Netflix, Amazon and National Geographic among majors to shoot in Costa Rica

International film and TV producers are beginning to fall for the charms of this Latin American country with its volcanoes, tropical rainforests, beaches and savannahs

By Stuart Kemp 9 Sep 2021

Netflix, Amazon and National Geographic among majors to shoot in Costa Rica

Costa Ricans are fond of saying ‘Pura Vida’, in a reflection of the Latin American territory’s positive and optimistic outlook on life. That is now being extended to its film sector as the territory aims to attract international productions to its dramatic shores.

The audiovisual sector offers a port­folio of services at all stages of production, be it project development, production or post-production in both video and audio. It also boasts technicians and behind-the-camera talent.

Like everywhere, Costa Rica was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. “International productions decreased by 95%, which paralysed the sector,” says Costa Rica film commissioner Jose Castro. “Thanks to our fast response in the first two months of the closure, we put in place a safe-filming protocol, which allowed local production companies to continue with filming.

“As soon as our borders opened in mid-2020, we had a lot of projects coming in and that has been the dynamic ever since.”

National Geographic, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Discovery Channel, Netflix, HBO and Disney have all brought titles to Costa Rica. Over the past three years, the country has been visited by projects including Todd Robinson’s war feature The Last Full Measure starring Sebastian Stan, William Hurt and John Savage, Amazon Prime’s reality adventure series The Pack and Netflix reality series Rest­aurants On The Edge.

The government is in talks to introduce financial incentives to boost its film and TV sector. Backed by the tourism board, a consortium of audiovisual companies, the country’s producers’ associations and several political parties, the proposals include plans to offer a tax rebate of 13% for international productions on local spend and the exoneration of any tax or deposit on equipment imported for the shoot as well as on material required for the filming process.

It is also proposed that no actor, director or producer working on an international production in Costa Rica will be subject to tax of any kind while carrying out their work in the country.

Castro says the plans are being finalised and the measures are expected to be in place in the coming months.

Crew and Infrastructure

With cities dotted across the country, the comparatively politically stable country boasts a robust telecommunications infrastructure, a highly regarded healthcare system and a safe and secure environment for filmmakers.

Costa Rica is a non-unionised country, and production crews are more cost-effective than European countries and the US. It is also a pioneer in ecological shooting methods and is one of the highest-ranked Latin American countries for English-language proficiency.

Small private studios are available up to around 10,000 square feet in size and there are a variety of audio post‑production studio facilities.

Costa Rica can comfortably host up to four film productions at the same time. The quantity and quality of crew is also growing every year. Local universities are working with the Costa Rica Film Commission to develop classes, workshops, seminars and training tools to bolster the quality of the crew and increase the depth of knowledge and experience at any level and role.

Main image: The Last Full Measure filming in Costa Rica. Credit: Roadside Attractions


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