India Film & Photography Production Services
Are you a media company, brand, ad agency or production company looking for film / photography production support or shooting crew in India? We have fully vetted, locally based fixers, service producers, directors, DP’s, videographers, cameramen, photographers, sound operators, production drivers, and a range of other film crew. Contact us for referrals, questions, cost estimates and references.
Want to know more about shooting in India? See below for an introduction to India locations, permits, when to shoot, costs, talent, crews, equipment, art department, studios, post facilities, visas and work permits, film friendly hotels, transport, communications and safety advice.
India Film Locations
India is an extraordinary country of great beauty, contrast and sensory overload. With over one-sixth of the world’s population, India is home to a rich array of cultures, religions and ethnicities. India is a country where ancient architecture sits beside modern towers, a country where absolute wealth lives next to extreme poverty. The diversity of location looks range from paradise beaches to mountain peaks, picturesque tea plantations to colourful crowded markets, dense forests to arid deserts, colonial buildings to ancient temples.
India’s film locations of interest can be divided into 5 main regions:
West India. The sprawling, fast-paced metropolis of Mumbai is India’s main production centre and the home of the Bollywood film industry. Mumbai locations of note include Gateway of India, and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station. Rajasthan is known for its palaces and forts including Jaipur’s City Palace, Jal Mahal (Jaipur’s Submerged Water Palace), Ranakpur Jain Temple, Hawa Mahal, Amber Fort, Kumbhalgarh Fort, and Mehrangarh Fort. Gujarat is home to Rani-ki-Vav, Laxmi Vilas Palace, and Statue of Unity. The Rann of Kutch in Gujarat is an impressive salt desert. Marine National Park can be found in the Gulf of Kutch. Bibi Ka Maqbara is the other Taj Mahal. Goa is known for its beautiful white sand beaches, turquoise waters, colonial mansions, spice plantations, and jungles, all within a 2hr drive.
North India. New Delhi is India’s capital. As well as offering unique locations it has also doubled for Lahore in The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The bathing ghats of Mathura are often filmed in place of Varanasi given its proximity to New Delhi. Punjab is known for Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple) and Durgiana Temple. The Jammu and Kashmir region is famous for Hemis National Park and its Himalayan mountains, valleys and rivers. The Valley of Flowers National Park is a colourful location. Ladakh’s Thiksay Monastery doubles for Tibet’s Potala Palace. The Rohtang Pass is a high mountain pass running through Himachal Pradesh. Key Gompa is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Himachal Pradesh. Uttar Pradesh is home to the iconic Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Lotus Temple, and Varanasi’s Ghats on the River Ganges (Manikarnika, Dashashwamedh, and Assi Ghat). The picturesque Gaumukh is the source of the Ganges. Chandigarh doubled as Pakistan in Zero Dark Thirty. The far north Jammu & Kashmir region is very remote and lacking in services so all crew and equipment needs to be flown in.
Northeast India is best known for its picturesque Himalayan mountains, valleys, plains, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and tea plantations. The Kaziranga National Park is home to the one-horned rhinoceros. Buildings of note include Ujjayanta Palace in Tripura. The Root Bridges of Meghalaya are also found in Northeast India. Loktak Lake is famous for the phumdis floating over it. Pakyong Airport is located in a spectacular Himalayan setting.
East India has many different temples. West Bengal’s Sundarban National Park is home to the Bengal tiger. Keibul Lamjao is the only floating national park in the world. Namdapha National Park is in Arunachal Pradesh. Darjeeling is known for its tea plantations. Kolkata is the largest city. Here you can find the Great Banyan Tree. Bihar is home to the Bodhi Tree. Coal fires in Jharia and Bokapahari continue to burn out of control.
South India. Kerala is known for its beautiful palm-lined beaches, backwaters, national parks, and tea and coffee plantations. Karnataka state is home to Mysore Palace and Hampi ruins. Tamil Nadu is known for its many temples including Meenakshi Amman. Bengaluru (Bangalore) is the film production service centre in the south of India.
Indian Islands. The Andaman Islands, Nicobar Islands, and Lakshadweep are famous for their beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters. The Sentinelese are an uncontacted tribe living in North Sentinel Island.
Agricultural looks of interest in India include rice paddies, wheat and cotton fields, sugarcane and banana plantations.
Mumbai and New Delhi are the major production centres. Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad are also significant production centres.
As well as being the home of Bollywood, India has hosted Hollywood films such as The Dark Knight Rises, Slumdog Millionaire, Eat Pray Love, The Bourne Supremacy, Zero Dark Thirty, Life of Pi, The Way Back, Octopussy, and Close Encounters of The Third Kind.
India Film Location Permits
India is known for its red tape so choosing the right service producer / fixer is essential. Permits are generally not difficult to obtain as long as local customs and traditions are respected. Laws governing filming have many clauses that can be used to shut down a shoot making it impossible for foreign producers to exercise complete control over any production so a patient approach is required. India is made up of a collection of states that have their own practices alongside the central government bureaucracy so hiring a well connected local producer / fixer definitely helps. As an example, filming in the Himalayas, requires several layers of permitting.
The Ministry of External Affairs has streamlined the permitting process to 3 days for non-sensitive documentary films. This includes fashion and tourism shoots.
Please contact us for location specific information.
When To Shoot?
