August 22, 2016
for your production bible

The Best Countries in the World to Film Your Movie, Based on Production Incentives

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

#1: Estonia

'The Fencer,' shot in Estonia
  • 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

#2: Hungary

'White God,' shot in HungaryCredit: Magnolia Pictures
  • Film commission: Hungarian National Film Fund
  • Financial incentive25% tax incentive on eligible expenses
  • RequirementsMust pass a cultural test, but producer is free to spend 20% of production costs outside of Hungary
  • Notes: Hungarian film crews are incredibly experienced and professional. There are many high-quality production facilities, and the country is notable for its film-friendly infrastructure.

#3: Lithuania
Vilnius, LithuaniaCredit: Shutterstock

  • Film commissionLithuanian Film Centre
  • Financial incentiveCash 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

#4: Macedonia

Credit: Shutterstock
  • Film commission: Macedonia Film Agency
  • Financial incentive: 20% cash rebate on Macedonian production costs
  • RequirementsYou must spend a minimum of $113,000, have 50% of funding already in place, and have a Macedonian producer involved

#5: Czech Republic

Prague, Czech RepublicCredit: Shutterstock
  • Film commission: Czech Film Commission
  • 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.

#6: Croatia

'Game of Thrones' King's Landing is filmed in Dubrovnik, CroatiaCredit: HBO

  • Film commission: Filming in Croatia
  • Financial incentive20% 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.

#7: Serbia
Belgrade, SerbiaCredit: Shutterstock

  • Film commission: Serbian Film Commission
  • Financial incentive20% rebate on qualifying Serbian expenditure
  • Requirements: $340,000 minimum spend on feature films; $57,000 on docs

#8: Poland
'Schindler's List,' shot in PolandCredit: Universal Pictures

Best in Western Europe

#1: Ireland
Credit: Shutterstock

  • Film commission: Irish Film Commission 
  • Financial incentive: 32% tax credit on local Irish expenditures 
  • Requirements: The production company must reside in Ireland, or trade through a branch or agency; not connected to a broadcaster.

#2: The UK and Scotland
'Dr. Strangelove,' shot in the UK

#3: Belgium

BelgiumCredit: Shutterstock

#4: France

'Madame Bovary,' shot in France
  • Film commission: Film France 
  • Financial incentive: 30% tax rebate on qualifying expenditures in France
  • 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 with additional offerings. 

#5: Malta
MaltaCredit: Shutterstock

#6: Italy

'Under the Tuscan Sun,' filmed in Italy

#7: Austria

'Goodnight Mommy,' filmed in Austria

#8: Germany

'Barbara,' dir. Christian Petzold, filmed in Germany
  • Film commission: German Federal Film Fund (DFFF)
  • 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: Feature films must pass a cultural eligibility test, have an office registered in Germany, spend 25% of production costs in the country, have 75% of financing in place, and meet other requirements.
  • Notes: Big-budget films such as The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Monuments Men, Cloud Atlas, and Inglourious Basterds have been awarded the grant.

Best in Scandanavia

#1: Iceland
Northern lights in IcelandCredit: Shutterstock

#2: Norway
Norwegian fjord Credit: Shutterstock

Best in Asia

#1: Singapore

Credit: Shutterstock

  • 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.

#2: Malaysia
MalaysiaCredit: Shutterstock

Best in Oceania

#1: Fiji

'The Blue Lagoon' (1980), shot in Fiji

  • Film commissionFilm 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.

#2: Australia

'Charlotte's Web,' filmed in Australia Credit: Paramount Pictures

#3: New Zealand
New ZealandCredit: Shutterstock

  • Film commission: New Zealand Film Commission
  • 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

Best in North America (excluding the US)

#1: Canada
'The Revenant,' shot in CanadaCredit: 20th Century Fox

  • Film commission: Divided among provinces, with the most generous being OntarioQuebecNova ScotiaNewfoundland and LabradorNew 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
'Embrace of the Serpent,' shot in ColombiaCredit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

  • 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
  • NotesMedellin 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

