Where is the favorite Overseas Location for Chinese Films

The overseas shooting of Chinese films stands for Chinese filmmakers’ will and confidence to go out and communicate with the world, as well as to let the world see China and let the Chinese audience see of the world. Regardless of hiring local creative staff, on-site support during the shooting process, or post-production, going out will promote Chinese films to be better integrated with international standards, thus further opening Chinese filmmakers’ horizons to draw more diverse cultural inspiration.

In the memory of Chinese audiences, A NATIVE OF BEIJING IN NEW YORK, a TV series in the 1990s, was the first one shot in foreign scenes. As the first Chinese TV series filmed in a foreign country, it showed the life of Beijingers in New York with the New York City as the background, enabling many Chinese to understand the living conditions of the Chinese immigrants across the ocean through the screen. Since the series was broadcasted, it once made waves around the country.

Since 2012, when LOST IN THAILAND, a film totally shot in Thailand, set box office records in China Mainland, the Chinese film shooting has spurred an overseas filmmaking spree. From the Southeast Asia, Dubai, Europe to the North America, from comedy, romance, action, to feature films and from big-budget productions to small and medium-sized films, the overseas shooting of Chinese films has also presented the characteristic of diversification.

Location of Chinese films are all over the world

According to statistics, the hottest spot for overseas production of Chinese films is Southeast Asia, with a satisfactory market response. Of the 17 Chinese domestic films filmed overseas with a total box-office take of over 1 billion yuan, six were unsurprisingly shot in Southeast Asia. The tourism-oriented countries in the Southeast Asia represented by Thailand possess a preferable geographic location and provide convenience for traveling with beautiful sceneries and low prices for products, offering great preferential policies for shooting. As the popularity of LOST IN THAILAND has deepened Chinese audience’s awareness and affection for Southeast Asia, film crews have come in a continuous stream.

Similarly, North America is becoming more and more familiar to Chinese audiences. Southeast Asia, with its tropical island style, can easily create a relaxed and happy family atmosphere. Quite differently, North America, as a Hollywood base and economic and political center, conveys the temptation of money and success as well as naked greed, with New York as its typical representative, such as A NATIVE OF BEIJING IN NEW YORK, AMERICAN DREAMS IN CHINA, OLD BOY:THE WAY OF THE DRAGON, AN AUTUMN WIND, and NEW YORK NEW YORK. New York seems to be irreplaceable as a shooting location.

Canada is another great shot site in North America. Canada is an industry-proven “Hollywood Studio” and its beauty is always shown in Hollywood blockbusters. The popularity of ANCHORING IN SEATTLE not only brings more fame to Seattle, but also to Vancouver, its actual filming location. Apart from the beauty of natural sceneries and the friendliness of humanity cultures, a series of tax deduction policies and strong technical support from the Canadian federal government also account for the decision of the Chinese crew to shoot films here.

Literary and romantic, Europe is a perfect choice for love movies. PARIS HOLIDAY is a  sweet love story happened in Paris; In SOMEWHERE ONLY WE KNOW, Xu Jinglei, the director, chose to shoot the film in Prague. In the action film EUROPE RAIDERS, an exciting adventure is taken place in front of several Italian landmarks.

In addition to the above popular shooting locations, the luxurious country of Dubai is the best choice for the wealth flaunts of films. The film SWITCH became the world’s first to be shot in a seven-star hotel.

Chinese people’s increasing attention on Indian films in recent years have prompted more and more film crews to shoot in India, such as DYING TO SURVIVE and KUNG FU YOGA. The close integration between the scenery and the plot has increased the realism of audience’s viewing experience.

The most special one is TILL THE END OF THE WORLD, which was released in 2018 and starred by Zhao Youting and Yang Zishan. The crew performed live-action location shots in Antarctica for one month. The changeable terrains and harsh weather conditions tortured the crew. Wu Youyin, the director said: “Only when you set foot on the land of Antarctica, can you shoot the natural beauty that CG special effects can’t present; only when they feel the bitter coolness, can they erupt the most real and original emotions by embracing each to get warmness.”

Multiple factors contribute to the popularity of overseas shooting

Since 2012, the Mainland movie market has become more and more popular. On the one hand, the scale of movie investment has gradually expanded, enabling the support the cost of overseas shooting; on the other hand, the viewing need of audiences also changes, with a greater demand for modern subjects such as comedy, love and fashion. Therefore, overseas shooting has become a powerful publicity point to gain a high degree of attention. The typical cultural atmosphere of the shooting location, the distinctive folk customs, and the beautiful and unique landscape all appeal to the audience who can enjoy fresh visual experience, thus becoming an important influencing factor for audience’s choice of viewing.

Of course, for most films shot overseas, their storylines mainly contribute to their overseas filming, such as the series of DETECTIVE CHINATOWN, the series of ANCHORING IN SEATTLE, LOST IN THAILAND and DYING TO SURVIVE. The necessity of overseas shooting is due to the abroad setting of the background and the occurrence and development of the plot.

Overseas film locating also helps the film’s distribution in overseas markets. In fact, in order to encourage overseas film crews to shoot in their countries, relevant film development or tourism development departments will assess the market potential of the film based on the investment quota of the project, the popularity of directors and actors in the country, the strength of production companies and other factors before the approval of film and television filming applications. When the evaluation results indicate excellence, the local government will actively participate in the process and launch related publicity and marketing activities, which will be of great benefit to the future distribution of film projects in these countries.

