Hollywood has very much descended on this relatively small country: Rambo: Last Blood, The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard and Color Out Of Space are among the recent big projects to shoot or do post-production in Portugal. The country 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.
Portugal’s film infrastructure is also transforming: UK outfits MovieBox and Lansdowne Capital Partners are investing $70m (€60m) in a production complex, including film and TV studios, in Loulé on the Portuguese Algarve. The compound will be built on the site of a former beer factory, close to the Loulé industrial zone, and will integrate film and television studios.
Tim Lewiston’s feature drama There’s Always Hope, starring Colm Meaney and Kate Ashfield, shot on the Algarve, in and around Loulé, in the autumn.
“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,” says Harriet Hammond at UK outfit Bad Penny Productions, co-producers of the project with UK-based Eagle Film Productions and Monte Productions in Portugal.
However the shoot did adhere to strict Covid-19 protocols. “We combined the existing UK protocols with the Covid‑19 protocols for filming recommended by the Portuguese directorate-general of health for the prevention of Covid-19 and issued by the Portugal Film Commission,” Hammond explains. “We are using predominantly a Portuguese crew with a number of British heads of department, and lighting and grip equipment from Portugal. Both crew and equipment have been first-class.”
First people to contact
Manuel Claro, film commissioner, Portugal Film Commission @ firstname.lastname@example.org;
Teresa Graca, 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, and “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 Azores archipelago with its biodiversity, and 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.
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.
Plus, as mentioned, British outfits, MovieBox and Lansdowne Capital Partners, have agreed to invest €60m to build a production complex, including film and TV studios, in Loulé on the Portuguese Algarve.
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.