This comprehensive guide to global production incentives asks: why not film in Fiji when you can recoup 50% of your production budget?
Filming a movie internationally has more benefits than merely exotic locale. In an effort to create jobs and stimulate local economies, many countries worldwide essentially pay productions to shoot within their borders. These production incentives vary significantly in structure and scope from country to country, but the end goal is universal: a symbiotic financial relationship between the country and foreign film productions. For a film with limited resources, shooting abroad could be just the ticket.
There are, of course, caveats to consider when comparing incentives. Each country stipulates a unique set of requirements, but the main issues to flag are the minimum amount of qualifying local expenditure (which can be high), local employment regulations, and whether or not the country requires the film to pass a cultural eligibility test.
International production incentives should not be confused with co-productions, which are multi-country productions that operate based on government treaties.
Here are the most common forms of incentives:
- Cash rebates function similarly to grants and are paid to the production company in percentages based on qualifying local expenditures, including labor, 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 labor, 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 by continent. Based on our research, you should start thinking seriously about setting your next film in Colombia (60% cash rebate), Fiji (50% cash rebate), or Canada (30% to 70% tax credits).
Best in Eastern Europe
- Film commission: Estonian Film Institute
- Financial incentive: Up to 30% cash rebate for film productions. There are also hefty sums available for development, pre-production, post-production, and distribution
- Requirements: The amount of aid is calculated as a percentage of the costs done 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
Best in Western Europe
- Film commission: Media Development Authority of Singapore
- 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 favorable light.
Best in Oceania
- Film commission: Film Fiji
- Financial incentive: Film Fiji offers a whopping 47% tax rebate on production spend in the country.
- Requirements: The production company most be locally registered in Fiji; in addition, you must demonstrate an ability to release and distribute the film in a major international market.
Best in North America (excluding the US)
- Film commission: Divided among provinces, with the most generous being Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and British Columbia
- Financial incentive: Depending on the province, producers can access combined federal and provincial tax credits ranging from 32% to 70% of eligible labor, as well as tax incentives on local qualifying spend ranging from 20% to 30%.
- Requirements: Varies depending on province
Best in Latin America
#1 : Colombia
- Film commission: Colombia Film Fund
- 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 tothe above incentives; you can receive up to 15% of production spend in the city
Best in the Middle East
#1: United Arab Emirates
- Film commission: National and Film and Video Foundation, Trade and Industry Department of South Africa
- Financial incentive: 20% tax credit (production), 25% tax credit (post-production)
- Requirements: 100% of the filming must be done in South Africa, and there is a $1.5 million minimum spend
- Notes: There are lucrative regional film funds in Gauteng, Cape Town, Durban, and the Eastern Cape
Author: Emily Buder