A newly energized Latin American & Caribbean Film Commission Network (LAFCN) aims to grab a big piece of the multibillion-dollar production business this year.
Led by president Ana Aizenberg of Argentina and vice president Jose Castro, Costa Rican film commissioner, the nonprofit org now comprises 13 film commissions from across Latin America and the Caribbean.
“My goal is to empower the film commissions of Latin America as we continue to marshal both public and private support for them,” says Aizenberg, who heads the Argentine film commission at national film institute Incaa; she also coordinates the country’s network of regional
“Since 2010 to the present, the network has grown to become a serious, professional and well-known organization; we expect to incorporate more film commissions from the Caribbean and across Latin America.”
Current country members are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Trinidad & Tobago and Uruguay.
“We see ourselves as one entity, just like our counterparts in Asia and Europe,” says Castro, who adds that LAFCN has been a voluntary group since 2010 but will be established as a legal organization this year.
On July 7, Castro joined the film commissioners of Honduras, Jalisco, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Sao Paulo and Uruguay to participate in a virtual presentation during Cannes where members expanded on their respective locations’ attractions and incentives.
LAFCN had its auspicious start 14 years ago when a number of them gathered at the Location Expo in Santa Monica. As Aizenberg recalls, one of them said: “We are so many, we should start a network!” Not long after, Ocean Films’ João Roni Garcia from Florianopolis, Brazil, invited them to his city in 2010, and that was where the network was formally consolidated.
“The creation of the Latin-American Film Commission Network was, perhaps, the most exciting accomplishment that the film industries of this region had seen in their long history,” notes Aizenberg, who has observed a new breed of young business-minded film commissioners emerging in the region.
“And it was not only for the immense possibilities that could unfold in the future for the members of this network, but for the potential of all the film industries in the world as well. Because for the first time, they would have access to a precious vital tool to reach new horizons in the search of content, locations, talent, technical expertise, production facilities, tax incentives, advice and government support.”
Colombian film commissioner Silvia Echeverri, LAFCN board treasurer and finance head, notes: “There’s a spirit of collaboration and camaraderie among us; we feel like partners, not rivals.” She points out that since last year, Colombia has expanded its lauded tax incentives to include series and music videos. In April, Netflix set up shop in Bogota and has multiple series already made and in the pipeline.
“Being in a network prevents filmmakers from playing us off against each other,” says Luiz Toledo, founding board member and director of investments and strategic partnerships at film-TV agency SPCine of Sao Paolo, Brazil. “It allows us to share our software intelligence, experiences and general knowhow with each other; we learn from each other.”
Since last year, Sao Paolo has offered cash rebates for international and local productions and co-productions, ranging from 20% to 30% on eligible expenditures. The unprecedented move has positioned the capital as the leading film-friendly city in Brazil.
The network also helps local producers seeking locations they may not find in their respective countries, says Rodolfo Guzman, the film commissioner of Jalisco (Mexico) and LAFCN board secretary & communications head. Jalisco’s film commission is powered by a newly ratified film law that has lured bigger and more productions to the region, among them AppleTV Plus’ “The Mosquito Coast” and an upcoming Disney Plus series.
“Each country has its own strengths,” says Castro. He points out that Costa Rica, aside from its stunning locations, has plans to build soundstages, both real and virtual, and boasts of some of the most educated film crews in the Caribbean and Central America, thanks to its 12 film schools.
“This is the beginning of a new perception of filmmaking, with a Latin-American flavor,” Aizenberg concludes.