Have you ever wondered what makes big film production companies choose to shoot in remote countries? Apart from the obvious – historical reference to the location or a scenic view – there is one more reason. In an effort to create jobs, stimulate local economies and promote tourism, many countries offer lucrative film production incentives to shoot within their borders. These production incentives vary significantly in structure and scope and the production company is left with a hard choice – there might be some compromises needed, you see.
Each country stipulates a unique set of qualifying criteria and anyone willing to put their hands on these funds needs to consider the minimum amount of qualifying local expenditure, local employment regulations, and whether or not the country requires the film to pass a cultural eligibility test.
The most common forms of incentives are:
Cash rebates function similarly to grants and are paid to the production company in percentages based on qualifying local expenditures, including labour, production costs, and other services.
Tax incentives are similar to rebates, but the production company must file a tax return to claim the funds. In turn, the company will receive a credit for taxes owed on qualifying local expenditures, including labour, production costs, and other services
National or regional film funds are limited government-sponsored grants for which a production must specifically apply.
Tax shelters, relief, or waivers allow investors tax breaks on their investments.
Below, we’ve broken down the world’s most attractive production incentives.
Financial incentive: Up to 30% cash rebate for film productions. There are also hefty sums available for development, pre-production, post-production, and distribution.
Criteria: The amount of aid is calculated as a percentage of the costs endured in Estonia (up to 30%) and paid out retroactively after all the expenses are audited. The maximum grant can be applied if the film production uses Estonian-based filmmakers, actors, and other production crew. It can also be applied if the story is set in Estonia.
Notes: With a proven track record when it comes to commercial production and low costs for crew and equipment, the country is quickly becoming a very attractive location for international film shoots. Better known as homeland of Skype and E-citizenship, Estonia has advanced in IT infrastructure. Great internet connection almost anywhere in the country is a given. Estonia has a climate with prominent four seasons. Snowy winters, spring with the nature slowly turning green and bursting in bloom, summers with white nights – 20 hours of daylight between sunrise and sunset – and colourful autumn months.
Financial incentive: Cash rebate of up to 20% of the budget.
Requirements: At least 80% of all production spending must be in Lithuania; maximum amount of funding cannot exceed 20% of the production costs. Similar to Estonia, Lithuania has prominent four seasons. Snowy winters, spring with the nature slowly turning green and bursting in bloom, summers with white nights – 20 hours of daylight between sunrise and sunset – and colourful autumn months.
Financial incentive:20% rebate on qualifying Czech spending; 66% rebate on international costs paid to foreign above-the-line cast and crew who pay withholding tax in the Czech Republic.
Requirements: Feature films must spend more than $628,000; documentaries must spend more than $83,000. Your production must pass this (relatively easy) cultural test, as well.
Notes: The Czech Republic is a popular destination for film production not only because of its financial incentives but also because of its large number of comprehensive and extremely professional production facilities.
Financial incentive: 20% rebate on qualifying Croatian expenditure.
Requirements: The applicant must be a Croatian producer, co-producer, or production service provider that has produced or provided production services for at least one publicly shown work within the last 3 years.
Financial incentive: In February 2017, Poland has introduced film production incentive of up to 25% cash back. Caps on specific productions are still under negotiation, and projects will need to have 50% of their budgets in place before applying. The PFI offers a system of grants that cover up to 50% of production costs. You can obtain additional funding from specific regions, such as the Krakow Regional Film Fund.
Notes: Poland has become an increasingly popular filming destination in recent years. Cold War thriller “Bridge of Spies”, starring tom Hanks, was shot there.
Requirements: The production company must reside in Ireland, or trade through a branch or agency; not connected to a broadcaster.
Notes: TV shows such as “Game of Thrones,” “Vikings,” “Penny Dreadful” and “Ripper Street” have all shot their most recent seasons in Ireland. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” also features scenes shot on the Emerald Isle, with the same team making a return trip for “Episode VIII.”
