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_film'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'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

Shutterstock_322445018Vilnius, 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

Shutterstock_103296857Credit: 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

Shutterstock_211325611Prague, 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-hbo-dubrovnik-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

Shutterstock_116216281Belgrade, 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

A8f266cd4e6eeea9ffeb09afb3e0eb4a'Schindler's List,' shot in PolandCredit: Universal Pictures

Best in Western Europe

#1: Ireland

Shutterstock_392029546Credit: 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

Strangelovewarroom'Dr. Strangelove,' shot in the UK

#3: Belgium

Shutterstock_169194656BelgiumCredit: Shutterstock

#4: France

892849'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

Shutterstock_160279700MaltaCredit: Shutterstock

#6: Italy

Under-the-tuscan-sun-di-01'Under the Tuscan Sun,' filmed in Italy

#7: Austria

Goodnightmommy1'Goodnight Mommy,' filmed in Austria

#8: Germany

Jpbarbara1-jumbo'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

Shutterstock_143438380Northern lights in IcelandCredit: Shutterstock

#2: Norway

Shutterstock_111244400Norwegian fjordCredit: Shutterstock

Best in Asia

#1: Singapore

Shutterstock_377070661Credit: 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

Shutterstock_328004096MalaysiaCredit: Shutterstock

Best in Oceania

#1: Fiji

The-blue-lagoon_55007404-1650x928'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

2006_charlottes_web_016'Charlotte's Web,' filmed in AustraliaCredit: Paramount Pictures

#3: New Zealand

Shutterstock_180140354New 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

Revenant-gallery-15-gallery-image'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

El_abrazo_de_la_serpiente_2'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

Shutterstock_62629087Credit: Shutterstock

#3: Puerto Rico

Shutterstock_123562039Credit: 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

Shutterstock_138654053Credit: Shutterstock

#5: Panama

Shutterstock_355466615Panama CityCredit: Shutterstock

Best in the Middle East

#1: United Arab Emirates

Shutterstock_166322018Credit: Shutterstock

Best in Africa

#1: South Africa

Shutterstock_138443426Cape 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