Time in Yerevan: 11:07,   25 February 2024

How can Armenia attract Indian film industry

How can Armenia attract Indian film industry

YEREVAN, DECEMBER 1, ARMENPRESS. An advanced film industry can serve as a key tool for a country to project its soft power, improve its image, advocate for its causes abroad, attract tourism, as well as boost relations with other countries at the highest level. For these reasons Armenia needs to develop its film industry as well as establish cooperation with countries that already have well-developed cinematography. One such country is India. 

The Indian film industry has for several years ranked first in the world in terms of annual film output. As Indian film producers have been increasingly shooting more films outside India, this has become a major source of income and tourism for the host countries. Switzerland tops the list of places where Indians travel - this is in large part thanks to the numerous films and productions that have been shot in Switzerland. In Serbia, a generous financial incentive package offered by the government has led to India investing over 50 million euros in its film industry. 

As the bilateral relations between Armenia and India develop at the state level, the time is right to examine the potential for cooperation in the field of cinematography. 

What does Armenia need to do to attract Indian filmmakers to shoot and co-produce films in Armenia?

The following conditions are important in achieving this goal: well-developed national cinematography which can attract international filmmakers; a holistic incentive package that would provide a roadmap to film-making in the country, including available technical and professional support; sizeable financial benefits designed to incentivize foreign filmmakers; and promotion of the country as an attractive film-making destination abroad. 

Developed national cinematography

Before attracting foreign movie makers, the country should first and foremost prioritize the development of its national cinematography. All the countries that have successfully managed to attract Indian filmmakers have pursued this strategy. As film director and producer Armine Abrahamyan said in an interview with APRI Armenia, “You must develop your own film industry first. Once you have famous films by which your country can be recognized abroad, filmmakers from other countries would want to cooperate with your filmmakers.”

Armenia should also prioritize co-productions between Armenian and Indian filmmakers over schemes that merely bring Indian filmmakers to Armenia to shoot without collaborating with Armenian producers. Co-productions will increase Armenia’s visibility as well as boost the capacity of local producers and professionals. 

The first step in developing national cinematography is to have a comprehensive legal framework that regulates all the issues related to filming. Armenia has already made some progress to this end by adopting the Armenian Law on Cinematography in 2021. However, the problem is that the law is currently not functioning, because the by-laws regulating the entire process have not been signed. As a result of that, neither Armenian nor foreign producers are able to reap the benefits of this law.

“The law creates all the necessary and favorable conditions for boosting and promoting Armenian cinematography. Designed to attract foreign investments and promote international cooperation, the law also facilitates the process of shooting films by foreign filmmakers in Armenia, including favorable tariff and customs incentives, as well as legal guidelines to how to co-produce in Armenia. All we need to do is implement this law”, said Anna Kostanyan, former MP (the 7th convocation of the National Assembly of RA) who drafted and presented the RA Law on Cinematography in the National Assembly. 

Holistic package with financial benefits

A country that wants to attract Indian filmmakers should also have a holistic package that includes attractive incentives. An analysis of India’s top 12 co-production partners shows that the most successful incentive packages come from countries that often provide tailor-made incentives, including facilitating visa procedures, granting comprehensive film shooting permits and providing assistance in the overall process.

“Whenever we decide to shoot a film outside India, we need to get permission from the local authorities to ensure a smooth shooting process without any obstacles”, said Indian film director Pankaj Kumar Vishwakarma told APRI (he has filmed Indian movies in Uzbekistan, Egypt, Thailand and Poland).  

A key component of this package is the financial incentives. Many governments provide subsidies and other types of financial benefits to companies looking to film in their countries. Saudi Arabia for instance offers sliding financial incentives, where they set a minimum credit (e.g., 20%) that gradually increases to 25% or 30% for subsequent and more expensive productions. Norway’s film incentive scheme has also proven that sliding film incentives succeed in attracting film producers.

Some countries not only subsidize the budget of the Indian films but also often cover the entire airfare for the film crew - a practice employed by Turkey. “It is important to have a coherent strategy and provide financial incentives as well as cashbacks to attract Indian filmmakers. I have long been advocating for this in Armenia”, Rananjay Anand, President of Indo-Armenian Friendship NGO told APRI. 

In Armenia, a draft bill and a new cashback system are currently being introduced which will guarantee a 10 to 40 percent rebate to film producers if they shoot a film in Armenia. According to that bill, the filmmaker will receive an additional refund if the film shows scenes identified with Armenia. This legal amendment is expected to give an extra push to attracting international filmmakers to Armenia, while incentivizing them to promote Armenia in their movies. 