Certification and qualification is administered by the British Film Institute (BFI) on behalf of the Department for Culture Media and Sport.
The BFI will issue an interim certificate for uncompleted work or a final certificate where production has finished. If an interim certificate is received, then a final certificate must be applied for on completion. If a final certificate is not received then any interim relief which has already been paid will have to be repaid.
Notes: Britain is Europe’s hotbed for film production. And it’s not just the incentives that make it an attractive place to shoot. The UK has world-class studios spread out over the country, innovative VFX houses and reliable, knowledgeable crews in addition to iconic architecture and recognisable landmarks.
Financial incentive: The Belgian Tax Shelter allows the finance of up to 45% of Belgian-eligible expenses.
Requirements: Cannot exceed 50% of total production budget. Besides this offering there are also regional funds— such as the Flanders Audiovisual Fund and the Wallimage Investment Fund— available to international and co-productions looking to shoot locally.
Requirements: Production must pass a cultural test; minimum spend is either $1.5 million or 50% of total production budget spent in France.
Notes: There are 41 local film commissions throughout France which provide free assistance on issues such as location scouting, finding crew and obtaining filming permits. Films like “Inception” and “Midnight in Paris” were filmed in France.
Financial incentive: In recent years, Germany has significantly slashed its federal film funding, from $95 million to the current $68 million. The DFFF offers a grant that covers 20% of German production costs with a maximum grant limit of $4.5 million (and $11 million in exceptional cases). Germany also has 17 regional film commissions to help with production logistics and funds.
Requirements: Must submit a relatively simple production plan. Those choosing the country for filming can take advantage of straightforward legislation; by setting up a local production company, audiovisual productions can see a return of 20% of their total local expenditure.
Notes: Iceland has had its fair share of TV and film coverage lately and its well-organised crew and production services industry seems to keep attracting big-budget productions. Titles that have benefited from this offer include The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Game of Thrones.
Financial incentive: In 2004, the Singapore Tourism Board introduced the “Film in Singapore Scheme,” which promotes production in the country by subsidizing up to 50% of qualifying expenses incurred in Singapore, including local talent, production staff, and production services. Additionally, there are various grants available through the MDAS, including a “Production Assistance” grant that supports up to 40% of qualifying expenses.
Requirements: Films and television shows must portray Singapore in a favourable light.
Financial incentive: Producer Offset (40% rebate on productions shot in Australia); PDV Offset (30% rebateon post-production work conducted in Australia, regardless of where the production was shot).
Requirements: To qualify for the Producer Offset, you must have an agreement for an Australian theatrical release, a financial commitment towards prints and advertising made by the distributor, an international sales agent attached, and more.
Financial incentive: The New Zealand Screen Production Grant offers a 20% cash rebate to qualifying expenditures; you can also qualify for an additional 5% uplift if your project meets requirements proving it will boost the country’s economy.
Requirements: $11 million minimum spend for feature films; more requirements here.
Notes: New Zealand is a very popular place for scenic shots. Titles like “Lord of The Ring”, ‘The Hobbit”, “Narnia”, and “Last Samurai” have New Zealand in their credits.
Financial incentive: Depending on the province, producers can access combined federal and provincial tax credits ranging from 32% to 70% of eligible labour, as well as tax incentives on local qualifying spend ranging from 20% to 30%.
Requirements: Varies depending on province.
Note: Thanks to the lucrative incentives, a lot of American films were shot in Canada. Among them are Titanic, Twilight, Mean Girls, Blades of Glory, Catch me If You Can and The Day After Tomorrow among others.
Financial incentive: Two-tier cash rebate system provides 40% for film services (including services related to post-production, artistic, and technical services), and another 20% for film logistical services (including services provided for transport, accommodation, and food).
Requirements: Production must be partially or totally filmed in Colombia, with a minimum $600,000 local spend.
Notes: Medellin is the only city in Colombia that offers rebates in addition to the above incentives; you can receive up to 15% of production spend in the city.