How Colombia Lures International Filmmakers

Antonio Banderas

Colombia is the location du jour for a growing number of international filmmakers thanks to a film law launched in January 2013 and an incentive package that consists of a 40% cash rebate on qualified spend and a 20% cash rebate on logistical expenditures including hotels, catering and transport.

Per film commissioner Silvia Echeverri, at least four international pics are expected to shoot in Colombia this year, lured by the new initiative that officials estimate will generate close to 11,000 film industry jobs and new business totaling nearly $200 million in the next five years.

Phoenix Pictures’ Chilean miner saga “The 33” was the first to avail itself of the location shoot incentives for feature films and TV movies spending a minimum of $600,000 in the country.

Leading Colombian shingle Dynamo provided production services for the five-week shoot on “The 33,” directed by Patricia Riggen and starring Antonio Banderas.

“I think having the incentives and such helpful, cooperative people made it worthwhile for us,” says producer Mike Medavoy.

Even Netflix, despite being ineligible for the rebates, plans to shoot its original 10-episode series “Narcos” in the country this summer. Jose Padilha (“Robocop”) helms and Brazil’s biggest star, Wagner Moura (“Elysium”), plays Colombian druglord Pablo Escobar. Gaumont Intl. Television produces while Dynamo provides production services.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s local pic output is growing but audience support is waning. Perhaps in response to this, more local filmmakers are dipping into genre fare and teaming up with foreign partners to make English-language pics, as opposed to the auteur and socio-political dramas of recent years.

“We won worldwide recognition with these dramas but now there seems to be a move toward a greater diversity of genres,” says Diego F. Ramirez of 64-A Films, which launched the Madremonte project — an initiative to develop and produce thrillers, suspense movies, horror and the like — early last year with Jason Gurvitz of L.A.-based Green Dog Films.

The Madremonte Project received more than 400 submissions, per Gurvitz. Out of a shortlist of 20, the final five English-language genre pics will be unveiled at Cannes. As U.S. co-productions, they can tap the new rebates.

“If not for the incentives, we wouldn’t be able to make them,” says Gurvitz, who will shoot them back-to-back in Colombia, sharing crews and services for at least six months.

The first homegrown hit of the year appears to be romantic comedy “Ciudad Delirio,” which attracted 180,000 admissions 10 days after its April 11 debut, ranking fourth at the box office.

The former drug capital of Medellin, which unveiled a film commission and plans to build a massive audiovisual complex last year, has played host to a slew of pics and TV shows including NBCU’s “Covert Affairs” and Kirk Sullivan’s feature debut, “The Dead Men,” co-produced by Medellin-based Contento Films and Alex Garcia’s Itaca Mexico.

Run by Alejandro Arango, Contento also provided production services for “The Boy,” from Elijah Wood’s production company, SpectreVision.

Dynamo partnered with Participant Media, Mexico’s Canana Films and Chile’s Fabula to create the Participant PanAmerica film fund with the aim to develop and co-finance 10-12 Spanish-language films for and from Latin America over the next five years.

“There is a lot of TV production here so the crews are very experienced,” says Jonathan King, executive VP, production at Participant, which has co-produced the Colombia-shot “Out of the Dark” with Dynamo.

Dynamo has also partnered with Caracol TV’s film arm Caracol Cine to produce a slew of low-budget genre pics, unprecedented for the network.

“We want to create a seedbed for new talent, and spur further growth,” says Dynamo CEO Andres Calderon.

The test now is whether this move to genre fare will lure back home audiences.

Meanwhile, the Culture Ministry film council’s (CNACC) move to tap the $8 million film fund for two mainstream pics at $1 million each has auteur filmmakers up in arms. A petition warning this reduces support for filmmakers most in need was signed by more than 200 industry pros and sent out on May 2. In response, CNACC called for meetings to clarify its new stance.

“Colombian audiences support good films,” Calderon says. “We’re now competing with all independent cinema.”

Noteworthy Colombian Pics

Production: Rhayuela Cine, Axxon Films( France), Sudestada (Argentina)
Director: Jose Luis Rúgeles.
Drama. The struggles of a pregnant 13-year old guerilla amid the armed conflict in Colombia. In post.

Production: Rhayuela Cine, Burning Blue (Colombia) – Cine Sud Promotion (France)
Director: Jaime Osorio Marquez
Drama. A 17-year old is caught between his urge to avenge his friend’s murder or to save a young asylum inmate’s life. In development.

Production: Rhayuela Cine, Itaca (Mexico)
Director: Jose Luis Rugeles.
Transmedia dance project set in the gang-ridden port city of Buenaventura where street fighters find redemption through hip hop. In development.

