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
'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
'White God,' shot in HungaryCredit: Magnolia Pictures
- Film commission: Hungarian National Film Fund
- Financial incentive: 25% tax incentive on eligible expenses
- Requirements: Must 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.
Vilnius, LithuaniaCredit: Shutterstock
- Film commission: Lithuanian Film Centre
- Financial incentive: Cash 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
- Film commission: Macedonia Film Agency
- Financial incentive: 20% cash rebate on Macedonian production costs
- Requirements: You 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.
'Game of Thrones' King's Landing is filmed in Dubrovnik, CroatiaCredit: HBO
- Film commission: Filming in Croatia
- Financial incentive: 20% 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.
Belgrade, SerbiaCredit: Shutterstock
- Film commission: Serbian Film Commission
- Financial incentive: 20% rebate on qualifying Serbian expenditure
- Requirements: $340,000 minimum spend on feature films; $57,000 on docs
'Schindler's List,' shot in PolandCredit: Universal Pictures
- Film commission: Polish Film Institute
- Financial incentive: While there are no national tax incentives offered yet (one is being planned for 2017), the PFI offers a system of grants that cover up to 50% of production costs. You can obtain additional funding from specific regions, such as the Krakow Regional Film Fund.
Best in Western Europe
- 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
- Film commission: British Film Commission
- Financial incentive: 25% cash rebate and up to 80% tax relief
- Requirements: Production must pass a cultural test.
- Film commission: Belgian Film Industry
- Financial incentive: The Belgian Tax Shelter allows the finance of up to 45% of Belgian-eligible expenses.
- Requirements: Cannot exceed 50% of total production budget
'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.
- Film commission: Malta Film Commission
- Financial incentive: 25% cash rebate of eligible expenditure with an additional 2% if the production features Malta culturally
- Requirements: Production must pass a cultural test.
'Under the Tuscan Sun,' filmed in Italy
- Film commission: Filming in Italy
- Financial incentive: 25% tax relief on qualifying expenditures
- Requirements: Production must pass a cultural test and meet other requirements.
'Goodnight Mommy,' filmed in Austria
- Film commission: There are multiple funding options, but one of the most prominent is Film Industry Support Austria (FISA).
- Financial incentive: Cash rebate of 20% eligible production costs
- Requirements: You must pass a cultural eligibility test, spend $1.5 million in Austria, and meet various other requirements.
'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
Northern lights in IcelandCredit: Shutterstock
- Film commission: Film in Iceland
- Financial incentive: 25% cash rebate on all eligible expenses
- Requirements: Must submit a relatively simple production plan
Norwegian fjordCredit: Shutterstock
- Film commission: Norwegian Film Institute
- Financial incentive: 25% cash rebate on all eligible expenses
- Requirements: Minimum production spend of $3 million and must pass qualification test
Best in Asia
- 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.
- Film commission: National Film Development Corporation Malaysia
- Financial incentive: 30% cash rebate in qualifying local expenditure
- Requirements: $1.2 million minimum spend (including post-production)
Best in Oceania
'The Blue Lagoon' (1980), shot in Fiji
- 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.
'Charlotte's Web,' filmed in AustraliaCredit: Paramount Pictures
- Film commission: Australian Screen Production Incentive and Screen Australia
- Financial incentive: Producer Offset (40% rebate on productions shot in Australia); PDV Offset (30% rebate on post-production work conducted in Australia, regardless of where the production was shot)
- Requirements: To qualify for the Producer Offset, you must have an agreement for an Australian theatrical release, a financial commitment towards prints and advertising made by the distributor, an international sales agent attached, and more.
#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)
'The Revenant,' shot in CanadaCredit: 20th Century Fox
- 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
'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
- Notes: Medellin 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
- Film commission: Trinidad & Tobago Film Company
- Financial incentive: Cash rebates up to 55% for expenditures on qualifying local labor and 35% on other local expenditures
- Requirements: At least 50% of the principal photography must be done in Trinidad and Tobago; minimum of two weeks of the principal photography must be filmed in Trinidad and Tobago
#3: Puerto Rico
- Film commission: Film 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
- Film commission: Dominican Republic Film Commission
- Financial incentive: 25% transferable tax credit on all eligible expenditures including pre-production, production, and post-production
- Requirements: $500,000 minimum spend
Panama CityCredit: Shutterstock
- Film commission: Panama Film Commission
- Financial incentive: 15% cash rebate
- Requirements: $3 million minimum local expenditure
Best in the Middle East
#1: United Arab Emirates
- Film commission: Abu Dhabi Film Commission
- Financial incentive: 30% cash rebate on production spend; no sales tax
- Requirements: Must pass the National Media Council content clearance
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 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