Overseas shooting is a powerful way to enhance the visibility and recognition as well as the development of the local tourism industry of the shooting location. Therefore, countries have also launched various preferential policies and shooting support services to attract foreign crews, who undoubtedly assume it as good news due to the saving of manpower and material resources.

Overview of Preferential Policies for Overseas Movie and Television Photography

South Korea

Since 2011, Korean Film Council has subsidized a portion of the production costs of foreign films and television series shot in South Korea. Goods and labor expenses in Korea can receive a cash subsidy, so that foreign production companies can produce high-quality film and television works with lower production costs.

25% cash subsidy for production costs: 25% of the production costs paid in Korea are subsidized in cash. The size of the subsidy is based on the undisbursed budget on the date of application. The maximum subsidy for each film is 2 billion won.

The profile of qualified foreign movies and TV series is:

  1. Overseas funds must exceed 80% of pure production costs.
  2. Overseas films and television works shall be approved by the Korean Film Council, with a cost of more than 100 million won in South Korea.
  3. The Korean Film Council will evaluate the contribution of the film and television projects to Korea’s tourism, film industry, and engagement. Based on these, the government shall determine whether to grant subsidies.



Foreign films enjoy 15% of cash subsidy.

Additional subsidy: 3%- the employment of Thai creative staff

2%- the promotion of Thai tourism

The maximum subsidy for each movie is 75 million baht.

In addition, Thai official staff stated that it only took 3 to 10 days for Chinese filmmakers shooting movies in Thailand to gain approval since the application to approval in one place.

The profile of qualified foreign movies and TV series is:

Overseas films and television works shall spend more than 50 million baht in Thailand.



In order to attract foreign film and television shooting and production projects, Australia has specially established Ausfilm, which is a cooperative organization of private enterprises and government agencies. Its members include the Australian federal government, state and territory governments and 30 private companies. As a gateway to film in Australia, Ausfilm provides various services for film crews and “post-production” crews to Australia.

Ausfilm has promoted Australia’s “Film Production Incentives Program” globally, including the following:

Production subsidy: 40% of producer compensation (feature films);

20% of producer compensation (TV and other projects);

30% of post-production, digital and imaging (PDV) compensation;

5% of venue compensation (feature films and TV series).

Location subsidy: 16.5% of tax refund.



New Zealand

Since 2013, the portion of tax refunds for overseas and local films made in New Zealand has been increased from 15% to 20%. Production companies meeting certain requirements or bring more benefits to New Zealand shall receive an additional subsidy of 5%.

The requirements include: a minimum of NZ $ 500 million in filming activities; ensuring that 90% of the live actors must be New Zealanders; holding at least one official premiere in New Zealand; and a short film about New Zealand shall be included in the DVD and Blu-ray version of the film.



According to the co-production agreement signed by China and France in 2010, the films co-produced by the two countries will obtain “dual nationality”, which means they shall belong to either of the two if they are released in one specific country.

Since January 1st, 2015, TRIP was approved by the Congress.

Since January 1st, 2009, France has implemented a reward system for high-cost movies to be shot in the country. In other words, film production companies that spend more than 1 million euros in France, will be given a maximum of 20% reduction in production costs spent in France by the government (excluding hotel accommodation costs and salaries of French actors).

Since 2015, this policy has also applied to small-cost productions, and reduced the maximum spending limit from 1 million euros to 250 thousand euros in 2017. That is to say, for projects with a cost of more than 250 thousand euros for shooting, animation or post-production, or more than 50% of the total budget, the French government will give a maximum of 30% reduction for the qualified cost in France (on the basis of exemption).

The maximum amount of financial support is 30 million euros.



Since the signing of the first audiovisual co-production agreement in 1963, Canada has signed film or television co-production agreements (the largest number in the world) with 53 countries including China, France, and the United Kingdom.

In order to promote the development of the film industry and attract more foreign film shooting, the Canadian federal government has implemented a series of tax deduction policies in the film and television industry, among which, the “Canadian Content” tax refund program is the most important one. This policy applies to programs produced by Canadian companies or film and television products whose main creators are Canadians. According to regulations, 25% of the work staff’s salary can apply for a tax exemption without exceeding 60% of the amount deducting the government subsidized external budget. In addition, there are tax credits specifically for Canadian branches of foreign film and television companies or Canadian companies involved in the production of foreign film and television works.


United States

American states have different preferential policies for film production. For example, the tax budget can only be obtained if it exceeds a certain amount in the state. Such as Maryland requires a minimum investment of 500 thousand dollars in the state, and 50% of the main scenarios should be shot in the state. In order to prevent large-budget movies from getting excessive tax refunds, which might squeeze the benefits of other projects, a cap is set for tax preferences in basically each state. For example, Hawaii will refund 15% to 20% of the tax for film and television investment projects with a cost of more than 200 thousand dollars locally, but the maximum refund is 8 million dollars.

In some states, film and television production companies are required to hire a certain number of residents of the state to receive wage tax benefits, and the tax credits generated by the employment of the state residents are greater than that of non-state employees. For example, Colorado states that if 25% of the actors and crew members are residents of the state, 10% of tax benefits will be obtained for production costs in the state; Maine grants 12% and 10% of the salary tax refund for the employment of local and non-residents respectively.


Original: Editorial Department of dianyingqingbaochu

The original work refers to the following articles: Strategy for the Preferential Policies for Overseas Film and Television Shooting SOHU Entertainment: Covert Rules for Domestic Films Shooting: for Big Sales, Go Overseas.

Editor: SONG Yiran, GAO Yuhan