Film Bazaar 2015 hosts successful Film Tourism Symposium sessions
As part of the Film Facilitation Office, the Ministry of Tourism in association with the Ministry of I&B and the NFDC began a four-day Symposium on Film Tourism on 21st November, 2015. The objective of this symposium is to explore current challenges facing filmmakers to film in India and the steps that can be taken to facilitate greater ease of shooting / producing a feature /non-feature film. The deliberations are going to be centered on how a single window clearance could effectively deal with the facilitation of an eco-system that would be sensitive to the needs of both the filmmakers and the administration.
The first day of the Film Tourism Symposium was a session chaired by Sh. Sunil Arora, Secretary Ministry of I&B, Sh. Vinod Zutshi, Secretary. Nina Lath Gupta (MD, NFDC), of Tourism and attended by film industry delegates with the objective of the session being to ease out the problems faced by domestic and international filmmakers in India and have a single window clearance for shooting permissions in India.
The sessions saw the participation of film industry delegates such as Anubhav Sinha, Kabir Khan, Sanjay Suri, Prakash Jha, Sudhir Mishra, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Ramesh Sippy, Shyam Benegal, Bharat Bala, Madhur Bhandarkar, Vani Tripathi Tikoo along with line producers Iqbal Kidwai ( French Indian film Un Plus Une, Monsoon Wedding, etc.), Pravesh Sahni (Slumdog Millionaire, Zero Dark Thirty, Mission: Impossibe –Ghost Protocol, etc.), Deborah Benattar and Jawed Wani (La Fabrique Films), James Weyman (Ontario Media Development Corporation, Ruth Harley (New Zealand Film Commission), Ruth Harley (Former CEO Screen Australia and New Zealand Film Commission), Michael Hendrix, a film producer from Germany, Krzysztof Solek (Film Polska, Poland) and tourism delegates Har Sahay Meena (MD, Tamil Nadu Tourism), Khyati Nayak (Manager, Film Cell, Gujarat Tourism) and Sandesh Yashlaha (General Manager, MP Tourism), and others.
Regarding challenges faced by filmmakers shooting in India, the Secretary, Mr. Sunil Arora, Ministry of I&B, proposed the need to conduct a well structured workshop between the fraternity and the Central Government, various State Governments and relevant Government Departments. The outcome of this workshop, which is a first amongst many, will be to lay down the required changes that may be done by various ministries so as develop a film friendly environment. NFDC would be responsible for holding these dialogues and the first such workshop would be held at the end of this year.
Shyam Benegal said, “The problem with filming locations is that we need permissions at three levels: district, state, central. That’s the level of bureaucracy we are dealing with. The concerns of the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) should be that there should be no damage to monuments, no environmental damage, and of course, security concerns.” He added, “I’ll give you an instance. I wanted to shoot in Khajuraho and went through hell to get permissions. The ASI said that we can’t shoot at places with pornographic statues. The statues are the point of the place. Either you give full permission or don’t allow at all. No one from ASI is seriously concerned about the damage to monuments. They want to know what you are shooting and what will the impression of the place be. The government should create a body of people who serve as guides. We need better production, transportation, infrastructure facilities. We have no such problems while shooting in Europe. A single window clearance, without exception, is needed for us and outsiders and it can be done by the NFDC. “
Pravesh Sahni said, “I have been a line producer for Hollywood films for twenty years. We have worked out Holy Smoke, Mission :Impossible – Ghost Protocol, The Viceroy House, Slumdog Millionaire, and others. We lost Skyfall and Bourne Supremacy due to delay in permissions. Zero Dark Thirty began preparation in Jordan and shifted to Chandigarh. It went to the Oscars. We need support from the ministries. The charges of the Port Trust are 5 lacs INR per day for foreigners while for a Bengali film it is INR 25000 per day. So there is a different rate. If you are in Kolkata, you need two different police permissions to shoot on Howrah Bridge. At the railways, you need to make three different payments and need three permissions.”
He added, “Chandigarh and Rajasthan are relatively friendly.
We had difficulty shooting Slumdog Millionaire and Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol in South Mumbai because we can only shoot on Sundays. One is not allowed to shoot at Taj Mahal beyond a point so we shot behind it but paid the full money because we are scared that someone might disrupt the shooting.
The Customs Manual doesn’t allow us to get props, make up, and digital shooting media. During Eat, Pray, Love the Customs had problems with Julia Roberts ‘ costumes. We had problems to import a left -hand BMW for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.”
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra said, “We have been waiting for single window clearance. I’ve shot all my movies here in India. People are co-operative. India is a complex place. We have local dadas. If we hand over responsibility to the District Magistrate, he must assure us that there will be no problem. We need a point person. I don’t know how we build skill sets in different states.
I know that skill sets are creative, logistic and technical. Line producers should be accredited by NFDC and they are responsible for permissions. The Line Producer and District Magistrate are responsible. We have to abolish script submission because what are the parameters for evaluation? We made Rang De Basanti guerilla style because MIGs crashing was a 2000-crore mess.”
He praised certain locations and said, “We have not even scratched the surface of the beauty of the country. The line producers need to find locations and at the end of the film, all the location and contact details.
I’m not sure about charging for using locations because the place and the country is getting advertised and promoted, whether the crew is foreign or Indian. Of course, we must not expect freebies, we must pay for policemen if needed. The Jammu and Kashmir tourism department went out of their way when I shot there for Mirziya. The DM came and helped us. They opened the Gurez Valley for shooting after 60 years. We have shot 3 films in Delhi and Rajasthan as people are co-operative.”
