Colombian Film Production Companies: A Modern History of Working with Foreign Filmmakers
"Foreign directors are increasingly choosing Colombia and partnering with Colombian film production companies to bring their screenplays to life."
Colombia’s film production industry has rapidly evolved over the last decade. Thanks to lucrative tax incentives, incredible geographic and architectural diversity, and improved security, the country is challenging Mexico and Argentina as the top offshoring destination in Latin America for international film production companies. From action thrillers and horror flicks to adventures and dramas, foreign directors are increasingly choosing Colombia and partnering with Colombian film production companies to bring their screenplays to life. At WhereNext we often claim that Colombia, and Bogotá in particular, has become the new hot-spot in the Americas for filmmaking. This is a quick look at how that claim came to be.
The history of film production in Colombia goes back more than a century. However, it wasn’t until the government established the Ley de Cine, “Filming Law”, in 2003 to support Colombian film production companies that the country’s movie industry really took off.
One of Colombia’s first major features to reach international success was the drama Maria Full of Grace. The movie was written and directed by Joshua Marston starring Colombian actress, Catalina Sandino Moreno. Moreno was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2005. In 2012, the Government passed a second filming law offering up to 40% cash rebates to foreign companies who shoot in Colombia. To qualify for the rebate, international producers must partner with Colombian film production companies, and invest at least $600,000 while shooting in the country.
The cash back covers expenses paid in the country for production services and logistics such as hotels, food and transportation. The legislation was created to generate jobs and to give Colombian tech / film crews the opportunity to improve their skills by working with international teams.
Follow this link to learn about Colombia's top film production company, WhereNext (we're biased of course).
According to ProColombia, since the Ley de Cine was passed a total of 27 foreign-directed films were shot here between 2013 and 2018 – including the number one most watched TV show in the world, Netflix’s hit drama series, Narcos. In a press release, ProColombia's former president, Felipe Jaramillo stated that
“Colombia has a very good reputation abroad regarding the management of the cinematographic resources, experienced local talent, infrastructure and geographic closeness with some of the most important markets in the world. The foreign enterprises are looking for competitive price markets and flexible labour offers, characteristics the national industry is offering.”
A couple of the biggest productions that managed to successfully tap Colombia’s incentive program are Peter Berg’s action thriller Mile 22, Patricia Riggen’s, The 33, and the period adventure movie, The Lost City of Z directed by James Gray.
Berg chose the streets of Bogotá, including the Centro Internacional Tequendama and a former U.S Embassy, to film his big-budget blockbuster starring Mark Wahlberg and John Malkovich. Regarding his experience in Colombia, Berg says,
“We did not imagine how good the filming crews were in Bogotá, they are as professional as the crews in the United States, and in Bogotá, we are filming a great action movie as if we were in Los Angeles.”
For Mark Wahlberg, he was fascinated to be here. “It really is a gorgeous place, the experience was wonderful… I'm looking forward to bring here my family on vacations," he said.
Wanting to re-create the 2010 mining disaster when 33 Chilean miners were trapped underground, Riggen found the salt mines Nemocón and Zipaquirá, situated just outside Bogotá, the ideal location to dramatise the rescue that captivated the world’s attention. The star-studded cast of The 33 includes Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, Martin Sheen and James Brolin.
When British explorer, Percy Fawcett enters the Amazon rainforest in search of The Lost City of Z, the action was filmed in the jungles of Tayrona National Park and Don Diego River on the northern coast of Colombia. Actors Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson and Sienna Miller appear in the motion picture, along with indigenous tribes from the region who swapped their hand woven shoulder bags and white robes for spears and loincloths.
Other recent movies made in Colombia include American Made with Tom Cruise; Running with the Devil starring Nicolas Cage and Laurence Fishburne; the horror movie, The Belko Experiment written by the talented American director James Gunn; Jungle, a survival story with Daniel Radcliffe that was filmed on Rio Negro in Tobia, one of Colombia’s adventure sport capitals; Blunt Force Trauma by Ken Sanzel starring Mickey Rourke; The Boy by Craig Macneill and filmed in Santa Fe de Antioquia; and The Next Three Days by Paul Haggis with Russell Crowe and Liam Neeson, using Cartagena and Santa Marta as set locations.
Lastly, we cannot forget the journey across Colombia that the late Anthony Bourdain filmed for one of the first episodes of his emmy award-winning travel and food show, Parts Unknown. Bourdain ate his way from the northernmost tip of Colombia in La Guajira to Cali, the Amazon and Bogotá.
“This is a good place to experience both fantasy and reality,” the TV personality said about his experience filming in Colombia.
As A-list directors, producers, actors and actresses continually flock to the country, Colombia’s reputation as a world-class film destination is soaring – destined to attract a great deal more foreign productions and pair them with Colombian film production companies in the coming years.
WhereNext is a multilingual film production and visual marketing agency based in Colombia and Seattle, USA with extensive experience working with international clients. If you have any questions about our film production services in Colombia please contact us by clicking the button below: