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Simplified Approval for International Film Shoots in India Finally a Reality

Variety logo Variety 11/24/2016 Naman Ramachandran
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GOA –India’s long-awaited single film shooting permit system is finally being implemented. Execution comes a year after the so-called single window system was announced at the 2015 Film Bazaar in Goa.

The system is to be operated by a new agency called the Film Facilitation Office. It is run by India’s National Film Development Corporation and headed by Vikramjit Roy.

The agency took charge in June and has assisted 14 international productions to date with five more due to be cleared before the end of the year. There are offices in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

The bureaucracy involved in obtaining permits and police assistance in India sometimes often put off international films from shooting in India. Numerous Indian films also choose to shoot abroad for the same reason.

The vast country has 36 states and union territories. And there are a myriad other offices that permissions have to be sought from, including the Airports Authority of India, the Border Security Force, the Coast Guard, the Archaeological Survey and many more.

The FFO has appointed nodal officers within each of these services who will act as contacts for international productions once a single permission has been applied for. “We solve it from macro to micro,” Roy told Variety. Clearances will be issued in a maximum of three weeks, he says.

Roy favors a dialog-based solution to practical problems that might arise. He provides the example of Hollywood actor Brendan Fraser who arrived in Mumbai with a tourist visa than a business visa to shoot “The Field.” The FFO managed to secure permission for Fraser to work using the logic that the tourist visa was issued by the central government and therefore was legal. The FFO is working towards getting a dedicated film visa approved for future shoots.

The FFO’s script review board, made up of retired senior civil servants, is instructed not to interfere creatively, but correct factual errors. The script for upcoming German film “Nachtschatten” stated incorrectly that only fake medicines were available in a certain region of India. “Dialog resolved the issue and everybody lived happily ever after,” says Roy.

The next challenge for the FFO is to get the gargantuan system online, and create comprehensive databases. Mumbai-based software agency Mastek has been hired to implement this and the process is likely to take a year.

The FFO is also reaching out to India’s massive domestic film industry in order to next offer the same facilities to Indian productions. In order to incentivize the states and regions a new national film award for most film friendly state has been instituted. The state of Gujarat won the inaugural award this year.

The FFO is a free service for now, but “we will charge once we’ve proved ourselves,” says Roy.

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