The country's cities and the mighty Amazon are providing the backdrop to a growing number of US productions. Elaine Guerini reports.
Brazil is gradually shedding its image as a violent and volatile place for film-making by welcoming a host of international footloose productions to the territory. Not content with stunning and varied locations, Brazil also offers international producers low shooting costs, sophisticated facilities and first-rate local crews. Visiting productions can also access limited financial incentives.
Louis Leterrier's The Incredible Hulk, backed by Universal and Universal Pictures International, is one of the biggest recent coups for the territory. With the central character, Bruce Banner (played this time by Edward Norton), now a fugitive in South America, producers Marvel Studios, Marvel Enterprises and Valhalla Motion Pictures took the opportunity to shoot scenes on location in Rio de Janeiro at the end of last year. One location was the hilltop slum of Tavares Bastos, where Jose Padilha's Berlin favourite Elite Squad also filmed.
Sao Paulo was the location for Fernando Meirelles' Blindness, an international co-production between Brazil (O2 Filmes), Canada (Rhombus Media) and Japan (Bee Vine Pictures). Although Meirelles is Brazilian, shooting there was not a done deal until the Canadian producers visited the city. "(Rhombus) bought the idea after seeing the locations and our production infrastructure," says producer Andrea Barata Ribeiro of O2 Filmes. "They were impressed by how professional our film industry is, despite being small."
Blindness also took advantage of the international-standard post-production studios and laboratories, Estudios Mega and MegaColor, in Rio. The laboratory was also used to process a scene from Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull that shot in Brazil, at the Iguacu Falls in Parana, last year.
Two further Hollywood productions are scheduled to shoot in Brazil this year. Paramount Pictures' The Brazilian Job, a follow-up to the 2003 remake of The Italian Job, is set and will shoot in Rio, while Universal Pictures' Creature From The Black Lagoon, the remake of the 1954 monster movie, will be filmed in the Amazon.
"What is attracting these productions to Brazil is our beautiful and exotic scenery, which is hard to find anywhere else," suggests producer Roberto Bakker of Zohar International, the local partner on both forthcoming projects.
Brazil has the added advantage of being relatively low-cost. "Local labour usually costs 40% or 50% less than in the US," says Andre Sturm, president of the local industry union, Sindicato da Industria Audiovisual do Estado de Sao Paulo. The exchange rate is enticing ($1 buys approximately real1.8) and hotels and restaurants are cheaper than the US and Eastern Europe.
The growing interest in filming in Brazil has also been helped by tax incentives. As long as the international or US producer is associated with a Brazilian film company, they are allowed to deduct up to 3% of the income tax owed, as local producers do.
Films made under a co-production agreement (Brazil has official arrangements with Canada, Argentina, Chile, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Venezuela) can qualify for financial incentives in each territory. For example, Blindness accessed incentives in both Brazil and Canada.
WHY SHOOT IN BRAZIL
- Tropical locations
- Favourable weather and seasons that are the opposite of Europe and the US
- Cheap cost of labour
- Friendly and professional crews
- Cheap hotels and restaurants
- Exchange rate
- Tax incentive mechanisms
- Co-production agreements
- First-class facilities
WHY AVOID BRAZIL
- Small scale of Brazilian film industry
- Few countries can benefit from the co-production agreements
- The Portuguese language can be a barrier, even if most of the crew speak some English
- Lack of an international-standard studio for sound post-production
THE LOWDOWN: THE FIXERS
- ROBERTO BAKKER, Zohar International
A Brazilian producer with long experience as a production manager on international productions that have shot in Brazil, from Moonraker (1979) to Medicine Man (1992). Now at Zohar, which is working on Paramount's The Brazilian Job and Universal Pictures' Creature From The Black Lagoon.
- ANDREA BARATA RIBEIRO, producer
A partner at O2 Filmes, Ribeiro has produced City Of God (2002), City Of Men (2007), Not By Chance (2007) and 2008's Blindness. She is now producing Adrift, the first project between O2 Filmes and Universal Pictures, which began shooting in Rio de Janeiro last month.
- ANA CRISTINA COSTA E SILVA, president, Brazilian Film Commissions Alliance (Abrafic)
Created in November 2006, Abrafic represents the leading film commissions in Brazil and provides foreign productions shooting in the country with information on locations, facilities, crews, transport, accommodation and tax breaks.