Colombia is on a roll. The list of talents to have graced its shores include Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem (Escobar), Tom Cruise (American Made), Daniel Radcliffe (Jungle), Robert Pattinson (The Lost City Of Z), Billy Zane (Sniper 7: Homeland Security), Mickey Rourke (Blunt Force Trauma) and Antonio Banderas and Juliette Binoche (The 33).
Further films to shoot recently in Colombia include the pan-European co-production Handle With Care and Spanish title Orbita 9.
Colombia offers a powerful combination of a 40% cash rebate for international productions, which is the envy of the region, as well as experienced crews and a broad variety of locations. Where the drug wars of the past may have scared productions away, today producers talk of hiring then doing away with bodyguards because they feel so safe.
Miguel Menendez de Zubillaga, the producer of Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s Escobar, which shot in Bogota, Medellin and Girardot between October and December 2016, praises the country’s crews, diverse locations and rebate programme. “[The rebate] works in a very direct and consequential way for the producer. The money you spend in the country, you get back. It’s a well-functioning, linear and direct system.”
Colombia offers a 40% cash rebate or cash reimbursement for films partially or totally produced in Colombia that hire at least one local services company. There is also a 20% rebate for local film logistics services, including flights from overseas bought through a Colombian travel agent. There is a minimum spend of around $400,000 and no cap per project, but the film fund has a limited annual budget. The city of Medellin has set up its own film commission, with local incentives and investment in a local infrastructure.
Full details on financial incentives in Colombia: Comisión Fílmica Colombiana
Infrastructure and crews
A robust TV industry bolsters Colombia’s own industry, which encompasses relatively low-cost crews and services. There are no unions or fixed rates for services or labour. “Twelve-hour days are normal for crews,” says Handle With Care producer Hans-Jorgen Osnes. Enough people are bilingual that translators are not a necessity, but a local producer or service provider who knows the lay of the land is crucial.
As an equatorial country, Colombia offers reliable weather and daylight. Its natural scenography provides jungles, mountains and coasts alike, complemented by a mix of colonial towns and modern cities. The film commission provides help with permits. Colombia is South America’s fourth-largest country, but outside the deepest Amazon, most corners can be reached comfortably by land or air. Traffic in sprawling urban areas such as Bogota is notoriously bad and a characteristic talking point for international producers.
Miguel Menendez de Zubillaga, producer, Escobar, says:
“Colombia is a fantastic country to shoot in. It gives films a special look. They have an established and consolidated technical crew and industry, capable of taking on films of all dimensions with very high standards of quality.”
Would he come back?
Yes, he returned to shoot Orbita 9.
First person to call
Silvia Echeverri, director, Colombian Film Commission
Tel: +57 1 287 0103
Need to know
- DO find a hotel rooftop terrace to enjoy Bogota’s nightlife.
- DON’T underestimate traffic in the big cities. Plan as few company moves as possible on any given day.
- DON’T procrastinate on the paperwork, and do consider hiring a local lawyer. The bureaucracy can move slowly.
- DON’T ignore how currency fluctuations may affect your rebate.
Virginia Cooney, Rambler Films
Why does it make sense to shoot a commercial in Colombia?
“We offer a diversity in locations and ethnic casting options. Producers can find any season and climate and there is 12 hours of sunlight all year round. For short formats, there is no minimum spend and no VAT. Colombia has Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, jungles that are easily accessible, deserts, North American-style forests, rolling hills, English Tudor architecture, modern high rises and suburbs that can double for the US.”