The commission attended the 40th edition of the American Film Market (AFM) where they were then able to present the country to various studios and executives “to promote Portugal as a film destination in the broad sense”, said Commissioner Manuel Claro.
The Portuguese delegation, also made up of executive director Inês Queiroz and project manager Teresa Graça, met with executives from HBO, MGM, Warner Bros and Universal Studios, among other studios, and independent producers interested in filming in Portugal.
“For a long time, there was a total lack of knowledge of the country,” said Manuel Claro, stressing that Portugal was not proactive in film-taking initiatives and that although the big studios are still waiting for others to take the leap “to see how it goes,” things are changing.
In addition to meetings with studios, the Portugal Film Commission had a direct presence at AFM 2019’s LocationExpo, a space dedicated to cities or countries wishing to attract television and film productions. “Until a couple of years ago, Portugal was not on anyone’s radar and now it is starting to be on the radar of many,” said the commissioner.
Monetary incentives of up to 30 percent of eligible expenses made in Portugal, with advance payments as soon as the contract is signed, were the main attraction presented by the commission, but not the only one.
Highlighted were several features of the Portuguese territory, such as geographical position, diversity of landscapes and accessibility. “We have a very interesting and varied set of locations within a very short distance and within easy reach,” said Manuel Claro, highlighting the country’s “good routes” with six international airports and direct flights to most European capitals and, since summer, a direct connection between Lisbon and California.
“In addition, one of the great assets is the quality of our artistic teams,” said the commissioner, noting that there may not be “a huge number” of professionals, but this is offset by the fact that the teams are “very competent and “very used to international co-production”.
Manuel Claro added that “the fact that we are the third safest country in the world, according to the Global Peace Index” is a point valued by the studios.
The associated costs of filming in Portugal were also highlighted by the team: “I don’t like the word cheap, but we are truly competitive and have competitive rates in terms of equipment and technical equipment hire,” he said.
Incentives to come and film in Portugal have already attracted 40 productions to the country according to Claro.
The incentive funded by the Tourism, Cinema and Audiovisual Support Fund is directed to productions with costs starting at €500,000 and has characteristics that the Portugal Film Commission considers to be competitive. “The goal was to create a differentiating cash rebate internationally,” said Manuel Claro, explaining that the 25 percent to 30 percent bonus depends on eligible expenses made in Portugal and that the system is different from incentives given by other countries, like Poland and Romania.
Among the films that benefited from the monetary incentive are “Frankie”, directed by the American Ira Sachs, “Liberté”, by Albert Serra, “Patrick”, Gonçalo Waddington’s first feature film, and “Color Out of Space”, directed by Richard Stanley, starring Nicolas Cage and shot entirely in Portugal.
The highlight of these productions at international festivals, such as Cannes, Venice, Locarno, San Sebastián and Toronto, led Manuel Claro to affirm that “the summer of 2019 for Portuguese cinema was absolutely extraordinary”. “A Herdade”, a film directed by Tiago Guedes who is in the running for an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film, was shown during the American Film Market and is also a production that received support from the incentive programme.
The Tourism, Film and Audiovisual Support Fund has a budget of €12 million per year, of which €660,000 is delivered to the newly created Portugal Film Commission and the rest finances cash rebates, in advance format, to productions that qualify.