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An island choice for filmmakers

Isle of ManFor nearly 20 years, the Isle of Man has proved a popular choice for filmmakers and TV producers from all over the world, with 102 productions having filmed there since 1995.

Michael Reaney, of the Department of Economic Development at Isle of Man Film, offered us an insider’s view on some of the reasons that the Isle of Man continues to attract filmmakers.  

Attractive factors for film production

A combination of flexible equity investment and a growing infrastructure have been partly responsible for the growth in filmmaking on the island. Producers have access to the long-established Isle of Man Development Fund (MDF), offering equity investment to film and television productions shooting there.

Last year, the Isle of Man Treasury purchased an equity stake in the Pinewood Shepperton Group in the UK, and MDF investments are managed by new production arm Pinewood Pictures. There are no specific limits on individual investments and terms are negotiable on a case by case basis.

There are two privately owned studios with sound stages, construction stages, offices and facilities.

A wide range of scenery

The Isle of Man is in the middle of the Irish Sea, and is a self-governing British Crown Dependency. It covers 52km north to south and 22km east to west, with 160 km of coastline and a land mass of 572 sq km. The scenery within this relatively small area includes caves, beaches, moorlands, forests, valleys, rivers and waterfalls.

Standing in as a double

The Isle of Man has frequently ‘played’ other countries on the big and small screen.  It has doubled for England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and, because of its various plantations, rural United States. Mike Reaney of Isle of Man Film says: “The Camera Trap shoot which took place earlier this year (2013) used some of our plantations; the footage has matched up perfectly to that of Nepal – the other main location and where the story is set.”

Similarly, the architecture has frequently portrayed famous buildings. Reaney remarked: “In Me and Orson Welles, the Gaiety Theatre in Douglas was a perfect replica of the Mercury Theatre in New York.”

A film friendly infrastructure

Isle of Man Film is keen to build on the established infrastructure. There is minimum local spend element, but it is easily reached say, on a 50:50 split of principal photography between the Isle of Man and another principal location for example. Local crew are easily sourced, along with equipment.

Each production employs a minimum of four trainees in a recognised professional discipline, with many of those trainees working on the island and around the world. Obtaining licences and permits is straightforward as the government is small and film-friendly.

Other recent productions that have filmed on the island include: Rocket’s Island, Belle, Dom Hemingway, The Christmas Candle, Ashes, and Honour.

Permits for filming

The Isle of Man has its own set of laws and regulations regarding permits, which must be sought from the Isle of Man government for the duration of the shoot, and completed at least four weeks before filming begins on the island. Often public notices will be sent to local press up to three weeks before principal photography begins.

And there are other reasons for the advance notice. Anyone who is not a British citizen or a national of the European Economic Union needs to obtain an Overseas Labour Permit, a process which can take up to three weeks to complete.  

The immigration office on the island must also be contacted well in advance if an aircraft is being chartered from outside the UK directly to the Isle of Man.

When it comes to money and tax issues it is advisable that production accountants refer to the Treasury website where they will find all they need.  

In case you are using firearms in your production, ten days’ notice must be given to the IoM constabulary. If the firearms are being shipped in as ferry freight, the Steam Packet Company has to be informed.

Full details of all permits, including those for fireworks and pyrotechnics and working with children, can be found on Isle of Man’s film website.

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