Growing Prospects for Filmmaking in Sri Lanka

Hollywood film location scout Bill Bowling shoots pictures during a recent 10-day visit to Sri Lanka.

The Bridge on the River Kwai, the winner of seven Academy Awards and arguably one of Hollywood’s greatest movies, was filmed in Sri Lanka. So were many scenes in Steven Spielberg’s second Indiana Jones film, The Temple of Doom. With its rich natural landscapes, jungles and beaches, Sri Lanka has provided unrivaled backdrops for filmmakers. Now a veteran Hollywood film location scout who recently spent two weeks touring the island confirms that Sri Lanka will continue to be to be a top location for film makers.

“The extent of its future success largely depends on promotion and ease of production in Sri Lanka,” said international film consultant and former Warner Bros. Worldwide Locations Executive Bill Bowling. Mr. Bowling cited Sri Lanka’s “natural beauty” as an advantage for the island, and noted that its rich animal life could attract documentary filmmakers.

But “financial incentives have become the driver for location decisions around the world,” Mr. Bowling said, adding that Sri Lanka may be best positioned to, “attract TV commercials and documentaries.”

Sri Lanka’s allure for filmmakers is confirmed in the 2011 Location Guide, the world’s premier resource for international film production, which highlighted Sri Lanka as a film location.

In March, Sri Lanka opened the Mahinda Rajapaksa National Tele-Cinema Park in Hambantota.  The state-of-the-art center includes 235 acres of picturesque landscape featuring lakes, forests, model villages and colonial buildings in addition to industry standard pre-and-post production facilities.

Sri Lanka has a long history with the global film industry. Harrison Ford, the star of the Indiana Jones films, said in an interview several years ago that Sri Lanka is “the one location that stands out as being so impressive. I loved the culture of Sri Lanka.”

Mr. Bowling participated in U.S. Ambassador Jaliya Wickramasuriya’s “Signature Tour” that last month brought 25 American professionals and business people to Sri Lanka. The tour group included an award-winning travel writer and executives from a variety of industries.    

Before the tour, Ambassador Wickramasuriya had predicted that the “journey will be an eye-opening experience that will highlight Sri Lanka’s boundless potential.” After seeing many of the islands’s fabled destinations, from the World Heritage site of the Galle Fort to the tea fields of Nuwara Eliya, Mr. Bowling agreed that Sri Lanka is a likely destination for film makers.

Ambassador Wickramasuriya and Mr. Bowling met with the Honorable Minister of Mass Media and Communications Keheliya Rabukwella and his permanent Secretary Mr. Ganagala, who are working to develop a Sri Lankan film industry and are optimistic about the entertainment industry’s potential for growth.

“Right now, we are working to increase our visibility with producers and directors in Hollywood and in other countries,” the Ambassador said. “Sri Lanka has demonstrated its ability to attract foreign investment and we will use our strengths, the island’s natural beauty and ecological wonders, to continue to make this a welcome place for the world’s film industry.”

Embassy of Sri Lanka
Washington DC

17 September 2010


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