You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Colombia Lures Productions With Financial Rewards

Shooting bullets gives way to shooting film

Since a new film law took effect in January, Colombia has emerged as the go-to location for a growing number of international filmmakers.

Also helping lift production: the country has turned the page on the notorious drug violence of its past. According to the latest U.S. State Dept. travel warning, “security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years.”

Per the new film law, dubbed Law 1556, foreign shoots of feature films and TV movies investing over $500,000 in Colombia can avail themselves of cash rebates of 40% on local qualified film spend and 20% cash rebates on lodging, catering and transportation expenses.

The law creates a $14 million film fund and complements the 2003 film law, which offered subsidies and tax savings of up to 41.23% to resident producers. The old law led to a surge in local production and resulted in improved crew competence and depth.

It also contributed to a growing shooting and production services infrastructure. To meet the greater demand, rental equipment house Congo Films has set up a branch in Barranquilla, along the Colombia’s Caribbean coast, says Claudia Triana of nonprofit org Proimagenes, which oversees the film funds, the film commission, training and pic promotion.

“We wanted to shoot in Colombia anyway but the new rebates have made it even more attractive,” says Jonathan King, exec VP of narrative production at Participant Media, which is fully financing Lluis Quilez’s supernatural thriller Aguas rojas (Out of the Dark). With Colombia’s Dynamo and Spain’s Apaches Entertainment producing, this mainly English-language pic, said to be budgeted at under $10 million, can also take advantage of subsidies or tax breaks from each co-producer’s respective country. Principal photography began late April.

Hollywood royalty is also taking notice. Jada Pinkett Smith will star in and co-produce bilingual drama “La escribana de Uraba” (Scribe) through Overbrook Entertainment, her shingle with spouse Will Smith, along with Jhonny Hendrix’s Antorcha Films, L.A.-based XYZ Films and All Rise Films, the production company of helmers Michael and Jeff Zimbalist. Leading exhib/distrib Cine Colombia has picked up local distribution rights and is in talks to co finance “Scribe.”

Increasing numbers of Colombian shingles are jumping into the international arena with English-language pics. A Bigger Boat’s Peter Block, formerly of Lionsgate, and Launchpad’s David W. Higgins took horror pic “Gallows Hill” to Julian Giraldo of Ennovva Films, the film arm of broadcaster RCN TV, which has adopted a mandate to back an English-lingo slate. When one of the pic’s U.S. equity investors dropped out two weeks before the shoot last year, Ennovva assumed the entire budget.

“Ennovva was ready to do English-language films when we brought the project to them,” says Higgins who developed the story idea with scribe Richard D’Ovidio. Helmed by Victor Garcia, pic stars Peter Facinelli, Sophia Myles and Colombia’s Sebastian Martinez and Carolina Guerra.

Medellin, once considered the drug capital of Colombia, serves as the backdrop to the nearly $2 million English-language horror thriller “The Dead Men.” Resident producer Alejandro Arango of Contento Films is financing Kirk Sullivan’s directorial debut and tapping incentives from the old law. Brad Furman co-produces.

Since the new film law was announced last year, inquiries have been flooding in, per film commissioner Silvia Echeverri. At the 53rd Cartagena Intl. Film Festival in February, Brit helmer Peter Webber combined jury duties with meetings on the two Spanish-language projects he plans to shoot in Colombia, Fresh and One River. Festival VIP guests Aaron Eckhart and Ash Adams were in talks with local players for their project in development, “White Cargo,” which takes place in and around Cartagena. Ennovva Films is likely to board these pics.

And no one is paying much attention to the threat of drug-related violence. Indeed, Gallows Hill thesps needed more protection from fans, not guerrillas or muggers, per Higgins.

“We face the same (security) challenges in Bogota as in any big city,” says King who went through the normal process to have Aguas Rojas bonded by L.A.-based Film Finances. “Colombia’s reputation of the 1980s no longer stands.”

Players in Colombia’s Shoot Scene
People and Companies Who Can Make It Happen

64-A Films
Produced past Sundance entries All Your Dead Ones; Perro come perro and hit TV show Escobar.
Contact: Diego F. Ramirez

Antorcha Films
Made bilingual drama Scribe with Overbrook Entertainment, Choco and Anin. Co-produced Perro come perro.
Contact: Jhonny Hendrix

Burning Blue
Co-produced Cannes 2012 entries La playa and La sirga.
Contact: Diana Bustamante

Contento Films
Medellin-based shingle with mandate to produce genre pics in English or Spanish. Producing English-language horror thriller The Dead Men.
Contact: Alejandro Arango

Dynamo Capital
Private-equity-funded producer with ample credits, including The Hidden Face with Fox and Karabudjan with Antena 3, Spain.
Contact: Rodrigo Guerrero

