Five Things to Consider When Hiring Colombian Film Production Companies
Colombia has worked tirelessly over the past decade to position itself as the leading hub for video and film production in Latin America.
These efforts, combined with a skilled creative workforce and a welcoming tax incentive for video projects, have transformed the nation into an enticing destination for foreign companies to bring the most-ambitious audio-visual projects to life. But before you pull the trigger and hire a Colombian production partner, WhereNext suggests careful review of the following five points:
1) Multilingual Colombian Production Services Team:
Colombia has an incredible pool of production team talent, however, the country falls behind most of its Latin America counterparts in English proficiency. Thoroughly vet your crew for English and other foreign language fluency when choosing a Colombian production company. Do this early in the negotiation process so that there are no surprises when you hit the ground in Colombia.
2) Colombian Film Production Companies Must Have a Diverse Location Awareness:
A primary draw for foreign film and event producers considering Colombia it that the country offers any season, any climate, and any terrain at any time of the year. For example, we produced a film and press event for Columbia Sportswear that required winter-like rain conditions during the North American summer (see the blog post).
Many superb locations were not accessible just a few years ago due to the country's ongoing civil war. The stigma and history of these places often renders them overlooked by location scouts. With the peace deal signed, new locations are being discovered on a monthly basis. Make sure that your Colombian producer is continuously exploring the country and can offer you a complete list of fresh locations beyond the well trodden sites.
Click here to learn more about our favorite Colombian film production company, WhereNext (sometime ya gotta toot your own horn).
3) Money Matters: Taxes, Health, and Fees for Film Production Services in Colombia:
PROIMÁGENES Colombia has done an amazing job organizing the Colombian film industry--including education, financing, rebates, etc. (see point 4 for details)--but the country's laws around contractor payments, terms, licenses and healthcare are difficult to navigate and constantly changing. Independent contractors in the Colombian film production industry are often overworked, underpaid and hired without proper legal contracts. This can leave foreigners producing in Colombia exposed to unnecessary risk.
For example, by law in Colombia, independent contractors are required to pre-pay tax and show legal certification of health care coverage before initiating work. However, the industry is relaxed by nature and under the table payments are all too common. If a contractor is injured on the job (example: trips and falls), or decides to pursue legal action for any reason (example: sore back from a chair they didn't like in their edit suite)--if they were not properly contracted, then guess what--you could be held liable. We can't advise strongly enough to invest the extra time and money to hire a Colombian partner who will ensure that your local crew is paid fairly and contracted correctly.
Proper licenses are also critical when producing in Colombia. Last year WhereNext was stopped several times during a production on the Caribbean coast by local police checking for current operating licenses for our event guides, fixers, and vehicles. They also checked our foreign crew's passports to ensure that they had a work VISA and equipment carnet. Our producer was carrying a folder with all of the correct paperwork, letters from the Colombian Film Commission, carnets, and was able to calmly explain (in English) to our clients why the police had stopped us, what they were asking for, and how long it would take before we would be allowed to keep shooting (15 minutes). You're at risk of losing valuable hours and even days if your guides and foreign crew don't have their paperwork in order--or if your producer is not experienced with the logistics of foreigners producing in Colombia. .
4) The Colombian Film Commission Rebate Program:
Through the Colombia Film Fund, a cash rebate is provided to foreign companies producing in Colombia, for 40% of expenses paid in the country for film services and 20% of expenses for hotels, food and transportation. Your Colombian production company should be able to quickly access your project and let you know if you qualify for the cash rebate. If you do qualify, they should also be able to navigate the paperwork required for your cash rebate process.
5) Filming in Colombia with a Global Clock:
Colombia has relaxed laws around film crew labor rights relating to daily working hours. It's common for production crews to work huge days without overtime pay to meet tight Colombian production budgets and timelines. While this work ethic allows teams to accomplish a lot with relatively small budgets, it often sacrifices execution speed for production value and attention to detail. Aggressive Colombian production schedules can also come as a surprise to foreign producers and talent who are used to timelines that allow for teams to accomplish their tasks within a 8-10 hour working day.
When evaluating estimates, ask specific questions around production timelines to ensure that your Colombian team is operating on a global, rather than local clock.