Prakash Jha was all praise for the shooting set-up in Madhya Pradesh. He said, “I shoot in Indore and Panchmadi in Bhopal because the infrastructure, administration and actors are responsive. I shot in Bhopal with 5000 actors for 9 months and it went smoothly. We can change locations easily. The CM of MP is accessible on phone. He appoints a principal secretary for film crews. We create jobs for locals so the government is supportive.
I have shot with Amitabh Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif, Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone and many others in Bhopal and we can request the onlookers to clear the street. Bhopal and other places in MP have excellent tourism infrastructure like guest houses, hotels, and transport.”
He added, “It’s terrible that you have permissions but people come and quote rules and ask for money and you have to pay them off and move on.
Can there be punitive actions genuinely? I don’t believe in the need for permission to shoot and censorship. I believe in paying and shooting and getting out. Why should I have to submit my script for approval? Of course, I understand about army and restricted areas. Don’t make things in principle. Make them work.”
Sh. Sunil Arora said, “We plan to have a day-long conference with filmmakers and government bodies before the end of December and implement changes in the first quarter of 2016.”
Nina Lath Gupta said, “A single window clearance for shooting has been our endeavour over the years. Change will not happen overnight but we shall see tangible outcomes in the months to come under the guidance of Shri Vinod Zutshi and Shri Sunil Arora.”
Film Tourism Symposium- DAY 2
The second day of the session held on November 22 was with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on the current guidelines for filming in different heritage sites/monuments that belong to the ASI and the existing ground realities in securing filming permissions at ASI sites. The session chaired by Sh. Shharat Sharma, Addl. Director General, ASI and Ms. Nina Lath Gupta, MD, NFDC, and attended by prominent filmmakers, line producers and international delegates to Film Bazaar, discussed how filming at ASI sites could become easier without impinging upon the principal concern of the ASI, especially with regard to protecting national monuments from damage.
The discussions had the following positive outcomes, as given below:
- To consider giving filmmakers a 3 hour time slot for setting up for sunrise and sunset shots as many filmmakers consider this the magic moment.
- To consider revising the entrance fees for Indian and foreign nationals (film crews) and not have a vast difference between the two.
- To consider appointing an ASI liaison officer who will be available with the film unit and help implement the permissions given.
- To consider differential pricing depending upon the category and the difference in nature of the films such as ad films, feature films, documentaries, etc and the category of the monument the film is shot at
- To introduce punitive action like warnings, black-listing or a fine against filmmakers who break the law
- To examine the request to shoot the inside of monuments provided it is scientifically cleared.
- To set up online applications for permissions to shoot at monuments.
- To examine the suggestion that the script and footage be screened by Censor Board instead of ASI
In regard to day 2 of the Symposium, Sh. Shharat Sharma, Additional Director General, ASI said, “ASI acknowledges the role that films can play in spreading our history and culture to different parts of the world and spreading the message of how to preserve our national heritage.”
He added, “It was a good learning process for ASI to come to know the problems faced by the film industry and that filmmakers are committed to helping the ASI to preserve the monuments. Many new areas of co-operation have come up where ASI and the film industry can further each other’s cause and collaborate to make India a better film tourism destination.”
Prakash Jha said, “The ASI should simplify all monument rules and regulations and be specific so that there is no room for discretionary powers on shoot and content. Don’t get morality involved. We will follow the defined rules and we have to protect and love our monuments. The application and payment process can be done online. The ASI, NFDC, CBFC can all work together for a single window clearance.”
Bharat Bala said, “In Namibia, there is a place called the Moon Crater and it is a hollow place in a desert that looks like the surface of the moon. So we filmed over there and after that the government sent us a supervisor to help us clean all the tyre marks and restore the place. They preserve their spots beautifully so even we should have a supervisor at our monuments ensuring cleaning and preservation.”
Anubhav Sinha said, “It is complicated to shoot at historical monuments whether it is the Taj Mahal in India or Parthenon in Greece or the Colosseum in Rome. What they do abroad is that they treat it like a business. Forever 5 people of your team, they appoint 1 representative for a fee per hour. He ensures that we do not damage the monument and we clean up and he helps us to follow the rules and regulations. As a businessman, this works for me so even the ASI can appoint a person like this. The ASI can also guide us on the insurance plan for each monument. The supervisor from ASI can spend time with film units prior to the shoots so he known how we function and that we are a chaotic bunch of people. ”
Iqbal Kidwai said, “The ASI can categorize iconic and lesser-known monuments and draw up a different fee list for them too. Every film cannot afford to pay a high insurance so there should be different fees for different types of films and reduce the discrimination in entry fee for foreign and Indian crew members.”
Pravesh Sahni said, “The monuments should be open for set-up and shooting during sunrise and sunset because filmmakers and DoPs call that the magic hour. We will not project light on it but we need to roll by 4 am. Every filmmaker wants to highlight the Taj Mahal. For instance, Danny Boyle was insistent on shooting certain portions of the Taj Mahal but we could not manage permissions so we had to recreate the set at ND Studios in Karjat in Maharashtra.”
Nina Lath Gupta said, “The ASI can draw up a list of permissions needed including the local permissions and rules to follow. Producers will not violate the rules because of the high costs involved. Let liaison officers be appointed for each film.”