India is a large country with a wide range of weather conditions. India hosts six major climatic subtypes, ranging from desert in the west, to alpine tundra and glaciers in the north, to humid tropical regions supporting rainforests in the southwest and the island territories. Many regions have starkly different microclimates. India has four seasons: winter (January and February), summer (March to May), a monsoon (rainy) season (June to September), and a post-monsoon period (October to December). In Northern India, November to March are the best months to shoot for weather and cool temperatures. Some parts of the Himalayan range are inaccessible due to heavy snow from November onwards and then road access does not usually reopen until June. The north is also subject to landslides during the monsoon season. Southern India east of the Western Ghats remains dry during the monsoon period. For monthly weather statistics please see here.
India is home to many colourful festivals and events. Some of the better known ones include:
• Kumbh Mela Ganges pilgrimage is held every 3 years in January.
• Bikaner Camel Festival in January.
• Thaipusam in January or February.
• Holi Festival of Colours in March.
• Thrissur Pooram in April or May.
• Onam takes place in Kerala in August or September.
• Ganesh Chaturthi Festival takes place in Maharashtra in September.
• Diwali Festival of Lights in October or November.
• Pushkar Camel Fair in November.
Public holidays and festivals may affect timing, availability and costs, so make sure to seek local advice to plan effectively. See here for public holiday dates in India.
Costs & Tax Incentives
Costs vary greatly depending on where you plan on filming. Mumbai in particular has become very expensive. Otherwise, other parts of India are still relatively cost competitive. Crew costs are low compared to most of the world. Talent is inexpensive. Most equipment is available locally so there is no need to fly in gear. Cities such as Mumbai have very congested traffic which limits the number of possible crew moves in a day. This may increase the number of shoot days required. Many impressive locations also require travel outside of major production centres which can add significant costs to the shoot. On the other hand, savings can also be made with some nearby locations doubling for difficult to reach locations. For instance, Mumbai has small ghats that can double for the ghats of Varanasi. In any case, our locally based fixers and service producers will negotiate 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 feature films shooting in India. Several countries have co-production agreements allowing foreign productions to take advantage of domestic incentives.
Film Crew & Talent
Talent is non-union and buyouts are negotiable. Unless it’s a celebrity, talent costs in India are generally very cost-competitive. East Indian looks are available in abundance. There is also a pool of East European models based locally. All other talent looks are best cast abroad. There are several good talent agencies in India.
Crews. India has a good pool of local directors, directors of photography and stills photographers. Indian crews are very hard working, inexpensive and flexible. Key and supporting crews speak English. Separate unions exist for different crews throughout India. Indian teams are considerably larger than what is considered normal in the western world. This is the culture. Our service producer makes sure that only the local keys are the points of contact. In some cases key crew should be brought in from abroad.
Contact us if you are looking for a Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata or Hyderabad based 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 in India.
India Film Equipment
All the standard camera, grip and lighting equipment is available in India. Some specialised equipment needs to be brought in from abroad. For productions looking to bring in film equipment, India is an ATA carnet country. The imported equipment list is included in the location permit visa application and our Indian service producer / fixer works with a local customs broker to ensure all gear clears customs properly. If you are using a carnet, make sure that your port of entry and exit can facilitate them.
Art Department, Studios, Backlots, & Post Production
Art department and set construction. India has some very impressive production designers. Construction crews are skilled and hard working. Massive sets can be constructed quickly at minimal cost. Large teams with many people on set are the norm.
Studios and backlots. India has several large studio spaces but many of those are booked out for local TV shows and Bollywood features. There is a backlot of a South Bombay Street 3 hours drive from Mumbai.
Post Production. State of the art facilities are available. Both Kodak and Fuji have their own labs.
Visas & Work Permits
Before you apply for a visa, your shoot first needs permission from the India government. Visiting productions need to apply for a Ministry of External Affairs Location Permit at their local Indian consulate or embassy. The application must include an invitation letter from an Indian production service company as well as full project details including synopsis, location list, visiting crew details, equipment list and other relevant information. A simple b-roll shoot can take around 2 weeks to permit whereas filming at a heritage location such as the Taj Mahal can take up to 6 weeks to permit. Please note, this location permit covers the entire crew so it’s important to include all visiting crew members in the same application. Fees will vary depending on the locations required. Once the permit is approved the visiting crew members will be issued with a collective visa deemed appropriate by authorities (usually a journalist, business or tourist visa). Note, travel for scouting or meetings does not require prior permission and you can just enter on a Business Visa or Journalist-Visa. For crew travelling on Western passports India offers online visa applications here.
For long-form projects, India now offers an (F) visa allowing visiting film crews multiple entries for up to one year.
If you are entering India for a scout or other tourist related filming or photography, you can enter under a tourist visa.
Transport & Accommodation
Transportation Infrastructure. Traffic congestion in major cities such as Mumbai can be severe. Early morning is the best time to travel. Note, if your city crew includes larger gear trucks, make sure allow time to navigate the narrow roads and low hanging powerlines. Road conditions outside of cities are often quite poor and congested. India is a large country so if travelling far, expect the unexpected and make sure to allow plenty of time for unit moves. Train travel is a novel way to get around for the more adventurous crews. India is well serviced by several low cost domestic airlines. Several international airlines service flights to India. Travel delays are common on all modes of transport during the monsoon period. One good piece of advice to save on time and money is to always book and pay for excess baggage online, in advance.
Accommodation. Recommended film friendly hotels in India include:
Note, it is generally much less expensive to have our Indian service producer / fixer book rooms, than to book from abroad. Please contact us for special rates. For longer stays we can also organize serviced apartments.
Safety. On the whole India is a safe place for foreign productions to visit. See here for up to date travel advice.
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 India, please see below:
Hire India Production Support & Shooting Crew
If you are looking for a film or photographic production service company, line producer or fixer for your shoot in India, please contact us.
If you are looking for a shooting crew for your shoot in India, 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.