As the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) engages in peace talks with the Colombian gove...
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – In addition to being a sporting capital – with the upcoming 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games – Rio de Janeiro is also on its way to becoming Latin America’s filmmaking capital.
More than 80 foreign productions, including movies, TV shows and commercials, were filmed in Rio de Janeiro in 2011, according to Brazil’s National Cinema Agency (ANCINE).
The blockbusters “Breaking Dawn – Part 1” and “Fast & Furious 5” are among the productions that featured the city as a backdrop in 2011, following the box office hits “Rio” (2010) and “The Incredible Hulk” (2008).
Last year’s two big-budget productions earned Rio US$5 million (R$9.4 million) in less than two weeks of filming, after taking into account hotel fees and the salaries of local producers and other service providers.
The goal for 2012 is a 10% increase in the number of foreign productions, according to RioFilme, a company established by the Rio de Janeiro government to develop the local audiovisual industry.
RioFilme is investing R$2 million (US$1.06 million) in 2012 to attend trade shows to introduce the city at international festivals and conferences in an effort to land more foreign productions.
“Promoting the development of Rio’s audiovisual industry is a long-term commitment,” said Rio mayor Eduardo Paes, in a press conference held by the Ministry of Culture. “It’s one of the economic and cultural vocations of Rio de Janeiro, which can and must be strengthened. The city and the film industry have had a long love affair.”
The city of Rio de Janeiro was home to Brazil’s first film viewings at the end of the 19th century. Since then, there have been several production cycles, and 19 of the 20 highest grossing Brazilian movies have been filmed in Rio, according to Investe Rio, the state investment agency.
In addition to RioFilme, the city has another representative at international events: the Rio Film Commission, a joint venture of the state and municipal governments of Rio de Janeiro.
“We present the Marvelous City and other parts of the state, such as Paraty, Búzios, Angra dos Reis and Barra do Piraí, to the international market,” says Steve Solot, president of the Rio Film Commission, who has lived in Brazil since the 1980s. “During the festivals, we have meetings with studios and producers to discuss the advantages of filming here.”
Included in Solot’s agenda are the Cannes, Buenos Aires, Toronto and American Film Market festivals, as well as the EGEDA Ibero-American Audiovisual Forum in Panama.
In March, Solot accompanied award-winning Franco-British director Roland Joffé, of “The Mission” (1986) and “The Killing Fields” (1984), during his visit. Joffé is studying the possibility of returning to Rio this year to film parts of his next feature film “In God We Trust,” which is expected to involve Brazil, Italy and Canada.
“I met with Joffé and the executives from the production company in order to show them potential locations,” Solot says. “They have a US$30 million budget and estimate that they would spend US$5 million in the city.”
In order to attract more foreign productions, the Rio Film Commission followed the example set by New York. In December 2011, it introduced a card that provides discounts for restaurants, hotels, bars and equipment rentals to movie crews.
When an international production company arrives in Brazil to film, it must be associated with a local production firm to facilitate their work and promote the local industry.
“Partnering with a foreign production company is great because it enables our professionals to grow and increase the city’s visibility around the world,” says producer Roberto Bakker, of Zohar Cinema, considered to be one of the most experienced firms in working with foreign productions. “But there are still few incentives and the bureaucracy gets in the way.”
Bakker says the high cost of living in Rio de Janeiro has also become a hurdle.
Competition among countries is also very fierce, according to Rio producers, and the incentives to film elsewhere are becoming increasingly more attractive.
“Brazil needs significant incentives,” Solot says. “The unfavorable exchange rate means services are relatively expensive when compared to Argentina, Colombia and Mexico.”
But the Rio Film Commission has made efforts to lure more foreign productions to Rio, as the agency is offering R$1 million (US$514,000) to foreign production companies.
The funds will be divided among the companies selected by the Rio Film Commission, which takes into account factors such as the marketability of the film and its promotion of Rio de Janeiro.
Meanwhile, ANCINE is coordinating a group to create nationwide financial incentives for international productions filmed in Brazil.
“The successful experience of countries such as France, South Korea, Mexico and Ireland in attracting international productions shows that a healthy local industry and international productions are not incompatible,” says Manoel Rangel, ANCINE’s CEO. “In fact, these two factors are complementary and help to create a favorable environment for the development of the local audiovisual industry.”