Photo: Filming Location in Nepal
Since March 2020, when the pandemic basically put the Western film industry in a deep freeze, paused most of its production, and halted all location scouting, Hollywood and big international studios have been eager to get the cameras rolling again. Much like it did with many different disciplines, the COVID crisis gave the film industry a new understanding of the benefits of filming abroad – such as being able to film, to begin with.
In order to lure big Hollywood studios, countries that managed to swiftly recover from the pandemic boasted low COVID rates and light regulations, thus stressing their attractiveness as filming locations. Iceland, South Korea, and New Zealand were among the first countries to open their borders to foreign film crews and further strengthen their bonds with US film giants such as Netflix and Disney. In addition to those well-established locations (Iceland alone hosted over 20 big-budget productions from Game of Thrones to Interstellar in the last 10 years), some lesser-known countries also tried to jump on the bandwagon – the Czech Republic and Slovakia practically never banned filming at all and already in May 2020, they were eagerly promoting their domestic locations.
But the silent devastation of life under the pandemic has an expiry date and, as experts tend to agree, that date is now very close. Hollywood is slowly getting back to work as big-budget movies, TV shows, and Netflix productions resume production. Companies have used their time in quarantine to prepare for the “new normal” — polishing scripts, videocasting, and scouting future locations online, and while some filming locations outside the United States are already favored by scouts, let’s take a look at six countries off the beaten path that offer benefits definitely worth considering in the post-pandemic filming spree.
Countries Ideal for Filming Hollywood Movies:
The unique mix of Scandinavian and Slavic esthetics of Tallinn and Tartu is undoubtedly one of a kind. It is not unusual to spot gems of ultra-modern square-shaped Scandinavian architecture next to a traditional Slavic log cabin in the center of the city. This contrast, combined with vast open spaces and a low density of population (even in the capital), creates a very bizarre cinematic feel that intensifies after you stumble upon the fascinating medieval old towns that make up a part of every Estonian city.
Estonia also boasts scenic coastlines and ferries, which are the main link to Helsinki, Finland. In the best Scandinavian traditions, every weekend thousands of Finns come to Tallinn to experience its nightlife and vice versa (can’t help but be reminded of the famous Scandinavian TV series The Bridge here).
Also, there is no shortage of crew and of people fluent in the language of film – the Baltic Film School, the biggest film school in the region, is located in Tallinn and hundreds of eager-to-work alumni graduate annually.
Estonia offers a discretionary cash rebate of up to 30 percent to foreign film companies. The maximum (30 percent) grant can be applied if the film production uses Estonia-based filmmakers, actors, and other production crew, an Estonian story, and/or an Estonian-set storyline. Warner Brothers definitely didn’t hesitate to jump on that opportunity and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet has been the largest Hollywood film shoot in Tallinn, boosting the country’s standing on the global production map and showcasing its landmarks.
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One of the most picturesque countries in the world, with a dramatic variety of landscapes and beautiful architecture – Nepal never ceases to amaze travelers, artists, filmmakers, and more. Nepal is also home to Mt. Everest, locally known as Sagarmatha, birthplace and home country of Lord Buddha, and the exquisite Newari architecture that adorns Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur, and Patan.
Famous Hollywood movies that have been filmed in Nepal are Bernardo Bertolucci’s ‘Little Buddha’ starring Keanu Reeves, Jake Gyllenhaal’s ‘Everest’, and Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
For a visually stunning variety of locations, Nepal is the destination – from snow-capped highest mountains known as the Himalayas, the plains of Chitwan National Park which comes fully packaged with exotic animals in lush forests and jungles, the exquisite and mystical architecture of Bhaktapur, the aqua-blue and teal colored lakes in Mustang, colorful flora and fauna of Pokhara, historical sites dating back thousands of years complete with palaces.
It is the vast geographical and cultural diversity combined with the compassion and hospitality of Nepali people that make Nepal a joy to film in. It might not be amiss to state that perhaps the term ‘Southern Hospitality’ describes the people of Nepal perfectly. Constantly topping ‘Most Beautiful Places to Visit’ lists, filming in Nepal is a no-brainer.
For those thinking of safety as their main concern, Nepal is frequently remembered by travelers as one of the safest countries to visit, whether you are in cities or in remote villages. The hospitality and kindness of the Nepali people is provided in abundance. Nepal is one of the first countries in the world to make LGBTQ rights a priority and gay marriage legal – more than 10 years before USA.
Human Rights Watch has honored Nepal by stating that “Nepal has been a beacon for LGBTQ rights progress since 2007, and is at the forefront of LGBTQ rights worldwide.” The country is one of the first 10 countries to protect the rights of LGBTQ people, a unique and remarkable achievement for the world. Nepal also legally recognizes transgender people by issuing passports, immigration forms and voter polls with three different gender selections. While the USA still debates on trans rights and respect, Nepal has forged miles ahead as the leader of progress, development and human rights.
