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4 tips for choosing a great value production location

14 July 2016 | Industry Insights
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With filming costs, aesthetics, weather, logistics, permissions and travel expenses, the list of factors to consider when choosing a suitable overseas production location can seem longer than the actual film credits. If you’re a UK-based production company needing to source overseas locations it can be a headache-inducing process.

Inspired by Oscar fever, we thought we’d share our top 4 tips for choosing the best value locations.

1. Tax incentives

Research into potential locations should include learning what incentives and tax-breaks are available in those destinations. These rebates can significantly reduce production costs if you apply through the correct channels in sufficient time – there will be a lot of paperwork to complete though, so do be prepared!

Oscar-nominated romantic drama Brooklyn, for example, starring Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson and Jim Broadbent was filmed in Ireland, Montreal, Canada and Manhattan, USA. By using these locations it meant its production companies BFI, BBC Films and Wildgaze Films could have applied for the following tax-breaks:

Ireland

• Section 481 of the Irish Film Board offers a tax rebate of up to 32% of expenditure* for Irish companies or those working through an Irish brand or agency
• Rebates are capped at 50 million Euros or 80% of the total production cost
• For more information and full criteria

Canada
• The Canadian Film or Video Production Services Tax Credit (PSTC) Program offers foreign production companies up to a 16% tax rebate* to cover paying Canadian staff and in-country services
• For more information and full criteria

New York
• New York State operates the Film and Tax Credit Program for film and TV productions only
• Eligible companies may apply for a refund of up to 30%* of the production or post-production costs
• An additional 5% refund* is given for filming in certain upstate New York locations
• Minimum filming duration rules and other criteria apply
• For more information

Tax-breaks and financial incentives are an excellent way to recoup some of your costs provided your company is eligible and applies correctly. Working through a local branch or agency can speed things up and ensure you meet all the criteria. Plus you can utilise their local destination knowledge – bonus.

A few other countries to consider for tax incentives are:

France – Film France can help with applying for the TRIP (Tax Rebate for International Productions)
Germany – German Federal Film Fund (DFF) offers rebates for international productions plus there are regional soft funds up for grabs too
Australia – The Australian Department of Communications and the Arts offers the Location Offset and PDV Offset

Check out CNBC’s useful round-up of attractive tax incentives for foreign production companies too

2. Be a clever chameleon

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Location versatility can be a sure-fire way to reduce your production costs. Think about locations which can pose as a multiple destinations to reduce your travel costs. Here are a few examples:

Australia is positively brimming over with potential film locations! Its urban cities offer a range of modern and period architectural styles. Arid deserts, dramatic canyons and unique rock formations can all be used to represent various locales. Stunning beaches, secluded tropical islands and rainforests can stand in for a huge variety of places. It even offers snowy mountains and green rural countryside. This wealth of climates and eco-systems is why so many major films have chosen to film there from desert-set Mad Max to urban The Matrix to rural Babe.

Malta has been used in lots of popular productions as it can represent both Mediterranean Europe – such as ancient Greece, Rome and Troy – and it can stand in for areas of the Middle East, such as Beirut and Tel Aviv, which may be too politically unstable to film in. Major Hollywood titles Gladiator, World War Z , Game of Thrones and The Dovekeepers all used Malta for scenes, showing this small island packs a heavy punch with its location possibilities.

Tenerife has been used countless times for car advertisements (it has a brand new motorway) and major Hollywood films, such as Clash of the Titans, Fast and the Furious 6 and the upcoming fifth Bourne film due to be released in summer 2016. It woos producers with its volcanic areas, black sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, sub-tropical rainforests, desert, national parks and avant-garde architecture.

3. Travel costs

When it comes to travel costs it’s vital to look at all angles when creating your budget and think a bit creatively.

Destinations which offer attractive financial incentives can look very appealing, but if the flights, accommodation, ground transport and local crew are costly then you could end up negating any savings made.

On the other side, don’t overlook destinations just because they don’t have formal tax-breaks set up, such as Thailand. If the travel costs and local crew’s wages are vastly lower than a location offering tax rebates, it can mean the production ends up better value overall anyway. This is especially true if a longer working week is legally allowed as you can reduce the number of days shooting.

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4. Travel management companies

Working in partnership with a consultative travel management company can be the fastest way to weigh up the financial incentives against the travel costs.

A specialist travel management company for the production industry will be experienced in working with production companies from the initial budget stage (when you’re still considering locations) right through to the wrap.

A specialist production travel management company will:

• Meet with you to fully understand your production aims and unique needs before offering tailored quotes and advice on managing travel costs
• Create three quotes per location for comparison purposes
• Offer a variety of payment options including credit accounts, credit cards, etc.
• Supply you with travel logistics spreadsheets and itineraries
• Arrange exclusive entertainment rates negotiated directly with travel suppliers. These offer a greater degree flexibility and value than flights available on the internet
• Assist with excess baggage and sourcing the best value baggage options
• Advise/arrange visas and freight
• Book flights, accommodation, cars, coaches and vans
• Arrange any special requests
• Be on call 24/ for any emergencies or last-minute changes
• Deliver weekly and on-request running costs reports
• Invoice you quickly so you can wrap on time
• Make travel recommendations for future productions

However you choose your production location, the most critical thing is to plan in advance. Give yourself enough time to research the financial incentives, local regulations and travel costs thoroughly to ensure you are making the best value choice overall.

If you would like any production travel advice please contact us

*This article has been written as a guideline alone to financial incentives for productions. Qualifying criteria by all film and TV bodies will apply before rebates are given, therefore we recommend you research all rules and criteria thoroughly before applying.

Written by Stage Screen