Ennovva Films
RCN TV film arm with mandate to produce more English-language pics. Credits include Cannes 2012 entries La playa and La sirga and Cannes 2011 entry Porfirio.
Contact: Julian Giraldo

Laberinto Cine y Television
Produced Bluff, The Stoplight Society and TV skein Gentlemen Prefer Them Dumb.
Contacts: Alessandro Angulo/Adriana Agudelo

Rhayuela Films
Produced slew of commercials, music videos and horror pic El paramo. Developing music/dance transmedia project Buenaventura mon amour.
Contact: Federico Duran /Steven Grisales

Autobotika Concept Group
Specializing in vfx and concept design, including compositing, grading, matte painting, 3D modeling.

One-stop shop for post, film transfers, lab work.
Contact: Carlos Acero

2-35 Digital
Color correction house. Has worked on pics and TV shows including La cara oculta; Todos tus muertos and El paramo.
Contact: Adriana Angel

Equipment Rental

Amigos del Cine
Provides cameras, lights, lenses, trucks, generators and other gear.
Contacts: Pilar Manrique

Congo Films
Largest rental facility. Serves clients in nine Latin American territories. New branch in Barranquilla. Associate producer of En coma.
Contact: Carlos Congote
Hangar Films

Rents film/TV equipment and co-producer of Colombian pics and TV series, including Todos tus muertos and RCN TV’s Correo de inocentes.
Contact: Maria Consuelo Saza
HD Cinema

Provides digital film gear to a host of Colombian pics and TV series.
Contact: Cristian Gil / Ricardo Ramirez


Jaguar Taller Digital
Made Colombia’s first 3D feature-length toon Pequenas voces.
Contact: Oscar Andrade

Oruga Animation Studio
Contact: Pedro Tosin


Post-production, film stock and lab
Contact: Sandra Davila


Brash 3D
Stereoscopic 3D studio, with offices in Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Panama and China. Associated with RealD.
Contact: Luis Martinez

Media stock supplier.
Contact: Arturo Galves

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • San-Sebastian

    LargoAI Wins Inaugural San Sebastian Zinemaldia & Technology Startup Challenge

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Swiss artificial intelligence and data analytics company LargoAI won Sunday’s first-ever San Sebastian Film Festival Zinemaldia & Technology Startup Challenge. LargoAI’s software provides data-driven filmmaking strategies, similar to those used by major VOD platforms which aggregate and often horde their own user-driven data. From early in the screenwriting process through development and [...]


    FiGa Snags 'Contactado,' By The Team Behind San Sebastian Winner 'Pelo Malo' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Sandro Fiorin’s FiGa Films has picked up worldwide sales rights to “Contactado,” the upcoming feature by Sudaca Films’ Marité Ugás and Mariana Rondón, the duo behind San Sebastian 2013 Golden Shell winner, “Pelo Malo.” The Sudaca partners are attending San Sebastian to pitch Rondón-helmed project “Zafari” at the 8th Europe-Latin American Co-production Forum. Directed by [...]

  • Brad Pitt stars in “Ad Astra”.

    'Ad Astra' Lifts Above Competition at International Box Office With $26 Million

    Though “Ad Astra” was overthrown by the Crawley family at the domestic box office, Brad Pitt’s astronaut drama reigned supreme at the international box office. Directed by James Gray, “Ad Astra” launched overseas with $26 million from 44 foreign markets. The $80 million sci-fi epic debuted in North America with $19.2 million, bringing global box [...]

  • hugh jackman tiff bad education

    Toronto's Biggest Deal Goes to HBO: A Sign of the Future? (Column)

    When it comes to how we’ll be watching movies — or, at least, watching serious dramas for adults — in the future, here are two stark and timely contradictory facts: 1. Last week, as the Toronto International Film Festival drew to a close, a deal that had been in the rumor stage for a while [...]

  • 'Talking About Trees' Helmer Suhaib Gasmelbari

    'Talking About Trees' Director Suhaib Gasmelbari Receives Variety MENA Award

    Suhaib Gasmelbari, whose Sudanese documentary “Talking About Trees” premiered in the Berlinale’s Panorama section, received the Variety Middle East and North Africa Region Talent Award Saturday at the El Gouna Film Festival in Egypt from festival director Intishal Al Timimi. Variety critic Jay Weissberg, who selected the honoree, said that it is not usual that [...]

  • Josefina-Molina

    Josefina Molina: Still Battling After All These Years

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — She isn’t done yet. The battling character of Josefina Molina, winner of Spain’s 2019 National Cinematography Prize, was glimpsed in her acceptance speech at the San Sebastian Festival on Saturday. She used part to thank those who had given crucial help, such as, among women, editors Nieves Martin (1981’s “Función de Noche,” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content