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How do FILM producers decide where to film?

The battle of the cash rebates

· film finance,Film Production,film tax,Film,film cash rebate

Watching a film or high end TV one might assume that film producers chose the film location that relates most closely to the description in the script, either real or fictional. But while this is one consideration there is a second major influence; the film tax rebate available in the country. Having visited several countries in preproduction on a forthcoming film I thought it a good time to look at what is on offer.

Film tax rebates come in different shapes and sizes, but generally this sum is rebated against the amount of money a producer spends in the country, or in the case of the US, State. That country or state will require some stipulations, such as employing a local producer, using local crew, and if you feature the country as the country, rather than a fictional or other country, the rebate can be more generous, e.g. featuring New Zealand as New Zealand rather than Hobbitland gains you an extra 5%.

The competition between nations is fierce and the sums are significant. In the UK it contributes £6billion to the UK economy generating a £1.45billion trade surplus. No small reason why we increased our rebate from 20% to 25% recently. The mode for these rebates is 25%.

The competition is present at all the major film markets. A film market is a trade show for film, its primary function is to connect sellers and buyers. But at AFM, Cannes and Berlin increasing amounts of floor space is devoted to countries displaying glossy brochures that would definitely tempt you to holiday, if not film.

Of course, while the secluded beach with a sea view might be great for a holiday, a film with cast, hundreds of crew and equipment, puts pressures on infrastructure, food, even water and sewage, and can put a different spin on this location. And in remote locations that generous rebate may be less profitable if you then have to fly in and accommodate all your crew and equipment - hence the higher rebates are offered by trickier shoot locations such as remote islands.

These rebates are cash, often facilitated by the country’s own financial system. The money can be borrowed from a domestic provider, though most film financiers are generally happy with this debt since it is backed by the Government of the country and therefore low risk. In reality the full rebate is never realised since in both cases interest and fees are deducted before they reach the producer, but these rebates represent a significant chunk of the film or high end TV’s costs.

Looking at what’s on offer say you want a desert, a popular choice for the war on terror films, Marvel and Game of Throne spin offs then the choice is great; ‘Hurt locker’ (Jordan, 25%), ‘Jack Ryan (Morocco, 20%), ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Solo’ (both Canaries, 40%). You might think London would be the place for Victorian streets, you’d be wrong, your money will go much further with the same rebate in Belfast and Dublin has a tempting 31%. Post ‘Titanic’ water tanks are popular, Malta (40% rebate ) has the biggest, but studios in many counties have, or are building them.

The macroecomics of this business require further analysis but with UK production currently growing at 30% per annum and most of the money coming from outside the UK for UK PLC this does make sense. We will always have the edge with some locations, and our pool of talented cast and crew is world class, but we should not to be complacent. ‘Lord of the Rings’ had recce’d Wales extensively before Peter Jackson tempted them to his homeland, and one can only wonder at what the economic impact of shooting that franchise in Wales might have been.

Film Cash Rebates*

47% Fiji

42% Belgium

40% Canary Islands, Columbia

35% Netherlands, Romania, Greece, Trinidad & Tobago, Oklahoma

32% Ireland

30% Malta, Portugal, Italy, France, Estonia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Taiwan, Malaysia, New York, Malayisa, Chile, Conneticut, Illinois, Kentucky, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, Washington

25% UK, South Africa, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Georgia, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, South Korea, California, New Mexico, Mississipi, Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Montenegro, Norway, Jordan, Dominican Republic, Utah, Alabama, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee

21% DC

20% Morocco, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Spain (mainland), Latvia, Czech, Hawaii, Georgia (US state), Slovakia, Texas, Arkanas, Colorado, Oregon, Utah

17.5% Mexico

16% Canada

15% Thailand, Panama, Nevada, Virginia

*based on over $1million spend and other qualifying criteria

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