Thus a holistic and targeted package should be developed for Indian film production companies that will incentivize them to shoot and co-produce films in Armenia.

Administrative and Personnel Support

Another important factor in this package is the provision of administrative and personnel support by Armenia to Indian filmmakers. Georgia, Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia each have established national film commissions that offer logistics support, training, visa facilitation, insurance, legal support, as well as accommodation. They offer these packages conveniently on a one-stop shop where a film producer from India can visit the website, and find everything they need to know about the film-making process in the country. These countries have also established studios capable of handling Bollywood-level productions. 

Armenia also needs to develop such a package where local studios and facilities will be showcased.  

“We have excellent film studios in Armenia which can meet the needs of Indian filmmakers – with better quality and lower prices than in many other countries”, Karen Mkrtchyan, joint secretary of Indo-Armenian Friendship NGO told APRI. According to him, this comes as an advantage, as locally-available technical and artistic equipment and support will save the film crews a lot of trouble and money, allowing them to fly in with a compact team, without having to carry heavy, expensive equipment with them. 

At the same time, big-budget productions would require Armenia to expand its local capacities. According to Abrahamyan, Armenia must build larger and more technologically-advanced studios, to be able to accommodate big fiction Indian movies. Until then, she said the best strategy would be to cooperate over artistic films as that’s where we have the most capacity. 

To provide this enhanced level of administrative and logistical support, Armenia should finally create the national film foundation envisioned by the Cinematography Law. This foundation will oversee the funding to local producers, as well as create a one-stop shop website with all the necessary guidelines for foreign producers who shoot films in Armenia. Armenia would also benefit from having a casting agency that would advise on recruiting professionals in the field. 

Additionally, Armenia should work to establish a direct flight link with India and consider subsidizing the cost of the flight for the production crew. It should also institute a temporary visa-free policy for producers and crew involved in co-productions. 

Promoting Armenia as a Film Destination 

Last but not least, countries achieve success in this field when they invest in positioning and promoting their country as a film-making destination. In this process, Armenia can leverage its picturesque landscape. Many Bollywood movies often portray mountainous landscapes, for which traditionally India has used Switzerland. As both a cheaper and closer location compared to Switzerland, Armenia could meet the needs of many Indian films by providing a mountainous destination for filming. “If Armenia invests in the film sector in India, and people start watching Armenian landscapes regularly, this will get paid back by tourists coming to your country. This will create jobs, people to people interactions, which will translate into goodwill and support to Armenia in India”, Anand said.

Armenia should also be promoted as an attractive destination for film-making. This can be done by hosting and participating in film festivals and other events. Uzbekistan for instance has partnered with India over joint film festivals and has also established joint film academies, as a result of which Indian co-producers signed multiple contracts to film in Uzbekistan. These festivals included both those in Uzbekistan, such as the XIV Tashkent International Film Festival, and in India, like the 53rd International Film Festival of India.

The Armenian Law on Cinematography specifically mentions the importance of showing international films in Armenian film festivals as well as showcasing Armenian films in festivals and other events abroad. Armenia’s Golden Apricot and other film festivals could increase their cooperation with Indian filmmakers, while also hosting contests and exchange programs with filmmakers from India.  

Since country promotion through cinematography is directly linked with attracting tourists, a comprehensive state strategy should consider the development of both sectors simultaneously. A hassle-free visa policy will help the country reap the benefits from the goodwill generated by these films among Indians. 

 “By 2030, India is projected to become the world's fourth-largest spender in the travel sector, as reported in a joint study by Booking.com and McKinsey. Outgoing trips from the country are expected to hit 50 million. Armenia should work with the Indian tourism industry to attract some of that outflow into the country,” Mkrtchyan added. 

Conclusion

 Thus, to attract Indian producers to shoot films in Armenia, Armenia needs to develop its own national cinematography, prioritizing co-productions between Armenian and Indian filmmakers, to implement its current Law on Cinematography, establish a direct flight with India, facilitate visa and customs, as well as create a comprehensive and targeted package of film incentives designed for production companies. Providing cashback and other financial incentives to Indian filmmakers should be an essential component of this package. Armenia also needs to be promoted in India through festivals and other events as a destination for film-making as well as tourism. All these efforts should be made as a part of a unified strategy, as the above-mentioned components are mutually reinforcing and will pay off if done in a coherent manner and as part of Armenia’s broader soft power strategy.  

 Nvard Chalikyan, APRI Armenia Research Fellow

Davit Antonyan, APRI Armenia Associate Fellow








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