Production incentives for foreign films that shoot in India have been teased by government since Cannes last year. And again at the Film Bazaar last November. Now their introduction is being held up by the coronavirus and the widespread disruption to the film industry it has caused.
“We will announce as soon as shooting restarts,” said TCA Kalyani, Joint Secretary (Films) at India’s Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, speaking Monday on a Cannes Market panel organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry. She avoided revealing the all-important percentage of qualifying spending could be rebated, but nevertheless gave a couple of clues. She revealed that the incentives would cover co-productions as well as inbound foreign productions, and she said miniseries and series would be covered as well as feature films.
Producer Michael E. Ward said that meaningful location incentives in India could make the difference between shooting all or only part of Rajasthan-set “The Far Pavilions” in the country.
“The plan is to make ‘The Far Pavilions’ as a long-running returning series. We are in discussions with major studios about making this as a series with several seasons, conceptually 10 episodes per season for up to six years. That is a vast undertaking between the U.S., U.K. and India. It should be a co-production,” explained Ward.
“I’m India born and raised. It is exciting to think how authentically this could be made with actors and technicians whose skills are at a global level. It breaks my heart to think of shooting some of this in Morocco (where a 20% rebate is available) or South Africa.”
The 1,000-page M.M. Kaye novel about the romance between a British officer and a Rajput princess was the global best-seller of 1979 and was adapted for TV in 1983. Ward was responsible for bringing it to the West End stage in 2005, and has retained the TV rights through his Beautiful Bay Prods. company.
Other panelists included Vikramjit Roy, head of the NFDC’s Film Facilitation Office; Dr. Nitin Jawale, MD of IPICOL and OFDC in the state of Odisha; line producer Pravesh Sahni, at India Take One Prods.; and line producer Dileep Singh Rathore, at On the Road India. The session was moderated by Variety writer Naman Ramachandran.
Rathore recently worked with Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.” “Things have been getting better over the past 15 years. But we can still waste too much time thinking about clearances, rather than making the film. On ‘Tenet’ we got our helicopter permit only one day ahead of shooting,” he said.
“Big productions need more than permissions, but also the sense that government is behind the production to make the process as streamlined as possible.” He explained that customs problems with exposed film and replica guns can still be problematic.