Vikramjit Roy, Head, Film Facilitation Office National Film Development Corp. Ministry of I&B, Gov. of India
The Indian film industry has seen consistent growth over the years. With the introduction of new mediums of consumption of films, the potential for future growth is healthier than it has ever been. However, to capitalise and build on this opportunity the industry needs an ecosystem, at a state and central level, that lets it thrive. Vikramjit Roy, in this exclusive with CreativeFirst, sheds some light on the current landscape and the steps that not just the government, but also other stakeholders in the industry, need to take for the industry to reach its full potential.
1. The FFO has been set up to encourage foreign filmmakers to shoot in India. Have you seen an uptick in activity since the entity’s creation?
The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B), Government of India, set up the Film Facilitation Office (FFO) in the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) in the year 2015, with a view to promote the Ministry’s Film in India initiative and facilitate film shootings by foreign filmmakers in India. Since its inception, the FFO with the support of the Ministry of I&B, has undertaken initiatives aimed at easing filming in India creating an ecosystem of Nodal Officers across various State Governments and within key stakeholder Central Government Ministries/ Departments such as Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Railways, Archeological Survey of India, Animal Welfare Board, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Ministry of External Affairs, amongst others. This ecology, has enabled effective governmental collaborations at the policy level as well at the ground level, towards the creation of a film friendly environment.
The institution of the “Most Film Friendly State Award” by the Ministry of I&B is another endeavour towards the Film in India initiative. This unique Award, which was included in the 63rd National Film Awards in the year 2015, is the Ministry’s endeavor to promote India as a filming destination as well as to encourage the growth of the filming industry. It recognises and acknowledges the significant strides made by a State Government towards the direction of ease of doing business in respect of film shootings by Indian/foreign filmmakers and for creating a conducive environment towards promotion of Indian cinema. The States of Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have been recipients of this Award in the last few years.
The FFO has proactively attempted to create linkages between the Industry and the diverse stakeholders in the Government, be it at the Central or the State level. These linkages, have over time, led to positive changes –
The FFO has stepped up its policy advocacy through engagements such as workshops, one-on-one meetings etc. with key stakeholder Central Government Ministries/Departments, State Governments and Industry Bodies, with a view to have policies that streamline the filming and permitting process.
2. How is the FFO promoting itself to foreign filmmakers so that they know it’s now easier to shoot in India?
The FFO acts as a single-window facilitation and clearance mechanism for filming of Feature Films, Reality TV shows and/or Commercial TV Serials in India by international filmmakers. The services rendered by FFO have now been extended to Indian filmmakers as well.
In an effort to reach out to the international film fraternity, the FFO has also been engaging with both Indian Missions abroad through the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the International Missions located in India, especially from those countries that have signed a treaty with India on co-production of films. The FFO’s alignment with the MPAA and the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI) has helped in building meaningful relationships with leading Hollywood Studios and OTT Services in Los Angeles. We have also been participating in leading Film markets like the Marche du Film at the Festival de Cannes, wherein we were able to network with established Producers and Production Houses from Europe and other Countries which have an international treaty with India for audio-visual coproduction.
Furthermore, FFO has also recently set up its web portal, www.ffo.gov.in that provides all filming related information at the click of a button. The site was launched by the Hon’ble Minister of State (I/C) for Information & Broadcasting, Col. Rajyavardhan Rathore on 20th November 2018 at the inaugural ceremony of the 49th International Film Festival of India (IFFI). The portal not only enables online submission of applications for international filmmakers, but also enlists India's co-production treaties and guidelines of key central government Ministries/departments. In addition to this, the portal also showcases a Locations directory, database of the talent available in the Indian film industry, its filming hubs, and integrates with other such portals developed by State governments.
3. When we think of attracting foreign filmmakers, naturally Hollywood is the first to come to mind. What are some other important regions or countries shooting in India?
We have received applications from UK, France, Bangladesh, USA, Argentina, Italy, China, Cote d'Ivoire, Canada, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Denmark, Spain, Germany Australia, Iran, Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, Japan and Indonesia.
4. Can a foreign film or television crew be rejected from shooting in India based on the content they want to film?
As part of the application processing, the script is evaluated by an expert from a panel constituted by the Ministry. If considered necessary, a liaison officer may be attached to a film shooting team. Where a liaison officer is so attached to the shooting team, the Government of India will bear his expenses. In exceptional cases you may need to show the complete film to a representative of the Government of India, in India or in an Indian Mission abroad, before its release anywhere in the world with a view to ensure that the film has been shot in accordance with the evaluated script and that the film has nothing objectionable from the point of view of presentation of a correct and balanced perspective on the topic covered.
During the shooting of the film, if it is felt that any material changes or deviation from the approved script is necessary; permission must be taken from the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting through FFO before shooting these scenes.
5. Can you tell us about one “success” story – a film that otherwise might not have shot in India, that did thanks to the FFO?
There are several such projects in the making; however, FFO cannot share details of these projects.
6. In 2016, India had roughly 8.8 million foreign tourists, whereas Thailand, a country a fraction of the size, had close to 30 million. Can showcasing India in foreign films play a role in boosting tourism?
Yes, it is a well-known fact that tourists, be they domestic or international, often prefer to travel to a site/location/destination specifically because they have been depicted in various feature film and television series. Therefore, it could be said that films significantly impact and influence the choice of travel destinations. This occurrence is called film-induced tourism and is now a global phenomenon. Locations, become characters in the film as they are strongly woven into the narrative and audiences subconsciously begin to relate this to locations and an association is thus formed between the viewer and the location, resulting in destination travel and vacations to such locations.
