Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon and officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia. It lies in the Indian Ocean, southwest of the Bay of Bengal, separated from the Indian peninsula by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait.
Sri Lanka’s tropical location ensures perennially high temperatures, with monthly averages between 72 °F (22 °C) and 92 °F (33 °C) in the lowlands. In the Central Highlands, higher altitudes account for lower temperatures, with monthly averages between 44 °F (7 °C) and 71 °F (21.6 °C). Whilst the best time to go to Sri Lanka is between December and mid-April, which is considered to be the countrywide peak season, the traditional summer holiday months are also favourable on the east coast which is at its peak from May to September. If you’re travelling during the summer months, you will want to head towards the east coast and northern regions for dry, sunny weather, as the west and south west coasts experience rain at this time. On the flip side, the west and south west enjoy favourable weather conditions during the winter months (October to February) when the monsoon season hits the east and north.
Sri Lanka is known for its dry, hot climate which is perfect if you prefer filming in warm countries. With its stunning tropical beaches, you won’t be disappointed with everything this wonderful climate has to offer.
The Sri Lanka Rupee is the unit of currency used in Sri Lanka, symbolized by Rs, or SLRs to distinguish it from other Rupees.
The mother tongue of the Sinhalese is Sinhala, an Indo-Aryan language. 90% of the Sinhalese are Buddhists, both Sri Lankan and Indian Tamils are overwhelmingly Hindu. The Tamils speak the Dravidian language of Tamil. The Muslims, adherents of Islam- usually speak Tamil. Christianity draws its followers (roughly 7% of the population) from among the Sinhalese, Tamil, and Burgher communities.
Safety– Since 1983, there has been on-and-off civil war in the north and east of Sri Lanka between the government and the Tamil Tigers. The decisive end to hostilities means that now all of Sri Lanka is safe to film in.
Currently, there are no tax rebates or cash incentives for filming in Sri Lanka. Still, this tropical location makes financial sense for your production.
WHAT OUR LOCAL FILM FIXERS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT FILM EQUIPMENT CLEARANCE, FILM PERMIT, VISAS AND WORK PERMITS WHEN FILMING ON LOCATION IN SRI LANKA
The Film Permit
The National Film Corporation (NFC) of Sri Lanka is responsible for issuing all permits, and these are required for any filming that takes place. They are straightforward in their requirements and happy to facilitate international production crews. Additional permits and arrangements need to occur for each specific filming location. These requirements may differ per location.
Film equipment clearance into the country
Bringing equipment into Sri Lanka is seamless on ATA Carnet, which is accepted by Sri Lanka Customs. The other option would be on Bank Guarantee or the Guarantee of the NFC, which too is accepted by Sri Lanka Customs.
Accreditation for international film crew
The Ministry of Foreign Relations is tasked with facilitation of visits to Sri Lanka by all foreign media personnel. All Media are free to visit Sri Lanka for Journalist Purposes and may obtain Journalist Visa upon application from the closest Sri Lanka Embassy/Consulate prior to their arrival in Colombo. No prior approval of Visa is required.
Filming of documentaries and feature films, other than tourism promotional films and wildlife related documentaries, require prior approval by the NFC of Sri Lanka. Media teams are requested to complete the NFC agreement, available with all Sri Lanka Missions abroad, and submit it with the synopsis of the documentary/feature film, itinerary of the media team while in Sri Lanka and the filming locations, at least two weeks prior to the scheduled commencement of the project.
Visas & Work Permits
Visas and work permits are affordable. Certain film personnel can stay on a 30-day visa, which can be applied for online ahead of arrival in Sri Lanka. Other senior crew members such as the director and director of photography will need to apply for a work visa.
Film Location Permits for Sri Lanka
Film permits from the NFC are required to shoot in Sri Lanka. These take about 3 days to process and cost 100K SRL for feature films, 75K SRL for TVCs, and 50K SRL for documentaries. A government representative may be sent along to accompany the shoot, at the expense of the production. Additional permission may be required from other government agencies.
For individual locations, the costs and timing of permits depend on the specifics of the job. Most are easy to obtain and can be processed in a couple of days. In major city centres it is advisable to shoot on the weekends, with a five day notice.
Sri Lankan authorities are known to be wary of cameras so it’s best to have all required permits in place.
WHAT OUR LOCAL FILM FIXERS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT FILM LOCATIONS IN THE SRI LANKA
Sri Lanka offers a unique and diversified location that can easily double up for other countries in the region. Film locations include bustling cities, colonial buildings, an exotic coastline, surf beaches, fishing villages, rivers and waterfalls, forests and jungles, mountains and canyons, desert looks, rice paddies, rubber plantations, roads and bridges. The beauty of all this is that they are all within close proximity.
Sri Lanka is a predominately Buddhist country. There are also sizeable communities of Hindus, Muslims, and Christians, so a range of holidays are observed. Sri Lankan festivals and events of interest to filmmakers and photographers include: Nawam Maha Perahera held in Colombo in February/ Sinhalese New Year celebrations in April/ Vesak Lantern Festival in May/ Esala Perahera held in Kandy in July / August/ Aadi Vel Festival held in Colombo in July / August/ World Spice Festival held in Colombo in October.
Sri Lanka has hosted productions such as Bombay Velvet (2015), The Amazing Race 24 (2014), Madras Cafe (2013), Midnight’s Children (2012), The Amazing Race 6 (2004), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), and The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).
WHAT OUR LOCAL FILM FIXERS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT FILM CREWS, EQUIPMENT AND TALENT IN SRI LANKA
Local film crews
Sri Lanka has a very small pool of local directors, videographers and stills photographers. Local crews speak fluent English and have some experience on international projects. Depending on the complexity of the project, you may want to bring your key crew in from abroad.
Standard equipment is available locally. All else can be easily brought in from India, Malaysia, or Singapore.
It is possible to supplement your production team with local talent. Day rates for cast and crew are negotiable which gives your budget more flexibility. Day rates are very reasonable and negotiated on a personal basis.
The Sinhalese people make up the majority of the population. Other ethnic groups include the Karava, Tamils, and Moors. Smaller minorities include; The Veddas, Malays, Burghers, The Kaffirs as well as a small percentage of ethnic Chinese.