Also helping lift production: the country has turned the page on the notorious drug violence of its past. According to the latest U.S. State Dept. travel warning, "security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years."
Per the new film law, dubbed Law 1556, foreign shoots of feature films and TV movies investing over $500,000 in Colombia can avail themselves of cash rebates of 40% on local qualified film spend and 20% cash rebates on lodging, catering and transportation expenses.
The law creates a $14 million film fund and complements the 2003 film law, which offered subsidies and tax savings of up to 41.23% to resident producers. The old law led to a surge in local production and resulted in improved crew competence and depth.
It also contributed to a growing shooting and production services infrastructure. To meet the greater demand, rental equipment house Congo Films has set up a branch in Barranquilla, along the Colombia's Caribbean coast, says Claudia Triana of nonprofit org Proimagenes, which oversees the film funds, the film commission, training and pic promotion.
"We wanted to shoot in Colombia anyway but the new rebates have made it even more attractive," says Jonathan King, exec VP of narrative production at Participant Media, which is fully financing Lluis Quilez's supernatural thriller Aguas rojas (Out of the Dark). With Colombia's Dynamo and Spain's Apaches Entertainment producing, this mainly English-language pic, said to be budgeted at under $10 million, can also take advantage of subsidies or tax breaks from each co-producer's respective country. Principal photography began late April.
Hollywood royalty is also taking notice. Jada Pinkett Smith will star in and co-produce bilingual drama "La escribana de Uraba" (Scribe) through Overbrook Entertainment, her shingle with spouse Will Smith, along with Jhonny Hendrix's Antorcha Films, L.A.-based XYZ Films and All Rise Films, the production company of helmers Michael and Jeff Zimbalist.
Increasing numbers of Colombian shingles are jumping into the international arena with English-language pics. A Bigger Boat's Peter Block, formerly of Lionsgate, and Launchpad's David W. Higgins took horror pic "Gallows Hill" to Julian Giraldo of Ennovva Films, the film arm of broadcaster RCN TV, which has adopted a mandate to back an English-lingo slate. When one of the pic's U.S. equity investors dropped out two weeks before the shoot last year, Ennovva assumed the entire budget.
"Ennovva was ready to do English-language films when we brought the project to them," says Higgins who developed the story idea with scribe Richard D'Ovidio. Helmed by Victor Garcia, pic stars Peter Facinelli, Sophia Myles and Colombia's Sebastian Martinez and Carolina Guerra.
Medellin, once considered the drug capital of Colombia, serves as the backdrop to the nearly $2 million English-language horror thriller "The Dead Men." Resident producer Alejandro Arango of Contento Films is financing Kirk Sullivan's directorial debut and tapping incentives from the old law. Brad Furman co-produces.
Since the new film law was announced last year, inquiries have been flooding in, per film commissioner Silvia Echeverri. At the 53rd Cartagena Intl. Film Festival in February, Brit helmer Peter Webber combined jury duties with meetings on the two Spanish-language projects he plans to shoot in Colombia, Fresh and One River. Festival VIP guests Aaron Eckhart and Ash Adams were in talks with local players for their project in development, "White Cargo," which takes place in and around Cartagena. Ennovva Films is likely to board these pics.
And no one is paying much attention to the threat of drug-related violence. Indeed, Gallows Hill thesps needed more protection from fans, not guerrillas or muggers, per Higgins.
"We face the same (security) challenges in Bogota as in any big city," says King who went through the normal process to have Aguas Rojas bonded by L.A.-based Film Finances. "Colombia's reputation of the 1980s no longer stands."
Players in Colombia's Shoot Scene
People and Companies Who Can Make It Happen