-friendly manner, will also track the payment of filming incentives. “Announcing the incentive is one thing but then, whether it is actually processed, it’s paid and how long that is taking – we will be tracking that also on behalf of the person who is shooting and also with the states,” Chandra said. “And to facilitate that, we will come out with a ranking of the state – like we have an ease of doing business ranking, we will also have an ease of shooting ranking.”

India currently has 15 international co-production treaties and these are being refreshed. “The fact of the matter is that since we did not have an incentive scheme, they did not really take off in that sense. Now, since we have our incentive scheme, and the states have their own incentives, all that can be plugged into a coproduction, so that a coproducer will get the incentive from our country, from the states in our country, and also from the country with which we have signed the coproduction treaty. So it will work, I think, to great benefit. And we would like to increase the coproduction treaties, as well as now take to the logical conclusion, the existing treaties,” Chandra said.