Beauty, diversity and safety? Filming in Nepal is highly recommended.
Georgia’s production services industry made its big break in 2019, hosting the country’s first-ever studio production when Fast & Furious 9 was filmed for 30 days from mid-August to mid-September in the capital, Tbilisi. Before that, Bollywood took a great interest in the country and filmed an array of big-budget movies there. The Oscar-nominated Tangerines was also filmed in Georgia in 2013. The country offers a great variety of climate zones, ranging from subtropical to alpine, as well as natural landscapes, both at the seaside and high in the mountains, in addition to deserts and vineyards, forests and glaciers – and all of that compressed in an area smaller than the state of Maine.
It might also be important to producers that Georgia is the 2nd cheapest country in Europe right now, and one of the easiest ones in terms of registering and doing business. In other words, it is definitely poised to become a gold mine for future big-budget productions and is just now getting some attention from Hollywood giants: Ridley Scott is rumored to be shooting his next film there.
Georgia offers a 20-25 percent cash rebate on qualifying local expenditure, with an additional 2-5 percent top up if the project meets a cultural test by including elements designed to promote Georgia. The rebate can be used for key nonresident salaries paid in the country, up to a maximum of 15 percent of local expenditure.
David Lean’s iconic 1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai and Steven Spielberg’s 1984 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom are probably the two most famous movies shot in Sri Lanka. The island, formerly known as Ceylon, showed a lot of promise as an exotic filming location before the civil war broke out, which precipitated a 25-year pause for everything related to culture and entertainment. The war ended in 2009 and Sri Lanka again has a chance to become attractive to Hollywood producers.
Sri Lanka is, even by regional standards, highly affordable. The cost of living is very low and taxes are virtually non-existent, compared to Europe. Between the tropical climate, many hours of sunlight, and rich jungle landscapes and gushing waterfalls, it is perhaps easy to see why this Indian Ocean island nation has captured the attention of so many filmmakers in the past. Truly breathtaking historic Buddhist ruins and former British tea factories spread out on the slopes of its misty mountains make Sri Lanka a very special place to film in.
Trinidad & Tobago
The southernmost island country in the Caribbean is not traditionally famous for its film industry. Pretty recently, however, the nation started to take advantage of its exotic scenery and proximity to the US, and is offering a cash rebate of up to 35 percent applying to qualifying production expenditure plus 20 percent on resident above- and below-the-line labor. The project cap stands at $3,760,000 while minimum expenditure is $100,000, making it attractive for indie film productions that fit in that range.
In order to maximize the economic and creative potential of the country’s screen industries, FilmTT was created, which is a company that works on all aspects of film sector development, promotes Trinidad & Tobago as a film production location, and provides film commission services to local and incoming productions that are in need of the assistance of local guides and helping hands.
Croatia is hardly a well-kept secret anymore, especially after Dubrovnik famously became the set of the idyllic ancient city of King’s Landing from the Game of Thrones. Since then, Croatia’s beauty has not been overlooked by Hollywood scouts and the Mamma Mia! sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was filmed on the island of Vis, which was turned into the Greek resort that is portrayed in the movie.
Dubrovnik was also the film set for the movie Robin Hood, as a destination that mirrors a medieval Nottingham. In 2017, the Star Wars crew took over its streets as the city was used as the set of the casino planet Canto Bight in The Last Jedi.
The country’s capital, Zagreb, is also a Hollywood star in itself – in the 1963 film From Russia with Love, it was visited by the world’s most famous spy and it is whispered that 007 might return to Croatia – though this time to Dubrovnik – in the next James Bond movie.
Croatia offers a 20 percent rebate on resident labor expenses (cast and crew) and goods and services. The offer is available to a Croatian producer, co-producer or production service provider that has (1) already secured at least 70 percent of the funding to cover production costs, (2) passed the cultural test, and (3) employed a cast and crew at least 30 percent of which are Croatian nationals or citizens for productions filming partially in Croatia, or 50 percent for productions filming entirely in Croatia.
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David Tsintsadze is a music industry executive, investigative reporter and a film enthusiast. As far back as he remembers, he always wanted to be involved in the entertainment industry. When that started to happen and he began to really understand how it all worked, he found that his love of both the creative arts and the relevant industry allowed him to move between the two worlds and make them relate to each other. David’s belief in meaningful entertainment coincides with Hollywood Insider’s values and in his vision, cultural intermediaries play a crucial role in shaping and exchanging culture, which he firmly believes is one of the main contribution in creation of a free and vibrant society that people want to live in.