Portugal is no longer an interesting alternative, but one of the first choices for international producers working on projects of all sizes and genres
The standout is HBO’s hotly anticipated Game Of Thrones prequel series House Of The Dragon, which used the ruined medieval castle of Monsanto in Castelo Branco as a prime location in autumn 2021. But several other major Hollywood productions have been drawn to Portugal in recent years, including Lionsgate’s The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard and SpectreVision’s Color Out Of Space.
It is easy to see why Portugal has proven popular, with sun almost all year round, a wide variety of locations — beaches, modern architecture, historical villages, canyons, lagoons, even jungles — and a potential 30% cash rebate that can be stretched higher with more local elements. “The medieval towns in the centre of Portugal, isolated houses and cliffs in Azores, charming palaces, abandoned train stations, factories and industrial spaces throughout the country make for attractive filming locations that are often searched for by international producers,” notes Portugal’s film commissioner Manuel Claro.
Other international projects to take advantage of these locations include a host of Spanish and Portuguese co-productions, such as Netflix’s Spanish series Money Heist, which filmed its final season around Lisbon and the surrounding Tagus Valley; HBO Spain and Portugal show Dry Water (Auga Seca), which shot in Lisbon; and Amazon drug-trafficking series Operation Black Tide, which doubled the north of the country for Brazil. Lisbon was also home to crime series Vanda, co-produced by Legendary Television in the US, Spain’s La Panda Productions and local outfit SPi, and Céline Devaux’s Everybody Loves Jeanne, produced by France’s Les Films Du Worso and Portugal’s O Som e a Fúria.
In the increasingly popular Algarve region, local outfit Spy Manor Productions has continued its strategic partnership with Production Algarve and UK-based MovieBox on several upcoming film and TV projects, as well as a new 15,000 square metre studio in Loulé less than 20 minutes from Faro Airport. It is part of a complex that opened its first phase in June 2021 and hosted Andrew Hunt’s The Infernal Machine, starring Guy Pearce, in July and August, a UK-Portugal co-production between MovieBox Premiere — the distribution arm of the MovieBox Group — Spy Manor Productions and fellow Portuguese outfit Monte Productions.
Spy Manor, MovieBox and Monte are also collaborating on Kit Monkman’s The Dark Room, which will film in Vilamoura, using a hybrid of built-sets and greenscreen environments. The three partners previously teamed with Production Algarve and UK-based Bad Penny Productions and Eagle Film Productions on Tim Lewiston’s There’s Always Hope, which shot in the Algarve.
Manuel Claro, film commissioner, Portugal Film Commission: email@example.com
Portugal’s locations can double for a wide range of countries and producers say securing permission to shoot is straightforward and fees are low compared to other European destinations. Portugal also boasts nine bilateral film co-production treaties with countries including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Brazil, and is party to the Ibero-American cinematographic co-production agreement.
Local crews are becoming much more experienced with the greater number of international productions that shoot in country. They are fluent in English, and many speak Spanish and French too. There are enough professional crew to accommodate multiple (10-20) film productions at any one time. It is easy to reach across the border to Spain If more staff are needed.
Most productions come to Portugal for locations, but there are a few studios available in the Lisbon and Porto areas, while the new MovieBox studios in the Algarve is taking shape. There is also a VFX studio at Millennium Films’ Nu Boyana production hub in Braga.
Portugal is a relatively small country that is well connected internally by air and land. It is also very easy to get around on public transport and the country has diverse geography and architecture that is in close proximity.
It takes less than 5 hours to travel from North to South by car and there are five international harbours and six international airports with direct flights into Lisbon from all over the world.
Getting a good local fixer/production service provider is recommended to assist with city hall support, insurance and location hiring.