Portugal’s new tax incentive for film is poised to go live this year. The aim is to attract big-budget international feature productions to the country for the first time (TV will need to wait until the film relief beds in).

Until now, Portugal has mainly hosted independent films, usually with a local co-production element such as Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which will shoot this spring and is co-produced by leading Portuguese producer Paulo Branco. Further recent shoots include Gabe Klinger’s Porto and FJ Ossang’s 9 Fingers, which both shot in the northern Oporto region.

The country boasts every kind of architecture imaginable, from modernist and art nouveau to medieval and renaissance. There are plenty of Moorish castles and hundreds of miles of beaches, as well as convents, monasteries, towers and bridges. For this reason Portugal has long been popular with commercials producers, and companies including Mercedes and BMW regularly shoot in the country.

However, Portugal’s economic problems, for which it received financial support from the EU between 2011 and 2014, have delayed the creation and introduction of a film incentive to bring the country in line with other European shooting destinations.

The Lowdown

Financial incentives

The new incentive is worth 20%-25% of eligible Portuguese spend. It is a refundable tax credit (corporate income tax), very similar to schemes such as the French Crédit d’impot and TRIP, or the UK film tax relief. The maximum rebate is capped at $4.2m (€4m) per project. The incentive is available to feature films of every type (fiction, documentary or animation), with a minimum production expenditure in Portugal of $1.06m (€1m), including post-production.

For the time being, the incentive is available only for film. Insiders suggest this is a precautionary measure as the government wants to see the scheme in action. If all goes well, it is likely to be extended to cover high-end TV drama in the next year or so. There are three ways to access the new incentive: international producers can establish local offshoots, they can co-produce with a Portuguese company or they can appoint a local line producer.

Full details on financial incentives in Portugal: PicPortugal

Infrastructure and crews

There are decent crews and labour costs are lower than in many countries in western Europe. In spite of the slowdown in international projects coming to Portugal thanks to the lack of a tax incentive, the Portuguese remained active as co-producers. There were plenty of commercials shooting, too, so the crews — most of who are fluent in English — stayed busy. There are no big studio facilities.

Size matters

This is a relatively small country, 90,000 sq km, and it takes five hours to drive from the north of Portugal to the south. It has excellent transport and communication infrastructure.

First person to call

Nuno Fonseca, advisor, international affairs, Instituto Do Cinema e do Audiovisual (ICA)

Need to know

  • DO make use of organisations such as Lisboa Film Commission.
  • DO make sure to try bacalhau, the salted cod that is one of the country’s signature dishes.
  • DO explore ways to co-produce with Portuguese producers, as it can open up the world. The territory has many bilateral treaties and is a member of Eurimages and the Ibero-American co-production convention. It also has close relations with Portuguese-speaking countries including Brazil, Angola and Mozambique.

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