In today’s Finshots, we tell you why India’s looking to sweeten film production incentives.

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Hear the word and the first image in your head is that of movie stars sashaying down a red carpet in their extravagant ensembles. It’s the scene of the most glamorous annual film festival in the world. And the who’s who of the film industry descend on this picturesque beachside town in France every year.

Now last year, India decided to try its luck at Cannes. No, we’re not talking about trying to snag an award for the best film. Rather, we made an attempt at wooing international film producers. We wanted them to shoot their movies in India. So we set up a stall at Cannes and announced that we were open to business — and we dangled some incentives.

What do we mean?

Well, we launched a grand scheme and said, “Look, if you collaborate with an Indian production house, we’ll reimburse you up to ₹2 crores. And if you employ a certain number of Indian workers while shooting in India, we’ll give you some more money.”

Yup, we wanted more movies like the Chris Hemsworth thriller Extraction to be shot in India.

But unfortunately, it looks like the scheme fell flat. It didn’t do the trick. And that’s because other countries were throwing even more cash to lure filmmakers away. So the rumour is that we’re doubling down on this. We want to open our purse strings and dole out even more incentives to moviemakers. Especially if it’s a big-ticket film —  like from the Marvel Cinematic Universe? We’ll have to wait and see.

But the question is — are movie shoots such a big money spinner for an economy? Can we really afford to spend crores of rupees on what seems to be a frivolous endeavor?

Okay, firstly these shoots have a local impact. When foreign filmmakers set up shop in a country, they need local talent for a lot of things. They might need actors to work as extras. They'll need some sound and lighting crew. They’ll need transport and logistics personnel. They’ll set up camp in hotels and eat out at local restaurants. And all this can bump up the local economy.

Take Thailand as an example. It’s one of the most popular spots in the world for shooting films. And the government has lots of financial incentives in place to make it an attractive proposition. The end outcome is that over 800 local staff get employment every year. And the films end up investing nearly $30 million back into the Thai economy annually.

But that’s probably not where the big money lies. It’s actually in tourism. And for that, you need to attract big-ticket movies.

Let’s look at Taiwan. The most famous movie shot in the Asian country is probably Life of Pi which went on to win the Oscar. You remember the one about a boy from India stranded on a boat with a tiger, right? Now nearly three-fourths of the movie was shot in various parts of Taiwan. And due to its resounding success, everyone wanted to be a part of it. So they flocked to Taiwan. Not only did the movie do well at the box office but in the quarter after the movie’s release, tourist arrivals soared by a whopping 40%. And in the specific area around the shoot location, hotel occupancies jumped by about 10% too.

But first, Taiwan actually handed out cash worth $1.7 million directly to filmmakers. Which kind of made the government a co-producer, no? And then handed out even more incentives. It did all this just to attract filmmakers to Taiwan in the first place.

Now we can’t be sure whether the spillover tourism effects continue to this day. Or whether Taiwan’s Return on Investment (ROI) justify the spends. But in some countries, the answer is clearer.

Like in New Zealand which is home of the Shire.

The Shire from Lord of the Rings? Yeah, even if you haven’t read Tolkien’s books, you might’ve seen the epic trilogy in its movie form. And it was primarily shot in New Zealand.

Now the movie came out in the early 2000s, but, the effects have lingered. Tourists continue to be enchanted by one of the shoot locations. And as per the country’s tourism board, 18% of tourists claim that they’re visiting New Zealand due to Lord of the Rings and another of Tolkien’s series-turned-film The Hobbit. And over the past two decades, the country has earned $620 million thanks to these tourists alone.

That’s quite massive.

So now you can see why when Amazon decided to make a TV series on Lord of the Rings, New Zealand knew it had to woo them. And it ended up doling out incentives of over $100 million to the Jeff Bezos company. It’s hoping that tourists will continue to flock to the island.

And maybe that’s India’s plan too. It doesn’t just want foreign investments to flow into the film industry. It probably wants to replicate the most sought-after shooting locations in the world as well.

But can higher incentives do the magic? We’ll have to wait and see.

Until then…

Fun Fact: Did you know that there’s a statue of the late Bollywood director Yash Chopra in Switzerland? He’s shot and produced so many of his films there (like DDLJ) that he’s probably responsible for all Indian tourists flocking to the European nation. So the Swiss government decided to honour him with a statue. They also even have a train named after him to keep his legacy alive.

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