Manama: The Saudi Film Council (SFC) has announced the launch of several programmes that will benefit both local filmmakers and film industry development in the kingdom.

The initiatives will also be beneficial for international filmmakers, production companies and studios that will look to Saudi Arabia as an important, emerging global production location, the council said during its debut at the Cannes Film Festival.

The initiatives are expected to have significant impact on the growth of film productions in the local market through a newly established 35 per cent baseline cash rebate programme, and on domestic talent development through a grant programme and international skill-building partnerships.

As a key component of SFC’s strategy, the initiatives will contribute to building a sustainable industry that will bring economic benefits including job creation, the council said.

The initiatives will also drive the development of Saudi stories for audiences both at home and globally, introducing a new Saudi narrative in film to the world.

“We are very excited to mark our first appearance at the Cannes Film Festival and Marche du Film with the launch of initiatives that support our overall goals for talent development and film and content production in the kingdom, including one of the most attractive rebate programmes in the world,” Ahmad Al Maziad, CEO of the General Culture Authority, which oversees SFC, said.

“They highlighted two of our key pillars — nurturing and empowering our rich talent pool of aspiring and established filmmakers and introducing the international industry to the world of opportunities the kingdom has to offer, as we seek to build an industry that draws on our heritage and supports the unique needs of our country, while at the same time [playing] a vital role within the global film community.”

The cash rebate programme will apply to productions that will be filmed in Saudi Arabia, offering a baseline of 35 per cent for all spending in the country, with the ability for productions to realise higher rebates by meeting certain criteria.

A 50 per cent rebate will also be available for spending on Saudi labour. The rebate is expected to bring fil productions to the kingdom, including feature films, documentaries, episodic series and animated content, as well as encourage production companies to employ local crew. Details on the programme roll-out will be made available in the coming weeks, the council added.

The rebate programme will drive greater visibility of the country as locations are featured in films and TV programmes. This will further attract international productions and impact the country’s nascent tourism sector, the Riyadh-based Centre for International Communication said.

As in-country spending grows, it is expected to have a follow-on effect on industry infrastructure development such as studios and service providers, including hotels and accommodation, catering, transportation and other support services.

The programme is in line with the SFC’s strategy to develop a vibrant and sustainable film industry in Saudi Arabia, as well as to engage the global international film community.

Another key area of focus for SFC, as a critical element in building a sustainable sector, is the development of talent.

The National Grant and talent partnership programmes for Saudi nationals will lay a solid foundation for growth through education and skills-building to foster and enhance the local community.

A deep industry talent pool will not only put an added spotlight on the creative capacity of Saudis and support increased local content development, but also ensure that international productions can source local talent, resulting in increased domestic job opportunities.

The National Grant Programme will be open to Saudi nationals who produce or post-produce content in the kingdom and meet the programme’s eligibility criteria.

Talent development partnerships with global film institutes, including The University of Southern California, the Studio School and Film Independent in the United States, and La Femis and Les Gobelins in France, are providing critical skills training for aspiring and established Saudi filmmakers, as well as ‘train the trainers’ programmes to add further domestic skills-building capacity.