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Bhutan

Bhutan Film & Photography Production Services & Camera Crews

Are you a media company, brand, ad agency or production company looking for film / photography production support or shooting crew in Bhutan? Contact us for trusted fixers, producers, directors, DoPs, videographers, photographers, and full shooting crews tailored for the specific needs of your project.

Filming in Bhutan

For an introduction to shooting in Bhutan see below notes on film locations, permits, when to shoot, unique local stories, costs, tax incentives, crews, talent, equipment, communications, art department, studios, post facilities, visas and work permits for filming, transport, film-friendly accommodation, and safety advice.

Bhutan Film Locations

With high mountains in the north, thick jungles in the south, and government restricted levels of tourism, Bhutan remains one of the most un-spoilt countries in the world. Bhutan is best know for the Himalayan mountains, glaciers, lakes, forests, mountain villages, Buddhist temples and monasteries. 

Agricultural film locations include rice paddies, corn and wheat fields. Bhutan’s largest export is hydroelectricity with Tala Hydroelectric Power Station being the largest of the dams.

Bhutan has hosted films including The Snowman Trek (2018), Happiness (2013), Travelers and Magicians (2003), and Little Buddha (1993).

Bhutan film locations can be divided into the following districts:

Bumthang, Chhukha, Dagana, Gasa, Haa, Lhuentse, Mongar, Paro, Pema Gatshel, Punakha, Samdrup Jongkhar, Samtse, Sarpang, Thimphu, Trashigang, Trashi Yangtse, Trongsa, Tsirang, Wangdue Phodrang, and Zhemgang.

Buddhism is the state religion. Buddhist temples and monasteries of note include Paro Taktsang, Trongsa Dzong, Rinpung Dzong, Tashichho Dzong, Changangkha Lhakhang, Gangtey Gompa, Punakha Dzong, Kichu Lhakang, Semtokha Dzong, and Dechen Phrodrang.

Thimphu is the capital and largest city. Film locations of note include Tashichho Dzong (the seat of government), Changangkha Lhakhang, Great Buddha Dordenma statue, National Memorial Chorten, and Bhutan Textile Museum. Motithang Takin Preserve is home to the takin. Interesting detail, traffic is guided by police instead of traffic lights.

Located a 1 hr drive from Thimphu, Paro International Airport sits in a deep valley at 2,235 m (7,332 ft) and is surrounded by mountains as high as 5,500 m (18,000 ft). Only a small number of pilots are certified to land at the airport.

National parks of note include Royal Manas National Park and Jigme Dorji National Park.

Gangkhar Puensum is the highest peak in Bhutan, and the 40th highest in the world. It has never been summited. It is widely claimed to be the highest unclimbed mountain in the world.

The Six Senses Bhutan is a luxury hotel offering contemporary looks.

Bhutan Film Location Permits 

Filming Bhutan is very restricted. Contact us for specific advice on your project. Mountaineering in Bhutan is not allowed.

When To Shoot?

Northern Bhutan is cold with year-round snow on Himalayan summits. The inner Himalayan valleys of the southern and central regions are temperate. In the southern plains and foothills, the climate is humid, subtropical and affected by monsoons.

Winter (December to February) is very cold at higher elevations but it offers the clearest conditions for photographing the Himalayas. Spring (March to May) is a great time to film in Bhutan for weather. Summer (June to August) is the monsoon season. At this time of year rockslides make mountain travel difficult and low hanging clouds obscure views of the Himalayas. Fall (September to November) is another good time to film in Bhutan for weather. For monthly weather statistics please see here.

Most festivals in Bhutan are based on events in the Buddhist calendar. Events of note include:

• Chorten Kora Festival in February / March
• Gomphu Kora Festival in March / April
• Ura Yakchoe in May
• Haa Summer Festival in July
• Thimphu Tshechu in October
• Black-necked Crane Festival in November
• Trongsa Tshechu in December

Public holidays may affect timing, availability and costs. See here for public holiday dates in Bhutan.

Unique Local Stories

Brands are looking for local stories that match their brand narrative. Our local teams are a great lead for sourcing those unique stories and characters.

If you are looking for stories for your next shoot, send us your brief and we will pitch you ideas.

If you have a unique story you would like to pitch to a brand anywhere in the world, pitch us your idea. We have well-established processes to ensure that your ideas are properly seen and protected.

