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India’s Film Industry: a Booming Opportunity

By Leona Reed 11/02/2018

All eyes are on India as we look to the next booming opportunity market for California tourism. Our big picture strategy for the sizable India market—which is set to grow by double-digits annually for the foreseeable future—includes leveraging the unique relationship between India film industry inclusive of Bollywood and Hollywood.

Aside from the natural parallels of our respective entertainment industries, film and television are the most powerful, far-reaching mediums to generate mass awareness in the world’s second most populous nation of 1.3 billion. By aligning with film production companies to place California in the storyline of future projects, Visit California can ensure that the Golden State has a steady pipeline of promotional vehicles and powerful marketing partners at the ready to get Indians California dreaming.

We planted the seeds for this platform back in November 2017, when a Visit California delegation of CEOs—led by our own President and CEO, Caroline Beteta, and Board Chair, Sima Patel —traveled to India on a business development and research mission. While there, the delegation met with top members of the country’s entertainment industry, including the President and the CEO of the Producers Guild of India. Visit California signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to formalize our intention to work together, with the goal of securing more production in California to ultimately influence travel behavior. Notably, this is the first MOU of its kind from any US state, and created alignment between the world’s true film and TV entertainment capitals.

Collectively, we committed to going back to our respective film commissions to identify existing incentives and brainstorm new offerings specifically for Indian productions. We also promised to support a scouting and business development trip to California for a group of top producers to move the collaboration forward. That trip recently took place, October 21-27, and it symbolized an important next step in creating a solid foundation for this long-term partnership.

We were honored to welcome seven of India’s most influential producers who are responsible for more than 80% of the country’s top grossing films. Led by Sunil Puri, Co-Managing Director of our India office, they immersed themselves in the cinematic side of Greater Los Angeles, including Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Santa Monica, before driving up the coast on the iconic Pacific Coast Highway with stops in Santa Barbara and Monterey. Their whirlwind tour concluded in San Francisco. Along the way, they got a small taste of the diversity of locations available here and were treated to VIP-style hospitality—just a primer of the type of perks in store for their movie stars and top talent when filming on location in California.

The centerpiece business development program of the producers’ visit was a daylong “California Film Forum” held at Sony Studios in Culver City. In partnership with the California Film Commission, the forum brought a sampling of 10 California destinations together with film professionals—both Californian and Indian—to discuss the opportunities and challenges to bringing Indian productions to California. Board Chair Sima Patel, Visit California’s lead India diplomat, was among the California tourism leadership in attendance.

Caroline Beteta opened the program with a presentation of Visit California’s body of work and vision for the India market—and the role India’s film industry can play. Sima Patel gave a preview of some new activities planned for the India market with Visit California’s expanded investment. California Film Commission’s Executive Director, Amy Lemisch, followed with an in-depth briefing on the ins-and-outs of filming in the Golden State. The producers were very interested in learning more about the California Tax Incentive Program and how to work with local resources, from film permits and visas to working location scouts, unions and set safety requirements.

Those topics were delved into on a deeper level with a panel discussion moderated by Amy Lemisch. Four panelists shared their perspectives on “Navigating Pre-Production and Production in California”: President of Film Liaisons in California Statewide, President of FilmLA, a foreign productions specialist with Bollywood Hollywood and a location manager. All attendees then engaged in a dialogue covering the variety of resources and incentives California destinations could develop to support Indian productions. The 20+ tourism leaders and film commissioners in attendance brainstormed actionable solutions and pilot programs and shared their local insights.

Among the wealth of new learnings on both sides, one key takeaway was that California’s tourism and film industries, together, have a diverse portfolio of incentives to offer film productions and the benefit of doing so is extremely valuable from economic and tourism perspectives. The challenge and opportunity now is placing a value on the non-traditional incentives our industry has to offer so that we can remain competitive on a global scale.

Attendees received a copy of a newly produced Film Producers’ Guide to California that introduced the state’s existing film resources through a tourism lens. Both practical and inspirational, the guide touches on Hollywood history, filming in California, destination spotlights, film tourism marketing case studies and a photo location tour. This guide will be updated for future outreach to the Indian film industry.

Please stay tuned for future developments as this exciting India program’s infrastructure continues to be built out and new opportunities open for industry participation.

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