Latin America: 4 Hot Filming Locations
Oscar nominations, crossover talent, recently sweetened incentives -- why the industry is heading south of the border.
This story first appeared in the May 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Latin America has plenty of reasons to celebrate lately. Chile, which landed its first foreign-language Oscar nomination last year with the political thriller No, now has a notably strong presence in the Directors' Fortnight lineup at Cannes. Elsewhere, Colombia has new filming incentives in place (good ones at that), while Mexico, which also landed several competition slots at Cannes, recently sweetened existing incentives that target Hollywood. As production grows, so too does the list of Latin American directors successfully crossing over. The horror film Mama from Argentina's Andres Muschietti was a surprise hit in the U.S., while Magic Magic, from Chile's Sebastian Silva, debuted at Sundance and also is competing at Cannes. Even tiny Uruguay is producing Hollywood talent: Federico Alvarez directed and co-wrote the well-received remake of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead.
Mexico launched a film-incentive program in 2010 targeting Hollywood productions. Between cash reimbursements on expenses and tax exemptions, it allows for savings of up to 17.5 percent. Since then, six projects have benefited from the incentives, including Neill Blomkamp's upcoming Elysium.
The film commission believes it can draw even more shoots now that Mexico recently reduced the minimum spend from about $5.7 million to $3.2 million. While the J.C. Chandor at-sea adventure All Is Lost, set to debut at Cannes and partially shot in Mexico last year, didn't spend enough to qualify, producer Neal Dodson has no regrets about shooting the film just over the border at Baja Studios. "The experience, the crews and the facilities at Baja Studios were all amazing," says Dodson. "We couldn't have made this movie anywhere else."
When President Juan Manuel Santos, a self-proclaimed movie buff, announced attractive new filming incentives last year, it left no doubt that his nation was making a serious push to become the region's preferred shooting destination. Colombia already is considered one of the territory's main TV production hubs, with Fox, Telemundo and Sony all producing content out of Bogota.
Here's how the incentives work: Film, TV movies and documentaries partially or fully shot in Colombia can qualify for a 40 percent cash rebate for film service expenditures. Also available is a 20 percent reimbursement for logistical services, such as hotel, food and transport. The minimum spend is about $590,000, and local production service companies must be hired. The incentives still are relatively new, but local producers believe they're going to give a huge boost to the industry. Says Bogota-based producer Andres Calderon, "Many independent producers have expressed interest in shooting in Colombia."
In addition to the recent Oscar nom for Pablo Larrain's No, Chilean filmmakers have been thriving on the festival circuit of late thanks to young directors like Sebastian Lelio, whose film Gloria scored multiple prizes at the Berlin Film Festival in February. And the industry might get another boost: A bill was introduced in Congress that aims to regulate the exhibition market and impose a 30 percent quota for Latin American films. "We have a constant, diverse presence in the international scene," says Tehani Staiger of Cinemachile, a Chilean promotion agency.
Brazil's economic expansion now includes its role as a host for the two largest sports events in the world: the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics. The soaring economy also is fueling the movie industry, as last year, numbers showed a record box office of $781 million -- a 12 percent growth over the previous year. According to Eduardo Valente of promotional body Ancine, the industry has entered a new era thanks to legislation installing a quota for local indie products to be shown on all cable TV channels. "This has led to a new market and exposition for catalogs of past films as well as a demand for new original production," says Valente. Although no Brazilian films made the cut for Cannes this year, he says the most important films weren't finished on time: "We have high hopes for these films in the big festivals of the second part of the year."