#2: Trinidad & Tobago
Credit: Shutterstock

#3: Puerto Rico
Credit: Shutterstock

  • Film commissionFilm in Puerto Rico
  • Financial incentive: 40% production tax credit on all payments to Puerto Rico resident companies and individuals
  • Requirements: $100,000 minimum spend

#4: Dominican Republic
Credit: Shutterstock

#5: Panama
Panama CityCredit: Shutterstock

Best in the Middle East

#1: United Arab Emirates
Credit: Shutterstock

Best in Africa

#1: South Africa
Cape Town, South AfricaCredit: Shutterstock

  • Film commission: National and Film and Video Foundation,  Trade and Industry Department of South Africa
  • Financial incentive20% 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

Your Comment

9 Comments

Thank you! This is great :)

August 22, 2016 at 5:29PM

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Shaeden Gallegos
Marketing Coordinator at RED DIGITAL CINEMA
71

Great post - the Bird's eye view Information, Thanks for your efforts.

August 23, 2016 at 12:20AM

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Arun Meegada
Moviemaker in the Making
426

Georgia as well
http://filmingeorgia.ge/

August 23, 2016 at 7:14AM

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Irakli
74

Great article, would love it if you could follow up with one on the US states.

August 23, 2016 at 10:35PM

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matt
729

I believe I will!

August 26, 2016 at 12:39PM

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Emily Buder
Managing Editor & Head of Community

Thank you for your help really useful article http://www.trzyjeziora.com/

December 1, 2016 at 8:30AM, Edited December 1, 8:31AM

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Krystian Majek
SEO Analitycs
81

Just to add/clarify, the United Arab Emirates rebate mentioned in the article applies to Abu Dhabi only (the capital of the UAE). Both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Furious 7 were shot there.

Dubai (another city in the UAE) offers different incentives, as I understand, with more info in the link below. Recently, Star Wars Beyond and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol filmed there.

http://www.dubaifilmcommission.ae/filming-in-dubai/incentives

September 2, 2016 at 1:01AM

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Eisa Alsabousi
Filmmaker
81

There are some mistakes in this article.

In relation to Australia it does not mention the Location Offset at 16.5% and implies that the Producer Offset is available for foreign production, which it is not. In relation to Canada it does not mention the Federal tax incentive of 16% on qualifying labour. Also, in relation to Canada the provinces offer either a tax rebate on labour or one on production spend, but not both. In the case of the UK it says "25% cash rebate and up to 80% tax relief" which is misleading. The rebate is 25% of UK spend on up to 80% of the total budget. In relation to South Africa the post-production rebate is 2.5% not 25% and to get it you have to shoot in SA.

There may be more mistakes that I have not picked up. The best source of information on incentives is Entertainment Partners https://www.epfinancialsolutions.com/ which has a searchable database that it keeps up to date and provides a regular newsletter on changes to incentives.

December 13, 2016 at 10:28PM

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Nick Herd
Head of Policy and Research, Ausfilm
74

Very useful post here Emily. Though I'm compelled to add a few more film incentives worth considering:
- Spain's tax credit of 15% increases to 35% in the Navarre region and Canary Islands.
- Thailand & Ukraine have incentives going into effect during 2017.
- The Mauritius incentive has recently increased to 40% (more info here: http://www.productionservicenetwork.com/blog/entry/dreamy-incentive-boos...)

Our Production Service Network aims to keep up with these developments through our individual Partners in more than 40 countries. You can check each one out on www.productionservicenetwork.com.

December 17, 2016 at 3:45AM

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Michael Moffett
Executive Producer & Founding Partner
74

Hi Emily, thanks for the recognition of Trinidad and Tobago on this list.

Two amendments:

"Financial incentive: Cash rebates up to 55% for expenditures on qualifying local labor and 35% on other local expenditures." Should read: "Financial incentive: Cash rebates up to 35% for qualifying local expenditures, and 20% on qualifying local labor."

Our website is now www.filmtt.co.tt.

Many thanks!

Nneka Luke, Film Commissioner, Trinidad and Tobago Film Company (FilmTT)

April 18, 2017 at 11:26AM

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