Costs & Tax Incentives

Costs. Local costs are very expensive compared to the rest of the region. Travel to and around Bhutan is restricted and expensive. Since little to no filming infrastructure exists, all key crew and equipment must be brought in from abroad. On the whole, unless your project needs something only Bhutan can offer, there are far easier places to film in the region. Of course our Bhutanese fixer will do all possible to negotiate local deals and provide the appropriate level of production support to match every budget.

Tax Incentives. At present there are no tax incentives for foreign commercials or films shooting in Bhutan.

Film Crew & Talent

Crew. Bhutan has a very small pool of local directors, directors of photography and stills photographers. Key crew are best brought in from abroad. Indian nationals are able to easily travel to and work in Bhutan.

Contact us if you are looking for a director, DP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, or any other film crew for your shoot in Bhutan.

Talent day rates and and buyouts are negotiated on a personal level. Bhutanese people primarily consist of the Ngalops and Sharchops. All other talent looks need to be brought in from abroad.

Bhutan Film Equipment

Equipment. Bhutan has some basic camera, grip and lighting equipment. Best to bring in from abroad.

Communications. Communication is key. Our agility and global experience allows us to customise the right communications systems for every shoot.

Web posted casting, scouting, and videoconferencing.

For clients that are unable to attend set we offer a virtual video village solution. This dedicated and secure high-resolution video streaming platform allows clients from one or multiple timezones to view setups without compromise and to participate in real-time with the team on set. Separate systems can be set up for the discrete conversations that are required to make a job run right. Working remotely with our local teams reduces your content production costs, turnaround times, carbon footprint, and risks associated with unpredictable global events.

Art Department, Studios, Backlots, & Post Production

Art department and set construction is very basic.

Studios and backlots. None exist at present.

Post Production. Post abroad.

Visas & Work Permits

All foreigners (except for citizens of Bangladesh, India, and Maldives) must obtain a visa before visiting Bhutan. Entry is free for citizens of Bangladesh, India and Maldives, but all other foreigners are required to sign up with a Bhutanese operator and pay a fee of $250 per day in country during the high season, or $200 per day during the low season. This includes the guide, accommodation, transportation, meals, and special entry fees.

Upon entering Bhutan, all foreigners are issued a 7 or 14 days “Entry Permit”, valid for Thimphu and Paro only. The rest of Bhutan is considered a restricted area, and foreigners need a “Restricted-Area Permit” to enter. Immigration checkpoints are located at important road junctions throughout the country, where police check the permits of all foreigners they find. In addition, foreigners wishing to visit Buddhist temples must obtain a “Temple Permit” from the Ministry of Culture.

Productions coming to film in Bhutan need to adhere to the following:

• Hire a local registered Bhutanese counterpart to sign on to and service the production.
• Ensure that the foreign filming crew and the local crew hired shall be at a ratio of 60:40.
• Submit an application form for the project through the local counterpart including cast and crew member information.
• The following documents shall be submitted for each cast and crew member:
– Curriculum Vitae
– Copy of passport information page
– Certificates of qualifications
– Documentary evidence of experience, awards received 13 and/or any other documents that support his/her experience in filmmaking.
– Accreditation and certification by recognized bodies.
– Justification(s) for the need of each cast and crew members requested for the film.
– Specialized equipment including vehicle that shall be brought into Bhutan, if any.

Contact your local Bhutan embassy or representative for more information.

Transport & Accommodation

Transportation Infrastructure. Paro International Airport is the only international airport. Main roads are in a fair condition. Rural and mountain roads are slower going.

Accommodation. Best options in Bhutan include:

Uma Paro
Taj Tashi

Final Notes

Safety. See here for up to date travel advice.

Down Time. Archery is the favourite local sport. Give it a try.

Projects. For an example of TV commercials, stills campaigns, online content, corporate videos, virtual reality 360 content, feature films, TV series and documentaries shot in Bhutan, please see below:

Hire Bhutan Production Support & Shooting Crew

If you are looking for a film or photographic production service company, line producer or fixer for your shoot in Bhutan, please contact us.

If you are looking for a shooting crew for your shoot in Bhutan, such as a director, DoP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, please contact us.

We are able to provide you with answers, references and bids quickly.