Philippines

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World of Locations Screen International

Overview

Made up of a network of islands, the Republic of the Philippines offers filmmakers everything from tropical rain forests, mountains and volcanoes (active and dormant) to bustling cities, ash deserts, waterfalls, terraced rice paddies, dry savannah and incredible coastlines.

 

The FilmPhilippines Office (FPO), a department of the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), is the country’s main body for incoming productions. It is central to the republic’s commitment to looking after overseas filmmaking efforts. In March 2022, Mary Liza Diño was reappointed FDCP chairperson and CEO for another three years, with the aim to signal stability and consistent management to potential overseas productions. But in July, president Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr named actor Tirso Cruz III as the new FDCP chairperson and CEO.

 

FDCP also runs the Film Location Engagement Desk, a one-stop-shop assistance programme for international productions looking to shoot in the territory, providing a general endorsement to productions to assist their transactions with government offices across the Philippines.

 

Recent international titles to have shot here include Philippines-born Carlo Manatad’s Whether The Weather Is Fine, set in the aftermath of 2013’s Typhoon Haiyan that devastated coastal regions in the Central Philippines. A Philippines-­France co-production with backers from Singapore, Indonesia, Germany and Qatar, Manatad’s debut won Locarno Film Festival’s junior jury prize in 2021 and a slew of awards at Metro Manila Film Festival.

 

Local filmmaker Brillante Mendoza — the first Filipino to win the best director award at Cannes, for 2009’s Kinatay — shot Japan-Philippines co-production Gensan Punch. It tells the true story of Naozumi Tsuchiyama, a Japanese athlete with a prosthetic leg who became a professional boxer.

 

In 2021, to support the production of original feature films in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region, FDCP launched the Asean coproduction fund for Filipino producers working with Asean co-producers and directors. Projects can access a selective fund of up to $150,000 to conduct part of their production, animation and/or post-production in the Philippines.

 

Petersen Vargas’s Some Nights I Feel Like Walking benefitted from FDCP’s international co-production fund (ICOF) support. Produced by Alemberg Ang and Jade Castro, the project follows a rich teenage runaway who joins a group of street hustlers. ACC Cinematografica and Through The Lens Entertainment’s sci-fi Hunter also scored ICOF support.

Locations and productions

The Film Location Incentive Program (FLIP) requires a minimum qualified production spend of $153,000 (php8m) to access a 20% cash rebate capped at $191,000 (php10m). The international co-production fund (ICOF) is a selective fund for international co-productions with the Philippines, up to $191,000 (php10m) and a minimum projected local spend of $95,500 (php5m). 

 

The Asean co-production fund of up to $140,000 (php7.3m) is for projects produced by Philippine and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) production countries. Full details filmphilippines.com/incentives

Permits

Getting a permit in the Philippines is not especially onerous, but it makes sense to call on local knowledge to avoid stumbling across unexpected regulations. Experienced production services companies like RSVP are well-positioned to advise, as are international production services outfits like Emerge Film Solutions. Basic points include the fact that Manila does not issue city-wide permits, so you may need to talk to more than one municipality. Complicated shoots in national parks or in the air usually require more planning. The Philippines has also had to contend with internal security issues so some islands will need government permission to film in. In terms of official bodies you can talk to, there is a Film Development Council of the Philippines but as its name suggestions it is more focused on supporting indigenous production. Better perhaps is the Ministry of Tourism, which has been charged with promoting the country “as a locale for foreign films or movie production or any other form of entertainment that will serve to enhance the Philippines’ image as a tourist destination.” 

Infrastructure and crews

The Philippines has a long-established film and TV industry, with Filipino and English the dominant languages. It can accommodate up to four incoming productions, with crews used to working long hours. Rental rates for equipment, facilities and locations compare favourably to other countries in the region. 

 

The ABS-CBN soundstages are a two-hour drive from the international airport and 30 minutes from hotels. 

 

Shooting Gallery Studios is a 20-minute drive from the international airport and 15 minutes from hotels. 

 

Bigfoot Studios is a 15-minute drive from the international airport and 10 minutes from hotels.

Size matters

The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,600 islands boasting 300,000 square kilometres of land, with the well-connected capital Manila in the north. The main gateway to the Philippines is Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila. The three major islands of the Philippines — Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao — are connected by nautical highways, allowing land vehicles to board the roll-on/roll-off ferries. These ferries greatly reduce the usual land travel time to key cities.

First person to contact

Vincent Paolo Naval, Film Locations Engagement Desk (FLEX): filmphilippines@fdcp.ph

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