Producers Guild of India President, Siddharth Roy Kapur and CEO, Kulmeet Makkar talk to Padma Iyer about the MOU signed with the State of New Jersey, the importance of such agreements and more
The State of New Jersey, Choose New Jersey, New Jersey Motion Picture and Television Commission and the Producers Guild of India signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to further enhance their mutual relationship and facilitate the shooting of Indian films in New Jersey. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the MOU on behalf of New Jersey in order to bolster New Jersey’s film industry, which received a boost through the Governor’s Film Tax Credit Program. New Jersey offers one of the most attractive incentive programs in the country for television and filmmakers including a 2 per cent diversity tax credit bonus.
The MOU focuses on idea sharing as well as best practices on film production and promotion. It will also assist the Producers Guild of India (PGI) with the production of films and other cinematic content including location scouting and support for Bollywood film production in New Jersey.
Talking about this MOU, Siddharth Roy Kapur, President of the Producers Guild of India, said, “What this MOU does is that one it makes it much more efficient for producers of film and television to shoot in New Jersey. There is a significant incentive being given to anything that we spend there; 30 per cent plus. 30 per cent is the base level and it will go up based on certain criteria. I think that makes it very efficient because the key thing for producers when we go abroad to shoot is the cost. And I think they have made New Jersey much more attractive for us as a destination, given how open they have been with the incentive structure. Secondly what they have assured us is the ease of shooting there. It will be very significant, a single-window clearance, complete support from the local authorities and those are the things that you really look forward to when you shoot anywhere, including our own country.”
When asked if it was possible to emulate the model of signing individual MOUs with different American states for the Indian states, Kapur said, “We can absolutely do that. It is a federal system that powers each state to have its own incentives. We do that for films in India as well. We have states like Uttarakhand and Jharkhand offering some excellent incentives and they can extend that to people from the West as well and from other countries.”
Talking about extending such MOUs to more countries, he said, “If we can work very closely with places that our movies enjoy going and shooting and are traditionally where we have a large bulk of our foreign shoots happening; if we can sign treaties with those places which incentivise our producers to go there, make it more efficient to go there, make it more cheaper to go there, it would be great service to the entire production fraternity.”
Kulmeet Makkar, the CEO of the Producers Guild of India, also spoke at length about signing the MOUs. He said, "The main aim is to build relationships. We realised that over the years, our members struggle to find the right contacts as to whom to work with. So it is important to have a structured arrangement where they know whom to reach out to, how to reach out, so that they are guided properly and we negotiate on behalf of the industry in terms of incentives so that they are simplified and our producers get the same, which will help them cover the cost of travel, hospitality, shoot etc. This one of many MOUs that has been signed and the results have been fantastic."
Many countries have film commissions, film bodies which have extensive websites that provide detailed information to filmmakers wanted to shoot in those countries. This is something that is not yet a practice in India. When asked about this, Makkar said, “Yes, it is a challenge. But there is a new initiative called the film facilitation office. That website is operational and is linked to our website as well. It was earlier for foreign productions alone, but now it has been expanded to Indian productions as well. Their challenge has been to integrate it to the national side. It is happening. But before it happens, each state is working on a film policy. We have finalised film policies for 11 states so far."
Makkar also spoke about what the industry expects from the government. “Last two years have been great as far as box office is concerned. I am hoping 2019 is better. Important thing is that the value of the industry, direct and indirect needs, be understood by the agencies and the government. We are not looking for financial support; we are looking for facilitation. We want to make shooting in Maharashtra easier. We are looking for a single window online permission. We are looking for a dedicated nodal officer who handholds a producer through the entire process. We want a central office in every state,” he said.
He also reiterated the steps the industry needs to take. He said, “The Government of India recognises and honours the film-friendly state. So if as an industry we too can recognise the same or have an event to give such states a platform it would help.”