Spotlight on Portugal

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

By KFTV Staff 25 Nov 2022

Spotlight on Portugal

Portugal is no longer just an interesting alternative, but one of the first choices for international producers working on projects of all sizes and genres. Standout recent shoots include HBO’s House Of The Dragon, which used the ruined medieval castle of Monsanto in Castelo Branco as a prime location in autumn 2021, and Universal Pictures’ latest entry in the Fast And Furious franchise, Fast X, which filmed in the country’s north and central regions, including the old city of Viseu, with its granite monuments, and Vila Real.

Netflix thriller Heart Of Stone —directed by Tom Harper and starring Jamie Dornan and Gal Gadot — also shot in the town of Bordeira on the rugged west coast over the summer of 2022, doubling it for Senegal. The popular World Heritage city of Porto in Portugal’s north-west is known for its stately bridges and historical buildings (and port wine). It recently played host to DC Films/Warner Bros superhero film The Suicide Squad, directed by James Gunn and starring Idris Elba and Margot Robbie.

Other international projects to take advantage of Portuguese locations include a host of Spanish and Portuguese co-­productions, such as Netflix’s Spanish series Money Heist, which filmed its final season around Lisbon and the surrounding Tagus Valley; HBO Spain and Portugal show Dry Water (Auga Seca), which shot in Lisbon; and Amazon drug-trafficking series Operation Black Tide, which doubled the north of the country for Brazil. Lisbon was also home to crime series Vanda, co-produced by Legendary Tele­vision in the US, Spain’s La Panda Productions and local outfit SPi, and Céline Devaux’s Everybody Loves Jeanne, produced by France’s Les Films Du Worso and Portugal’s O Som e a Furia.

In the increasingly popular Algarve region, local outfit Spy Manor Productions has continued its strategic partnership with Production Algarve and UK-based MovieBox on several upcoming film and TV projects, as well as a new 15,000 square metre studio in Loulé, less than 20 minutes from Faro Airport. It is part of a complex that opened its first phase in June 2021 and hosted Andrew Hunt’s The Infernal Machine, starring Guy Pearce, in July and August last year, a UK-Portugal co-production between MovieBox Premiere — the distribution arm of the MovieBox Group — Spy Manor Productions and fellow Portuguese outfit Monte Productions.

Variety of content

Filipa Soares, manager at local outfit, We Fix You says their Portuguese and Spanish fixers have faciliated filming of several British TV shows such as: Gregg Wallace’s Island Getaway, Race Across the World, Food Unwrapped and Long Lost Family, as well as two photo shoots for campaigns of an international sports brand.

For Hamilton R. Pereira, CEO/Founder of fine art props warehouse, Slow Mood, business has been booming. Although filming was still permitted during Covid-19 restrictions, the company has seen a proliferation in production post-pandemic. ”We have seen a sudden and great increase in photo and film productions and the demand of our services since the beginning of this year. Both for the national and the international market. This was only possible due to a great post Covid readiness of the local teams.

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 gaining more experience with the greater number of international productions that shoot in the country. Many speak Spanish and French, as well as fluent English. There are enough professional crew to accommodate 10 to 20 film productions simultaneously, and it is easy to reach across the border to Spain if more staff are needed.

Most productions come to Portugal for locations, but there are a few studios available in the Lisbon and Porto areas, while the new MovieBox studios in the Algarve is taking shape. There is also a VFX studio at Millennium Films’ Nu Boyana production hub in Braga.

It's also easy to find the latest cameras and equipment in the country. There are now more cameras, equipment and production vehicles available [due to the increase in productions shooting in Portugal], says Sofia Claro da Fonseca, producer at Alibi Film Production Services.

Fine art prop warehouse Slow Mood provides a cornucopia of wardrobe equipment including steamers, wardrobe racks, hangers, also special hangers that mark a new wardrobe section. ”In the prop section we are known for having a nice selection of well-cherished items, from vintage sofas, to design pieces, we have a very special big Swiss horse sleigh... Our biggest prop is a large wooden wall with half cut wine barrels fixed to it, but also smaller, more conventional props.”

The company provided props and equipment for Netflix's Money Heist, which filmed in Lisbon using Slow Mood's wind machine. They also supplied Netflix's Vampire Academy with dozens of high director’s chairs. As of 2022, Netflix's Heart of Stone used their tables, make-up mirrors and small director’s chairs.

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.

First people to contact

Sandra Neves, executive director:

Margarida Silva, project officer:

Click here to see selected production service companies in Portugal.

Click here to see the full filming guide for Portugal.

Read the full report in our latest edition of World of Locations.

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