Production: 64-A Films, Film Fatal (Spain)
Director: Chus Gutierrez
Dance romcom set in dance capital of Cali, Colombia featuring more than 200 professional salsa dancers including world champs, renowned choreographer Blanca Li. Opened 2014 Cartagena Int’l Film Fest.
Sales: Media Luna

DOS MUJERES Y UNA VACA (Two Women and a Cow)
Production: Doble Sentido
Director: Efrain Bahamon
Drama. Screenplay awarded in Malaga, Huelva. Two peasant women, one pregnant, travel to a village where they discover that inhabitants have been massacred. In development.

Production: El Calvo Films (Peru), Dynamo, Tondero Films (Peru), Cactus Flower (Spain)
Director/scribe: Javier Fuentes-Leon
Psychological thriller about a writer who receives new clues about a fiance who vanished seven years ago. In Post.

ESO QUE LLAMAN AMOR (That Thing Called Love)
Production: El Bus Prods.
Director: Carlos Cesar Arbelaez
Arbelaez’s follow-up to multiwinning debut “Colors of the Mountain.” Four parallel stories that take place on Mother’s Day.

Production: Evidencia Films, Septima Films, Geko Films (France)
Director: Franco Lolli
Feature debut about a struggling father, his son and the woman who takes the boy under her wing. Feature debut. Participated in Cannes’ Residence de la Cinefondation. In Critics’Week competition.

Production: Chapinero Films
Director: Felipe Cano Ibanez
Political thriller centers on a detective’s probe into the death of a human rights lawyer who was investigating an army general’s role in a massacre.
Sales: Latido Films

LOS HOMBRES DEL AGUA (The Men from the Water)
Production: Latino Troupe
Director: Fernando Lopez
Drama. Incubated in the Rotterdam Lab, Lopez’s $700,000 feature debut is based on real events about grave robbers who use corpses as talismans. In Pre-production.

Production: Burning Blue, Contravia Films, Arizona (France), Campo Cine (Argentina), UnaFilm (Germany)
Director: Oscar Ruiz Navia
Coming-of-age drama about street graffiti artists developed in the Cannes Residence program, Torino Film Lab and Buenos Aires Lab. In Post.
Sales: FiGa Films

Production: Una Obra de Teatro
Director: Maria Gamboa
Awarded post prod. support from Les Cinema du Monde, Drama. Young man discovers allure of the theatre world while trying to help his uncle extort money from a theatre group.

MEMORIAS DEL CALAVERO (Memoirs of a Vagabond)
Production: Dia Fragma Ltda.
Director: Ruben Mendoza
A man dying of AIDS asks filmmakers to document his journey home but discards them when he realizes they’re taking advantage of him.

OUT OF THE DARK (Aguas Rojas)
Production: Participant Media, Dynamo, Cactus Flower, Apaches Ent. (Spain)
Director: Lluis Quilez
English-language haunted house thriller set in Colombia; starring Julia Stiles, Stephen Rea and Scott Speedman. In post.
Intl’l Sales: Exclusive Media
U.S. Sales: XYZ

Production: Dynamo, Itaca Films
Director: Carlos Moreno
Transmedia coming-of-age drama set against the music and dance scene of Cali. In Post.

RUIDO ROSA (Pink Noise)
Production: Kymera Prods.
Director: Roberto Flores
Drama. Flores’ follow-up to “Chasing Fireflies.” Two lonely individuals bond over a broken tape recorder one rainy day.

Production: Drive Pictures, Factor RH (Venezuela), Itaca (Mex)
Director: Henry Rivero
Political thriller. A homicide detective investigates a politician whose hitman confesses to a priest that he’ll be his next victim. Starring Juan Pablo Raba (The 33), Marlon Moreno.
Sales: LatAm Pictures

TIERRA EN LA LENGUA (Dust on the Tongue)
Production: Dia Fragma Ltda.
Director: Ruben Mendoza
Family drama. A patriarch asks his grandchildren to help him die. Developed at Cannes’ L’Atelier Cinefondation, Australab, Morelia Lab. Won Best Film and Best director at the 2014 Cartagena Film Fest.

TODOS SE VAN (Everyone’s Leaving)
Production: Jimeno Acevedo Assoc.
Director: Sergio Cabrera
Veteran director’s return to the big screen with a family drama based on Cuban writer Wendy Guerra’s autobiography. In Post.

Production: Septima Films, Peripheria (Canada), Machete (Mexico)
Director: Juan Andres Arango
Three intertwining stories exploring the theme of transformation in the Americas. Arango’s follow-up to 2012 Certain Regard entry “La Playa.” In development.
COLOMBIA 2013 Stats

Population: 46.6 million
No. of Screens : 790
Number of releases : 244
Box Office growth 7.39%
Admissions growth : 5.95 % during first semester of 2013 compared to 2012 (7.3%)
Total Admissions : 43.3 million
Total Box Office : $188.3 million
Colombian BO share : 7%

Exc Rate 2013: 1,927 Pesos = U$ 1

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