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Overview and productions

Portugal is not just about all-year-round sun, an eye-opening range of locations and a growing number of top-flight production crews; it is also about an easy-to-use cash rebate system, cheaper production costs and expanding studio facilities. 

In the past couple of years, the country has played host to a slew of high-profile film and television projects including the Netflix-backed spy action thriller Heart Of Stone, starring Gal Gadot. Directed by Tom Harper, it was shot during summer 2022 in Lisbon and Bordeira (the Portuguese southwest coast town doubling for Senegal) as well as London and Iceland.

Universal Pictures’ Fast X, the latest entry in the Fast & Furious franchise, filmed in the north and central regions, including the old city of Viseu, with its granite monuments, and Vila Real, arriving shortly after HBO’s House Of The Dragon used the ruins of the medieval castle of Monsanto, in Castelo Branco, as a prime location in autumn 2021.

The Portuguese government is in the throes of assessing the tax rebate system and in March 2023 Portugal Film Commission (PFC) was integrated into the Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual (ICA), with ICA president Luis Chaby Vaz becoming film commissioner. Ana Marques has been appointed as executive director of PFC.

The government plans to introduce changes to the rules for accessing the tax rebate fund while maintaining the FATC (tourism and cinema fund) incentive regime until the end of 2026. 

There will be two phases for 2023 tax rebate applications. Phase one opened on April 3, with the current rules of access to incentives maintained, meaning that production companies have to make a minimum expenditure in-country of between $262,500 and $525,000 (€250,000 and €500,000) in order to obtain tax incentives, or have some degree of participation by Portuguese professionals in the production. The second phase, with rules and budget allocation yet to be defined, will open in the last quarter of the year.

Between 2018 and 2022, there was a total investment of approximately $250m (€238m) — $135.5m (€129m) of which was foreign investment — with incentives totalling $67.2m (€64m) allocated to 168 projects. Last year boasted the single highest volume of investment, totalling $104m (€99m) — $77.7m (€74m) of foreign investment — and $28.4m (€27m) of incentives were allocated. 

In the Algarve region, local outfit Spy Manor Productions has partnerships with Production Algarve and UK-based MovieBox for film and TV projects, and a 15,000 square metre studio in Loulé, a 20-minute drive from Faro Airport. Madeira, one of two autonomous regions of Portugal (the other being the Azores), offers everything from beaches to almost 2,000-metre-high mountain ranges, and has been noted as an onscreen stand-in for Hawaii. 

First person to contact: Luis Chaby Vaz, film commissioner, Portugal Film Commission:


Overview and productions

Locations and permits

It is easy to see why Portugal has proven so 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 the 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.

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.

Filipa Soares, manager, We Fix You adds that Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve are ”always very popular, but the Douro valley is being discovered by international productions.”

Crew and Infrastructure

Local crews are becoming much more experienced with the greater number of international productions that shoot in the country. They are fluent in English and many speak Spanish and French, too. There are enough professional crew to accommodate 10 to 20 film productions at any one time. 

It is easy to reach across the border to Spain if more are needed. Most productions go to Portugal for locations, but there are a few studios available in the Lisbon and Porto areas. There is also a VFX studio at Millennium Films’ Nu Boyana production hub in Braga.

Travel and logistics

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.

Slow Mood's Pereira recommends sourcing crew, equipment, props, etc. ahead of time can ”smoothen the process, as certain items in certain amounts, at this time, might have to be sourced outside of Portugal and Lisbon.” The local suppliers have also proven to have the corresponding network for this, he adds.

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