Steven Soderbergh is the latest in a long line of major US film-makers to be lured across the border, shooting his Che Guevara film The Argentine in Mexico. With its low costs, diverse landscapes, professional crews and proximity to Los Angeles, the country has long been a popular production destination for Hollywood.
And now Mexico's leading financial incentive - article 266 of the Film Law, which was previously only available to local directors - can also be accessed by US and international directors shooting in the country.
As long as an international company has a local partner - or its own office in Mexico - it can receive up to $1.8m towards the production. However, 70% of that money has to be invested in Mexico through talent, production, hotels and so on.
There is also a further tax incentive for international producers who hire a Mexican service company to assist with their shoot. They can apply to recoup 15% of the VAT Mexico levies on transactions.
"We did take advantage of the 15% VAT, but we were not able to take advantage of article 226 as our director was American," says Amy Kaufman, the US producer of Cary Fukunaga's Sin Nombre, a US-Mexican co-production which shot in Mexico last year.
Another major advantage of shooting in the territory is the crew. Thanks to films such as Titanic, Apocalypto, The Mexican, Traffic and more recently Vantage Point, local crews have built up a wealth of experience on big productions.
"We had an amazing crew, really professional and willing to go to extremes to help the director realise his vision," says Kaufman.
However Mexico has a limited capacity for handling major shoots, and the Baja Studios have been closed since Fox sold the facility last year. Only four or five big productions with budgets of more than $30m can shoot at the same time.
In terms of overall costs, Mexico is still considered to be cheaper than most of western Europe and Canada. Although the fees are generally quite high considering the territory's cost of living, money lasts longer and the currency exchange rate also helps.
The Mexican film institute (Imcine) is confident it can continue to entice international productions. "We're co-ordinating the film commissions of every state and we have helped to create new ones," explains Hugo Villa, director of the production department at Imcine.
"A new website with all the information is coming soon. And we have also started working together with the tourism council in order to promote Mexico further."
WHY SHOOT IN MEXICO'
- Wide range of locations, from forests to colonial towns
- Experienced crews
- Cost effective - location permits, fees, transportation and extras are all cheap
- Qualified technicians
- Close to the US
- Good equipment and facilities
- No red tape
- No need for script clearance
- Tax incentive
- Renewal of Imcine programme to better support international productions
WHY AVOID MEXICO'
- Post-production labs do not meet international standards
- Limited capacity for handling several major shoots at the same time
- Not everybody can speak English
- No casting agency system
- Traffic in Mexico City
THE LOWDOWN: THE FIXERS
- ANNA ROTH, producer
Roth is one of the biggest names in the Mexican industry, especially for production services. She has more than 30 years' experience, with credits including James Cameron's Titanic and Mel Gibson's Apocalypto. She has also been involved in Steven Soderbergh's The Argentine and Guerrilla (the latter shot in Spain and Puerto Rico last year).
RICARDO AND ARTURO DEL RIO, line producers
The Del Rio brothers are among the new generation of Mexican producers looking to work with international film-makers. Through their production services company Art In Motion, based in Mexico City, they have worked on Vantage Point, Nacho Libre, Kill Bill 2, The Heartbreak Kid and You Don't Mess With The Zohan.
Contact: Art in Motion (52) 55 5611 2911
- RAFAEL CUERVO, line producer
Cuervo has worked for many years at the Fox Studios Baja (Mexico) on productions including Troy, Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World, Mand Collateral Damage. He has also produced Mexican films and supports talented local film-makers.
- Fernando Uriegas, location manager
Better known as Boogie, Uriegas has helped find the best shooting spots for Frida, Man On Fire, The Legend Of Zorro, Apocalypto and most recently for Steven Soderbergh's The Argentine.