Marijke deSouza
Producer at Dharma Productions

Most of the EU countries have something called a tax credit. They invite you to their countries and give you various offerings. And you go there, and you decide whether they fit the various scripts that you have in front of you. You can decide whether you can film there, how you can make the most of it. This has only come up in the last 5–6 years. Prior to this, we did not have tax credit. You just went there; you tried to tie up with tourism, you tried to tie up with the film commission; you got a grant, you got some money or some sponsorship from the tourism department of that country. And that’s how one researched—where would one get it? The countries with the largest tax credits in the world were the United Kingdom, the United States (for Atlanta), and, finally, New Zealand. And then suddenly, Europe jumped on the bandwagon and started coming up with tax credits. The tax credit has a way of having to be qualified. In most qualification processes, there is some way of knowing that you film in that country, either by having HODs from that country or by mentioning the country in your script so that in your visuals, you can note that it is that country.

There are two ways to go about it. One is that you just understand the tax credit and keep it in mind for various projects that can come. The other way is for me to have a project, so let me go and find out what suits my project the best. When I worked in Austria, there was no tax credit available to us. So what they did is give us a grant for a significant sum of money in exchange for our spending a certain amount, tying up with social media, promoting the place, and using their logos in our work.

Before the tax credit came on board, that was the only way for us to get around. Getting grants, getting support from tourism. We were able to actually show numbers as to how tourism from India had increased to that place [post release of this film. And there were various ways to do this.

The Austrian Commission earlier had a target of 1 million euros for local spending, but they realised that not many people would be able to hit that target. They brought it to 750,000 euros. And now, if I’m not mistaken, they’ve reviewed it to bring it down further. But not many films qualify in a year and have access to the funds. Tomorrow, if four big films come in, whoever qualifies first comes in.

It has a lot of support and easy access to locations. At one point, we as an industry were obsessed with going to the US. But then we realised that the European Union had a lot to offer. And now Eastern Europe is blooming in a big way. They understand the amount of money one ends up spending. I think on any film, you would spend a bare minimum of 250,000 euros. That’s a decent amount of money to bring into someone’s economy.

Gone are the days when Indian films would go with every single technician from here, and there was nobody from there. Right now, slowly, we’re moving the other way, where we’re trying to minimise the brew going from here, and hire local (equipment and labour) … I find the EU line producers really professional and on par with people in the west.

I certainly feel it is easier to shoot overseas. And India is making huge changes to the process one has to follow to get filming permits here. We’ve seen the change. Because earlier, if you wanted film permissions here, it would take weeks; it wasn’t online, and there wasn’t any one window to do it. We’ve borrowed a lot of methods from Europe and the West to understand how to make us a filming friendly country. And I think we’re doing a great job. Now you can go online in India with your permission, check your permission status, all of it.

Shooting in London is beautiful. It’s lovely, and it’s easy. But it’s also a bit tough because of logistics and because it’s a crowded city. But Austria is by far my favourite place; just the way they function, they’re very meticulous.

They’re a very good partner. And they completely understand what Indian films have to offer; they’re very cognizant of it. We get asked, “Do we get to release it here? Have screenings here?” Indian films are doing exceptionally well in places like Germany (theatrical releases)… You get subtitles in English or German, or you get it dubbed.

I spent a lot of 2018 in Bulgaria and was astounded by their knowledge of Indian films. Almost every village I visited for scouting knew Raj Kapoor. It was really bizarre. But I realised they had all watched it on a DVD or on TV.

60 percent of the production crew are now hired from outside. HODs might also be hired from outside. It depends on the film. If you’re filming somewhere in Europe or a foreign country, you would want to get a Head of Department from there to liaison with your Head of Department, because the team you’re going to hire locally is going to respond to their Head of Department. An example of this would be the art department. Our production designer is from here, but our art director is often local, who brings in a whole art team and reports to the production designer.

Once you find an option, it’s very important for the director to visit the country to incorporate it into the script. If you’re showing the country for the country it is, If you’re shooting for something else, then they just need to make sure it matches what you’re trying to show. The relationship between Indian filmmakers and the European Union will strengthen because if it costs the same as India and you get a variety of locations, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t want to step outside. It depends on what the script is, but in general, we’re in a very good place with the European Union.

The European Union can definitely see why they should invite Indian films there. There’s so much focus on coming to India and offering us all these rebates. They understand the reach of the films.

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