Uruguay’s government has announced new and ambitious film-TV legislation aimed at converting the small Latin American nation into a far larger film-TV hub via a new series of cash rebates for international shoots and co-productions with Uruguay.

Coming as Uruguay neighbors Brazil and Argentina battle huge challenges to state film funding – an incentive free in Brazil, a decimation of state funding in Argentina tanks to COVID-19 – the new regulation in Uruguay looks set to accelerate a disappear of productions from Latin America and runaway international shoots to its shores.

Measures take in a qualitative leap in the ceiling put on cash rebate plus a plunge in the minimum expenditure in Uruguay required to access them.

Announced Nov. 25, the regs, framed in an Uruguay Audiovisual Program (PUA), establish four action lines. International shoots and international co-productions filming in Uruguay with a local expenditure from $300,000 to $4 million receive a 25% of spend cash rebate capped at $700,000 per project.

A second line establishes a range from a minimum spend of $4 million to $8 million. Eligible productions receive a 17.5% rebate up to $850,000. Productions with an expenditure of more than $8 million get a 10.6% rebate with a maximum cap set at $1 million.

Productions with an expenditure above $200,000 could get a 20% rebate capped at $100,000.

“We expect PUA to attract foreign producers to co-produce with Uruguayan filmmakers and help transform our country into an audiovisual hub for the region,” Azucena Arbeleche, Uruguay’s new minister of economy, appointed March 1, told Variety, in a written statement, arguing that PUA “strengthens competitive advantages that Uruguay already has – the diversity of locations within short distances, a legal stability, economic freedom and technical capacity of its human resources.”

Uruguay has operated a pilot program of rebates since Oct. 2019.

The new measures reduce requirements for minimum expenditure by 50%. Rebates were capped in it at $400,000.

“This is much more than an upgrade; we’ve turned a small pilot project into a large strategic plan,” said Roberto Blatt, director of Uruguay’s Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual (ICAU), adding: “It’s an ambitious program which will accommodate projects with big commercial appeal, and others with a more artistic profile.”

New regulations run for a minimum five years.

Lazy loaded image
The Visitor Courtesy: ICAU

One of the first U.S. productions to shoot in Uruguay has been the Keanu Reeves-produced Netflix series “Conquest.” More series will come from Amazon, HBO and Netflix, according to ICAU sources which also confirm a second season of Armando Bo’s “The President,”

Amazon’s first Chilean original, made in partnership with Pablo and Juan de Dios Larraín’s Fabula and France’s Gaumont, as well as a series from one of the leading broadcasters in the continent.

“Our cinema has been and still is a very intimate, auteur-ish, one with high standards of quality. But it has recently opened up to audiences, genre, revisiting horror, comedy, animation. We’ve got everything this year, as you can see at Ventana Sur,” Blatt said, adding that the ICAU aims to give a new further boost to projects’ development aid.

Uruguay nationality titles at Ventana Sur take in Martín Boulocq’s “The Visitor, ” competing at Copia Final, one of Ventana Sur’s art film pix-in-post sections, Ariel Rotter’s “The Desired Son,” selected for Proyecta, a showcase of Latin American projects, and Juan Carve’s animated feature project “Olivia And The Shadows,” which will be pitched at Animation!

Screenings include Alicia Cano’s “Bosco” (Mutante Cine), Álex Piperno’s “Window Boy Would Also Like to Have a Submarine” (La Pobladora Cine), Emilio Silva Torres’ “Straight to VHS” (TarkioFilm),  Maximiliano Contenti’s “Red Screening” (Reel Suspects) and Rafa Russo’s “The Year of Fury” (Filmax).

Much less ravaged by COVID-19 than its big neighbors, Uruguay, a  country with a population of just 3.3 million, has already seen shoot escalate during the pandemic. Out of the 36 shoots completed or under way during the year, 25 were put through after the beginning of the pandemic.

Uruguayan panelists at Ventana Sur this year include Fede Alvarez, who directed “Evil Dead,” which bowed No. 1 a the U.S. box office in 2013.

With the new Uruguay Audiovisual Program, Blatt hopes the talent diaspora will stop. “We would like to do the opposite to what happens with Uruguayan soccer which exports great players to first world leagues. The idea is to export products rather than talent,” he concluded.