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Portugal’s Cash Rebate Scheme Draws Productions

In 2017, Portugal introduced a tax incentive scheme, revamped in mid-2018 as a 25%-30% cash-rebate scheme, with a €0.5 million ($0.57 million) minimum spend for shoots.

The scheme, run by Portugal’s National Film and Audiovisual Institute (ICA) and Turismo de Portugal, has earmarked $14.4 million per year for 2019-21.

The new, more competitive terms — which include a higher rate, lower minimum spend and, critically, application during shooting — has led to a tenfold increase in applications.

Under the previous scheme there were three request to use the scheme, two of which were transferred to the new scheme, whereas in the first six months of the revamped scheme there have been 23 applications, 15 of which have already been approved, corresponding to a global production spend in Portugal of $28.5 million.

Portugal’s film commission system, overseen by Pic Portugal, is undergoing a major overhaul, including a fast-track film permit system and an online locations database.

International productions lensed under the scheme include Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”; Ira Sachs’ “Frankie,” starring Isabelle Huppert and Marisa Tomei and produced by Said Ben Said and Luis Urbano; and Marco Pontecorvo’s $20 million “Fatima,” starring Harvey Keitel and Sonia Braga, produced by Rose Ganguzza’s Rose Pictures (“Kill Your Darlings”), Origin Entertainment and Vivi Film Portugal.

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Fatima” is about the supposed appearance of the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917, which led to the construction of one of the world’s most important religious shrines.

“We originally thought about shooting near Rome, then in Spain, and even in Colombia, but the cash rebate scheme was approved at the same time as our funding was finalized, which enabled us to shoot in Portugal,” explains Ganguzza.

“My argument to the Portuguese government was that ‘Fatima’ is one of the key reasons why tourists come to Portugal and it makes every sense to back the project. The support we received was wonderful, not just the cash rebate, but also hotels and transportation.”

Ganguzza estimates that the pic’s six-month shoot, involving 3,500 original costumes and 2,000 extras, had a production spend above $12 million in Portugal.

Recreation of the apparition of the Virgin Mary was filmed in the Tapada de Mafra near Lisbon; convent scenes with Harvey Keitel and Sonia Braga were shot in Coimbra. The production also filmed the 100th anniversary mass celebrated in Fatima by Pope Francis in 2017.

“Frankie,” Ira Sachs’ first non-U.S. project, was completely lensed in Sintra, near Lisbon, with an entirely Portuguese crew. Producer Luis Urbano also used the cash-rebate scheme for “Patrick” and “Technoboss” and plans to use it for Salomé Lamas’ debut feature, “Gold and Ashes.”

He says that he’s received proposals for several international co-productions as a result of the cash rebate scheme, which he is currently considering: “The scheme is extremely attractive for international productions because it can be combined with ICA’s existing support lines for co-production which gives us much greater leverage to bring shoots to Portugal.”

Bollywood location services company, All Around Globe, run by Rengarajan Jaiprakash, has produced several Indian feature films in Portugal over the past five years, including Puri Jagannadh’s “Paisa Vasool,” and has used the cash rebate to shoot an untitled major action movie, involving stunts coordinator Franz Spilhaus (“Commando 2”) and FX supervisor Frederico Cueva. Other international productions include “Liberté,” by Catalan director Albert Serra.

The cash-rebate is also being used on several Portuguese films including feature films “A Herdade,” “Parque Mayer” and “Variações”, TV series “South” and “The Black Book of Father Dinis,” as well upcoming animation feature “Nayola.”

Ukbar Filmes’ Pandora Cunha Telles, who co-produced “Don Quixote,” plans to lever the cash-rebate to co-produce Atiq Rahimi’s “Aesop” with France’s Cité Films and Paula Ortiz’s “Barba Azul” with Spain’s Morena Film.

Rodrigo Areias (“Porto”) is in negotiations with several projects scheduled to shoot in the North of Portugal. Maria João Mayer (“Diamantino”) aims to access the cash-rebate for Paolo Marinou-Blanco’s “Dreaming with Lions.”

“This is a long-term commitment,” Chaby Vaz says. “But we’re delighted with the steps achieved to date. We’ve firmly put Portugal on the international film location map.”

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