Hollywood has descended on this relatively small country: Rambo: Last Blood, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard and Color Out Of Space are among the projects to have been drawn to Portugal’s shores.
It is easy to see why the territory is proving popular. It offers sun almost all year round, a stunning variety of locations — including beaches, modern buildings, historical villages, canyons, lagoons and even jungles — and a potential 30% cash rebate, which can be stretched even higher with more local elements.
One region going from strength to strength is the Algarve. Locally based Spy Manor Productions has formed a strategic collaboration with Production Algarve and UK-based MovieBox Group to help transform the area and attract international productions. The group is setting up a film fund to “assist selected productions and part-fund co-productions” that choose to shoot in the Algarve, according to Vanda Everke, founder of Spy Manor.
MovieBox Group is using a consortium approach to the construction of the new film and TV studio complex in Loulé, less than 20 minutes from Faro International Airport. Construction is planned to start in the second half of 2021 on the 15,000 square metre site, which will feature three indoor soundstages, two outside water stages, a greenscreen and a TV studio within a tech hub.
The complex opens at the end of June as part of phase one of the site’s development and will host Andrew Hunt’s Infernal Machine, 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 is due to shoot in October in Vilamoura, using a hybrid of built-sets and greenscreen environments. The three partners had previously collaborated 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 in autumn 2020.
First people to contact
Manuel Claro, film commissioner, Portugal Film Commission @ firstname.lastname@example.org;
Filipa Magalhaes, project officer, Portugal Film Commission @ email@example.com
The majority of shooting is centred around Lisbon, which is the largest city and where most crew and supply houses are based. Porto is a good alternative with different architecture and helpful city council support.
The resort town of Sintra, nestled in the foothills of the Sintra mountains is covered in forest, studded with pastel-coloured villas and palaces. "It offers great lighting, which is why it proves popular with commercials and features,” says Joaquim Duarte of local outfit Toolbox, which provided production service support for Richard Stanley’s sci-fi horror film The Color Out of Space, starring Nicolas Cage, which shot in Sintra.
The town served as the perfect backdrop for the bleak themes of the film. Locations included the Lagoa Azul inside the woods of Mount Sintra, and in the dark and damp lands of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.
But there are plenty of other locations to choose from nearby, including the as-yet undiscovered Azores archipelago with its biodiversity, distributed over nine north Atlantic volcanic subtropical islands midway between Europe and North America, each with a unique character. "Our local knowledge, along with available infrastructure and logistics allow us to respond to the needs of any production shooting in these stunning locations," says Virgilio Ferreira, managing director of Shoot Azores.
The Azores via Shoot Azores
There's also Braga, one of the oldest Christian cities in the world. “It looks like a film set straight out of an episode of Game of Thrones with its baroque and gothic architecture,” adds Duarte.
Plus, the aforementioned Loule on the Algarve. "The scenery there is stunning. The light is wonderful. Our travel to Portugal was very straightforward and we were not required to quarantine on arrival," enthuses Hammond. "It was easy to source the locations thanks to the Portuguese authorities exempting the film industry from the covid-19 restrictions they have imposed on the rest of the country."
There's Always Hope via Bad Penny Productions
Almost every imaginable scenario can be found, whether you’re looking for beaches, castles, monuments, modern buildings, historical villages, lagoons, even jungles. With this variety, Portugal can double for other countries easily.
Getting permission to shoot is usually straightforward and the fees are low, compared to other European countries. The process takes from two to 12 working days for public spaces and is normally faster for private locations.
Local crew are becoming more experienced with the greater number of international productions shooting in Portugal. They are fluent in English, and many speak Spanish and French too.
There are now sufficient numbers of professional crew to accommodate multiple – 10 to 20 – film productions at the same time. If more are needed for major productions, it is easy to reach out across the border to Spain to fill in the blanks.
Most productions come for the locations, but there are also a few studios available in the Lisbon and Porto areas. One of them, Contra Campo Studios, recently hosted the drama Fatima, starring Harvey Keitel and Sonia Braga.
The new MovieBox studio is under construction.
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.