Peru as a filming location can be viewed before and after the making of “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” where a good chunk of the seventh iteration in the Paramount Pictures franchise is set in the picturesque country.
Directed by Steven Caple Jr. (“Creed II”), the upcoming “Transformers” is said to have injected an estimated $10 million-plus into Peru’s economy. More importantly, it prompted the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to issue a new artistic production visa that provides special migratory status to visiting crew and talent, which in turn, facilitates the import of equipment and props. More than 30 vehicles, including trucks, high speed cars, motorbikes and VW classics, were shipped to Peru for the sci-fi movie. In the past, people had to use a journalist visa to work on audiovisual projects in the country, which was cumbersome, says producer Bruno Canale of Apu Prods., which provided production services to the reportedly $200 million pic.
Set in the early 1990s, “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” stars Anthony Ramos (“In the Heights”) and Dominique Fishback (“Judas and the Black Messiah”) who lead a military and research team that get caught up in the conflict between the Autobots and the villainous Decepticons on Earth.
Shot last year from late September to November, the production took over the towns of Cusco, Tarapoto and the iconic citadel of Machu Pichu, among other key sites. “Hotels and other places opened up for us at a time when tourism was down, partly because of the pandemic,” says Canale, who recalls that the production saved many from financial ruin, including a caterer who ended up feeding as many as a 1,500-plus a day on big shoot days. Having an Ecuadorian DP, Enrique Chediak (“Bumblebee,” “127 Hours”), also helped smoothen any language barriers although many department heads were bilingual, Canale recalls. The production is still reeling from the loss of one of its producers, Duncan Henderson (“Oblivion” “Maleficent”), who died in June. He was “like a father to us,” says Canale, adding: “His experience and knowhow were priceless.”
The Provincial Municipality of Cusco reports that at least $3 million was generated in that city alone from both the latest “Transformers” and Season 3 of Netflix’s action series “La Reina del Sur.” “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” is slated to premiere June 9.
Coincidentally, Peru’s submission to the international Oscars race, “Moon Heart” (“El Corazon de la Luna”), also features a robot, an Inca warrior-inspired Iron Man, a Yawarbot, inhabited by actor Bruno Balbuena but which also combined stop motion and 3D animation. “It’s the University of Lima’s first in-house production, we hope to create many more,” says its producer Julio Wissar, head of the University of Lima’s Centro de Creación Audiovisual, Crea.
“Yawar means blood in the Quechua language but it also sounds like jaguar [silent j] in reference to the robot’s feline looks,” notes Wissar.
Using 3D printers, they created the Yawarbot’s suit in a month and half, what would likely take a year in Los Angeles, says its creator Edi Mérida in a Making Of short. “It’s the first time we ever attempted anything like this in Peru,” he adds.
Written and directed by Aldo Salvini, whose past shorts have also featured fantasy elements, “Moon Heart” stars Haydeé Cáceres as an elderly indigent woman grieving for her son and who is saved from her demons, imagined and real, by the Yawarbot. The drama is dialogue-free, its narrative driven only by stirring music and sounds.
“Moon Heart” is emblematic of the range of content produced in Peru, from the innovative to the more mainstream fare. “Peru has talented crew, many forged in television and award-winning advertising campaigns,” Wissar points out. The local film industry, while small, is recovering from the pandemic and reactivating. The consensus is that the industry could absorb two to three “Transformers” sized productions a year.
“Moon Heart” was theatrically released in Peru Oct. 27 by the distribution arm of Tondero, producer of the biggest locally-made blockbusters in the country’s cinematic history.
Tondero is led by Miguel Valladares whose deep experience and ties in the advertising industry led him to successfully finance his films through a product-placement strategy. The first of Tondero’s “Asu Mare” comedy franchises nabbed 3 million admissions in 2013, the second landed 3.3 million. As a reflection of the damage wrought by the pandemic, Tondero’s product-placement financing strategy is no longer sustainable. Its latest “Asu Mare” spinoff, “Asu Mare: Los Amigos,” debuts on Netflix instead. “The streaming platforms have saved us,” notes Valladares, who produced Netflix’s first original film in Peru, “Without Saying Goodbye,” (“Hasta que nos volvamas a encontrar”), which debuted in April and was No. 1 in Peru and among the top 10 in 70 countries for several weeks.
Tondero also provided production services to Netflix’s “La Reina del Sur” which shot in Machu Pichu, Lima and Cusco. It expects to shoot four to five new projects next year. “The industry is reactivating but the same issues remain,” says Valladares, adding: “We still don’t have a film commission nor any filming location incentives.” He laments the loss of one project that went to Colombia instead, lured by its coveted fiscal incentives.
“I am confident that we will be creating a film commission, that’s a priority for us,” says Amora Carbajal, CEO of Peru’s promotional org, PromPeru, that has been functioning as an ad hoc film commission, facilitating visas, permits but also providing support to the Oscar and Goya campaigns of Peru’s submissions and amping up the website Filming in Peru. It has also been pushing for tax incentives, an uphill battle that would require an act of parliament under the newly elected president, Pedro Castillo.
Thanks to the production fund, albeit modest, managed by the Ministry of Culture, Peru has been producing more than 50 films a year, says Conrado Falco, head of PromPeru in Los Angeles. Last year, 68 films, both fiction and documentaries, were released, but the bulk of them online. “We hope to organize familiarization tours, press visits and a variety of networking events in the near future,” says Falco.
“Peru has everything within easy reach: the mountains, the sea, the desert, snowscapes and a coast,” Carbajal points out. “Its potential is incomparable.”