In order to discuss this in more detail, I had the pleasure of speaking with Julian Hicks, an English film producer who has been amidst all the action and has really got the ball rolling in terms of unlocking the Algarve’s potential.
Julian Hicks has been a producer for 20 years and was born in Lincoln. His background is in Marketing and PR. He has had his own businesses and spent a lot of time in the cultural travel industry. With his cultural tourism background, he took on some consultancy work and through that he did a lot of work for productions around the world, such as ‘Master and Commander’ and it was through this that he got to know people in the industry. From there he got into raising money for productions and at the same time his brother was moving into producing in film so they decided to work together.
The latest production that was filmed in the Algarve was ‘There’s always hope’ in association with Spy Manor productions. With a budget of 1 million euros, the production generated 100 jobs in the local Portuguese community. When I asked what made you choose the Algarve? Hicks said that “we were looking to film ‘That Good Night’ originally in the South of France but they decided they could adapt the script and do the filming here instead, which we really enjoyed and that was a catalyst for making films here”. Additionally, they will be shooting a new film called the ‘Dark Room’ in January and they have three to four films planned for the rest of the year in the Algarve. Hicks praised “Algarve’s Spy Manor productions for the opportunity to work with them side by side” and said what they have done here in the Algarve “has been incredible”.
We went on to discuss how the pandemic has affected filming: “It was a real challenge to film, and other than the usual masks and sanitising we put into play a bubble system to try ensure that everyone stayed safe and didn’t affect production, because if someone in the team gets ill it’s pretty much the end of your project. We had a cast bubble and then a crew bubble, that stayed in separate hotels and there were no other guests in those hotels. Then everyone that worked with us was tested prior to filming either overseas before they arrived, or tested here. Everyone was isolated prior to filming and they were regularly tested throughout the shoot. We felt that the ABC- Algarve Biomedical Centre were a great support to us and helped us on a regular basis to make the unpleasant testing a rather easy process so we wanted to thank them again for their assistance.”
Additionally, Spy manor productions along with the support of Moviebox, whose CEO is Julian Hicks, conducted a global search for Portuguese screenwriters to take part in a free workshop and be a part of a new Algarve based series. The industry has had to adapt to an online world which is why Moviebox is unique because it is not only a film streaming site but also supports independent films and producers and gives them a chance to showcase their work. It is also a platform that offers industry news and work opportunities. “The difference between Moviebox premier’s platform and other streaming sites is that we want to be a hub for young talent and we want to be accessible and approachable. We have a section called MBX Pro that is being further developed so that people can promote themselves and network.”
They are currently in the middle of finalising the opening of their new MBX studio in Loulé, they have identified the site and are finalising proceedings with that and the plan is to build three sound stages so it will be quite a substantial studio. The studio will not be opened until 2022.
In terms of raising the Algarve’s profile Julian Hicks said: “It is nice to do something that benefits the Algarve because it is such a great place to work, we want to help create opportunities creatively and in other ways for the local people and local talent so we are happy to be able share the opportunity”.