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The Perfect Pearl

Filmmakers are increasingly discovering the benefits of shooting in Sri Lanka, whose varied tapestry offers a range of exciting locales


From dense jungles to white, sandy beaches and the buzz of urban centres, Sri Lanka is rich with natural beauty and a colourful culture. Located southeast of India and nicknamed ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’, this island nation is a hot-spot for tourists from around the world. It also has plenty to offer as a cinematic backdrop.

Academy Award-winning drama The Bridge Over The River Kwai was shot in this beautiful country as was Bollywood’s Bombay Velvet. It may have taken a while to warm up to shooting in Sri Lanka but filmmakers are now increasingly exploring this hidden jewel as a backdrop for their productions.



Located in South Asia, Sri Lanka is home to many cultures, languages and ethnicities. The capital and largest city is Colombo, a metropolis that offers a fast-paced urban backdrop.

Other attractions include places of historical beauty like the Polonnaruwa Archeological Ruins, the scenic Little Adams Peak, the greenery of Citadel of Sigiriya – Lion Rock, the serene Golden Cave Temple, and the more modern Colombo Fort.


The climate of Sri Lanka is moderate and warm. Frost may occur in the central highlands, in low altitude areas, during some winter days. Rain is influenced by the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal monsoon winds. The southwest, northeast and eastern parts of the island see periodic squalls and tropical cyclones, with overcast skies and rains. The southwest and mountainous regions see higher humidity, which depends on the seasonal patterns of rainfall.

Average annual temperatures range from 28 °C to nearly 31 °C. Day and night temperatures may vary between 14 °C to 18 °C.


the main permission authority

The National Film Corporation of Sri Lanka (NFC) is the main authority that grants permission for filming in Sri Lanka by foreign nationals. NFC has the right to approve, reject, inspect, observe and/or decide on all filming projects of foreign nationals in Sri Lanka.

Requirements based on categories

Feature Film

Required to submit the complete final script for approval at least two weeks prior to filming with Rs 2,000 non-refundable payment

Required to assign a professional local production company or fixer for the entire shooting period

Recommended to apply for a visa through a local agent after receiving script approval. It is punishable by law for foreigners to professionally film in Sri Lanka without a valid visa

Approval fee for feature film: Rs 75,000; TV drama, short film, docu drama, co-production: Rs 60,000

NFC officer fee: Rs 1,000 per day with food, lodging and transportation (if appointed)


Commercials, Music Video or
Film Song

Required to submit the programme description/ storyboard/ product and company profile/ lyrics as applicable

Required to assign a professional local production company or fixer for the entire shooting period

Recommended to apply for a visa through the local agent after receiving the approval

Approval fee (any category given above): Rs 40,000

NFC officer fee: Rs 1,000 per day with food, lodging and transportation (if appointed)

additional permissions  

The NFC permission is the main permit required for filming in Sri Lanka. It is the highest authority but does not supersede any other permission or approval that might be needed. If a situation occurs where one needs additional permission, the applicant or their local agent should obtain it from any other government or private institution as required. Any additional cost, agreement or condition acceptance in this regard with such institutions will be the applicant’s responsibility, separate from that of the NFC.

Separate filming permits are required from the NFC for locations like the Department of Archaeology, Central Cultural Fund, Department of Wildlife, Department of Forest, National Zoological Gardens, National Botanical Gardens, Civil Aviation Authority, Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Police and Ministry of Defence, etc.

Filming projects that are Sri Lanka tourism promotional content could require coordination with the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau through a recognised local agent.

When the crew brings in the required equipment for filming, they should use a bank guarantee or NFC letter of guarantee to be declared to Sri Lanka Customs at arrival and departure.

In case of a co-production with a local, at least 50 per cent of all the technicians and artistes should be Sri Lankan. The local producer needs to provide the certified copies of legal agreements entered into with the foreign producer, business registration and details of shareholders, artiste and technician agreements, production/ownership ratio, financial declaration and intended foreign exchange component to be brought into Sri Lanka etc.

content monitoring

NFC has the right to appoint an officer to monitor filming in Sri Lanka. The monitoring officer’s duty is to observe the filming and advice the production crew.

If there is a complaint against the content of the film being shot there then the NFC can summon the foreign crew, local agent or any other parties involved, to review the footage. NFC has the right to cease any such footage containing the objectionable content or NFC guideline violating content.

 After completing the production, the final edited version should be submitted to the relevant Sri Lankan mission where the applicant applies at least one week prior to broadcast. Any objection raised by the Sri Lankan mission should reasonably accommodate and/or a right of reply should be given to the Sri Lankan mission.


Visa Requirements

Media personnel need a work visa if visiting for work. The required visa should be obtained from the relevant Sri Lankan Embassy/ Consulate before arriving in Colombo.

Documentary and feature filmmakers are required to obtain clearance from authorities in Sri Lanka.

Media teams should complete the NFC agreement, available with all Sri Lanka missions abroad, and submit it along with the synopsis of the documentary/feature film, itinerary of the media team while in Sri Lanka and the filming locations, at least two weeks prior to the schedule.

Getting There

The average flight time from Mumbai to Colombo is 2 hours and 30 minutes. Several flights like Jet Airways, Indigo, Sri Lankan Airlines and others fly there. The most common route is with a layover at Chennai or Madurai but now, frequent direct flights have started too. The average cost per person is about `12,000 for a round trip.

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