Mexican officials are considering further updates to the country’s current film incentives, a panel at London Mexfest reveals.

The ProAV incentive launched six years ago has already seen a number of key changes this year, with smaller-budgeted films now able to access the funding as well as slates or bundles of films able to apply. For the bundles, the lead producers can be different but the same Mexican production company has to be working on all of them.

ProAV offers cash rebate of 7.5% of all expenses in Mexico below the line (international producers can also get their VAT returned, so that savings can be up to 17.5%). Digital work, including animation and VFX, can start with the funding at $700,000 and film productions at about $3m. (More details of the current incentives can be found here and here.)

Jorge Sanchez, director of the Mexican Film Institute (Imcine), said the launch of London Mexfest yesterday: “It’s time to make a reflection on the funds, to see if we should have a different public policy.” He praised the UK’s recent Film Policy Review and said that “we need to do that for Mexico.” The organisation is also studying the work of Telefilm Canada. For parts of the Mexican funding system that are likely to change, Sanchez pointed to one area of funding currently earmarked for commercial films, but he said “this is a big mistake – what is commercial!? It doesn’t make sense.” The body might also try to have some rights from the films it backs — not an equity position as with the UK but taking some stake.

Sanchez noted that 112 films were made in Mexico last year, with Imcine supporting 70 of them (the fund has about $42m per year). Of those, 67 were released in cinemas, but the local market share was only 4.8%. By comparison, Colombia produces 32 films a year but reached 9% local market share.

“Production costs are rising,” he said. “In 1996 we produced six films but 15 years later we are producing 112. We don’t have enough experience to deal with budgets in the most reasonable way.” He pointed out that independent producers still needed to grow sustainable businesses, because the “major beneficiaries of the boom are service companies such as rental houses.”

According to Sanchez’s figures, Mexico is the fourth-biggest film market in the work with 229m audiences in 2012, up from 189m in 2011.  

The Mexican government is keen to support not just film but digital companies and tech start-ups as well, with plans to build a new ‘tech city’ in Guadalajara that will be the Silicon Valley of Mexico.

Baroness Jane Bonham Carter, the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy for Mexico, noted: “Mexico is a priority country for Britain. Nick Clegg promised to double bilateral trade by 2015 and we are on course to do this.” Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has signed a joint statement that 2015 will be the year of Mexico in the UK and the year of the UK in Mexico.

Carlos Sanchez Pavon, Head of Investment and Business Promotion Unit at Promexico, also reiterated Mexico’s gateway to the US by adding, “There are more Mexicans in the US than Canadians in Canada.” More than 400 million people worldwide speak Spanish, he added.

The funding panel also included Isabel Davis of the BFI and Adrian Wootton of Film London and the British Film Commission discussing how Mexican filmmakers could work more closely with the UK, including accessing the BFI’s new earmarked fund for co-productions.

London MexFest continues through July 14 with film screenings and more panels, art exhibitions, musical performances and architecture discussions. The festival runs at venues including Rich Mix, Royal Academy, the V&A, Canary Wharf and BFI Southbank.

The festival opened with David Riker’s The Girl, starring Abbie Cornish as a woman in south Texas whose life is changed when she meets a young girl from Mexico.