With a population of around 47 million - the third largest population in Latin America after Brazil and Mexico – Colombia is by size the fourth largest country in South America and has an increasing presence in the international film community.
Filming locations and backdrops are extremely diverse, with both Pacific and Atlantic coastlines, several islands and archipelagos, mountainous jungles, plantations, ancient cities and historic villages. Features such as Mr and Mrs Smith (2005) and Romancing the Stone (1984) are two of the best-known Hollywood features to have chosen Colombia for filming.
Colombia has a tropical climate with long sunlight hours throughout the year. Temperatures are cooler in mountain and coastal areas. The best time to shoot is generally the dry season from December to March and July/August. The Amazon region stays hot and tropical throughout the year.
There are also a number of colourful festivals and carnivals of interest to filmmakers, including Carnaval del Diablo, Carnaval de Negros y Blancos and Barranquilla Carnival.
The country has recently enjoyed significant economic development, now ranking as the fourth largest in Latin America. Nearly 70 languages are spoken throughout the country, and tourist and hotel services are flourishing.
The country has also become an important production hub in terms of value for money. In many cases you are paying less than half the cost of shooting in the US or parts of Europe.
Capital Bogotá is home to over seven million people and is set against the backdrop of the Eastern Andean range. Most of the country’s audiovisual industry is based here, with sound stages, recording studios and equipment rental among the services on offer.
Infrastructure is strong throughout the country. Most major roads are maintained and major cities are well connected by domestic airlines. Some areas have no road access, such as the Amazon border town of Leticia, these must be accessed by air.
Colombia is also a member of the Latin American Cinematographic Co-Production Treaty. The Colombian Film Commission in Bogota is the first stop for any queries related to filming in the country.
Despite huge strides forward, it is important to note that the security situation is very fluid in Colombia. Productions should seek advice before filming, especially in departments that are not on the tourist track. Until recently, the left-wing guerrillas FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and paramilitaries still controlled vast swathes of the country. A peace process is currently underway and should resolve any outstanding security issues.
Colombia has emerged in recent years as an important Latin American film location. High-profile film shoots include Mike Newell’s Love in the Time of Cholera and Walter Salles’ now-cult Che Guevara biopic The Motorcycle Diaries. On the television side, divisions of Telemundo, Fox and Sony regularly produce content out of Colombia.
Netflix' starry action thriller Triple Frontier was lining up to film in Colombia in the late summer of 2017, set to star Charlie Hunnam, Mark Wahlberg and Garrett Hedlund.
James Gray's period movie The Lost City of Z filmed in northern Colombia for scenes set in the Amazon jungle and US office horror film The Belko Experiment shot in Bogota. In 2014, filming took place in Colombia for The 33, a feature about the Chilean miner saga; Juliette Binoche and Antonio Banderas star. Other recent productions to have filmed in Colombia include the romantic feature Ciudad Delirio (shot and set in Cali), Netflix’s original drama series Narcos (co-directed by Jose Padilha), NBCU TV series Covert Affairs, horror thriller feature The Dead Me and serial killer trilogy The Boy.
A Latin American remake of Breaking Bad started production in Colombia in 2013 under the title Metastasis. The remake was produced by Sony Pictures Television (SPT) and Teleset. Filming took place in and around the capital of Bogotá.
Director Victor Garcia chose Bogotá and its surroundings for his feature film Gallows Hill (2013), starring Peter Facinelli and Sophia Myles. Operation E, directed by Miguel Courtois Paternina, filmed at Villavicencio in 2012, and in 2010 Paul Haggis directed The Next Three Days, starring Russell Crowe and Liam Neeson, using Cartagena and Santa Marta.
On the commercial front, according to The City Paper Bogotá, every year around 30 commercial spots for major international brands are shot in Colombia.
Permitting is very straightforward in Colombia. Individual productions need authorisation from the Ministry of Culture’s Film Office before filming gets underway in Colombia.
Depending on your chosen location, you must also obtain a series of national and local permits which can take anything from one day to a couple of weeks. The National Film Office Resolution Allowing for Filming on National Territory would normally be issued within 15 days on receipt of your request. Local permits are issued by the authorities of your chosen location, city or municipality. These may vary, with different regulations and procedures.
The Film Commission will advise on all the national and regional application processes.
Special permits are required to film in any of Colombia’s National Parks. Details on these can be found here.
You will also need a special permit if you want to take any kind of animals, animal species products or biological veterinary products into the country for an audiovisual production. Click here for more information on this.
Bogotá is the hub for most studios and stages. The largest sound stage covers 16,000 sq ft. Other companies house studios ranging from 3,500 sq ft to 10,000 sq ft. There are also numerous warehouses available for any productions needing large spaces for filming.
There are several special effects companies in Colombia and post-production facilities are plentiful with digital services having been established some years ago. A full list of companies can be found here.
Currently under construction, Medellin will be home to a $170m audiovisual facility, with six soundstages, two office buildings, a hotel and a 5,381 sq ft motion capture studio among its list of state-of-the-art amenities. The complex will inherit almost 50 acres of land and will be a mere 15 minutes outside the city.
For post-production Cinecolor has a set-up in Bogotá. Telecine, lab facilities, VFX and 3D animation studios are all available in the country.
The tropical islands of Providencia and San Andrés offer some of the Caribbean’s most unspoilt beaches and popular underwater photography locations. On the mainland the Caribbean coast offers a wide variety of white sand beaches and turquoise seas, whilst the Pacific coast is much more rugged with dark sands and a dramatic coastline. Tayrona National Park is a strong bet where the coast meets the jungle and where the Amerindian ruins of Ciudad Perdida can be found.
For urban looks, Bogotá, Medellín and Cartagena have both stunning colonial architecture and a variety of modern cosmopolitan buildings.
In the Zona Cafetera (Coffee Region) Salento, in particular, and the adjacent Valle de Cocora are jaw-dropping with traditional working fincas (coffee plantations) becoming a hive of activity during the coffee harvest. Parque Nacional Natural Los Nevados soars above 5,000 metres with striking high-mountain plains. Other agricultural looks of interest include cattle ranches, cut flowers, bananas, rice, tobacco, corn, sugarcane and cocoa.
The salt plains in La Guajira, where the Wayuu indigenous tribes harvest salt, are also striking in their simple beauty. La Guajira desert, located in the northernmost region of Colombia, is testament to the sheer diversity of landscapes in the country. A red desert falling into turquoise sea - it is one of many dramatic landscapes in the region.
There are several equipment rental houses in Colombia, again mostly in Bogotá. These provide high-end technology for hire, including all standard lighting, camera and grip equipment. Alexa, Phantom Flex and Technocrane are all available locally.
Companies such as Dynamo, La Ruta Films, Vandalo, Vagabond Colombia, Amigos del Cine and Congo Films are centrally located in Bogotá and provide a range of hire options. There is a wide supply of crew and technicians, many of whom speak English and who are up to speed with all the latest technological advances. Colombian crews are experienced, hard-working and resourceful. They are flexible with over-time and turnaround times. Most heads of department speak fluent English.
Transportation, including grip trucks, camera trucks, vans and trailers are also easily accessible. A full list of services can be found here.
If you are planning on bringing in equipment from abroad you can clear equipment through regular customs at DIAN providing it is only a small amount of gear and you are staying for less than 30 days. If you are staying longer or need to bring in a substantial amount of kit then use a customs agent.