One of the major long term economic benefits of film-induced tourism is that film locations can be all-year and all-weather attractions that do away with the problem of seasonality, which is often faced by the tourism industry. Another significant benefit of film tourism is that it increases the cultural value for the film location. A film can therefore, augment the image of the site/monument and thus further enhance not only its brand equity but also the host city.
It is pertinent to state here that the FFO realizes the long-term economic benefits that film-induced tourism can bring to the local economy. It also believes that film tourism increases the cultural value for the film location, since tourists also visit heritage sites/monuments. It is in this context that the FFO created an AV, addressed to the Nodal Officers spread across 29 States and 7 Union Territories, highlighting the economic benefits of filming, which is a direct outcome of simplifying filming & related permissions at the ground level. The film also lays emphasis on the critical role of the Nodal Officer in executing the parameters of the Most Film Friendly State Award.
7. Making it easier for foreigners to film in India is great, but what about making it easier for Indian filmmakers to shoot in states across India?
The services rendered by the FFO have now been extended to Indian filmmakers as well. The FFO web portal, www.ffo.gov.in which can be accessed by both Indian and international producers, has information regarding the Nodal officers of all Indian States and Union Territories, along with their filming policies and guidelines. In addition, FFO organizes participation of various State Tourism/Film Offices at the Film Bazaar every year, with a view to create a platform for the State Officials and the industry (both Indian and international) to engage directly and build one-on-one relationships. The objective is to showcase their locations along with the incentives being offered, to various filmmakers from India and abroad.
During the International Film Festival of India and Film Bazaar, FFO disseminates a comprehensive list of incentives currently available for filmmakers from across various States such as Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. We are in the process of updating this information including the prerequisites of obtaining such incentives. This will be available on our portal and for States that do not offer incentives yet, the FFO will endeavour to list other financial benefits available for filming in such States/Union Territories.
Featured Image: Mandu Fort, Madhya Pradesh, India.
A session on ‘Ease of Filming’ is conducted at the Knowledge Series at Film Bazaar by FFO, wherein we highlight the various initiatives taken to ease filming by Central and State Government jurisdictions in the country.
8. As a producer of Lunchbox, your film was celebrated across the globe. What advice would you give to producers and directors of smaller budget films so that they can have similar success?
For smaller budget films, the narrative, screenplay and the proposed treatment of the film is of paramount importance, from a creative perspective, while script analysis, festival participation, co-productions and the monetization eco-system gain currency from a Producer’s standpoint. All these and much more insight can be acquired through participation in Labs / Workshops.
NFDC’s labs/workshops like the Screenwriters’ Lab, the Producers Workshop at Film Bazaar seeks to enhance the skill-sets of Writers, Directors and Producers. It is in such labs/workshops that filmmakers (Producers as well as Directors), get a micro and macro sense of the creative process and the business dynamics respectively. There also needs to be an understanding that there is cinematic life beyond theatrical releases, and the OTT platforms have come in to only to widen the net for content.
We have co-production treaties with 13 countries and filmmakers must leverage these to increase the footprint for independent cinema.
9. Should Indian filmmakers support one another in getting international exposure for well-crafted, smaller budget films – and if yes, how?
There must be knowledge sharing and again NFDC’s Film Bazaar plays an important role in this aspect. The Knowledge Series segment at the Bazaar is a platform that discusses a wide array of topics ranging from IPR Management, Creative Pitches, Engaging with Sales Agents, Decoding the Revenue Windows etc. gives exposure to contemporary issues and challenges that face the Industry as well as the filmmaker.
On the other hand, there are other Industry Forums, such as FICCI_FRAMES where the learnings can be shared and disseminated. Furthermore, trade associations should hold periodical seminars and masterclasses, which will give exposure to filmmakers who have a different orientation to showcasing their stories.
10. It’s a goal of every filmmaker to get their film in Cannes, Sundance or Venice Film Festivals. What can we do to bring up the prestige of some of the Indian film festivals?
Films are our soft power! The International Film Festival of India (IFFI) has a rich legacy and has always dedicated itself to spreading the joy of cinema by showcasing a panorama of India talent. IFFI also celebrates the future of cinema and hence on both counts, endeavours to create a holistic platform for Indian cinema.
Festivals such as MAMI, International Film Festival of Kerala, Kolkata International Film Festival among others, have in their own unique ways strived to showcase contemporary talent and their work, while upholding the rich legacy of Indian Cinema.
So therefore, in view of the above, we need to arrive at ways to make these Indian festivals strong and inclusive platforms that inspire the discovery of new artists and add to the talent pool of the industry and yet present the many diverse cinemas of India in its full glory. These festivals must be recognized as a cultural touchstone that need to be consistently encouraged and developed.
- Vikramjit Roy is the Head of Film Facilitation Office (FFO). He had begun his career in advertising at McCann Erickson, Vikramjit joined Sony Pictures Entertainment in 1997, where he worked for more than a decade, followed by a brief stint at Mumbai Mantra (a start-up from the Mahindra Group).Vikramjit played a key role in the positioning of NFDC brands - Cinemas of India (NFDC’s distribution brand across all formats), Film Bazaar (South Asia's largest film market) as well as guiding the Corporation’s foray into the OTT space (www.cinemasofindia.com).Given his leadership position at NFDC, he has been a key contributor towards NFDC’s objective of developing an efficient balanced growth in the film sector including working on policy matters with key Government and Industry stakeholders.In 2016, Vikramjit joined as Head of the Film Facilitation Office (FFO), India's version of the Film Commission, set up by the Ministry of I&B in NFDC, for creating a film-friendly eco-system in India.With many unique initiatives undertaken, especially, with the launch of its web portal, at www.ffo.gov.in, the FFO has delivered on its promise of establishing a comprehensive platform that informs as much as enriches the cinematic imagination of the country.