São Paulo Launches Brazil’s First Foreign Shoots Rebate Plan (Exclusive)

Game on. In a bold move to reenergize São Paulo’s production scene, city authorities are bowing Brazil’s inaugural rebate scheme for international and local shoots, launching a call for applications on July 6, the first day of this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Since the turn of the century São Paulo consolidated its place as Brazil’s foremost film-TV hub and the biggest, with Mexico City, in Latin America. And now shoots have returned.

Pre-pandemic, Brazil’s financial capital served as one of the backdrops to the Keanu Reeves-produced dystopian sci-fi series “Conquest” as well as “Black Mirror” episode “Striking Vipers,” Amazon Prime’s “September Mornings,” the Wachowskis’ “Sense8,” and multiple other shows from Netflix, as well as Amazon Prime, Disney and Fox.

Among projects filming in the city now are Netflix’s “De volta aos 15” and Fox’s “Silvio Santos.”

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“São Paulo is an amazing city to shoot in; what we loved was the variety of architecture and colors,” says “Striking Vipers” producer Kate Glover. “It’s both futuristic and deco, and is really beautiful.”

“It’s such a cinematic city because of the architecture, its history and culture,” Reeves says in the city’s promo reel.

São Paulo’s new incentive, led by its rebate rather than a tax credit, looks set to make the city even more cinematic.

Open to feature films in fiction or animation and TV series in fiction, animation or reality genres, São Paulo’s cash rebates, drawing from a first budget of $1.6 million in 2021, range from 20% to 30% for eligible expenses. Foreign advertising commercials carried out by a São Paulo production company are also eligible for these rebates. The program has five financing lines for projects shot in São Paulo: international films and series; Brazilian productions with strong international potential; advertising campaigns; screenplays that include São Paulo in the narrative but not necessarily shooting in the city; and an incentive for location scouts to explore the city.

Lines one to three require a minimum spend of 2 million real ($400,000).

“There is no cap for international productions; that is, we could allot the program’s entire annual budget of $1.6 million to one international project that meets all the requirements,” says Luiz Toledo, director of investments and strategic partnerships for film-TV agency SPcine.

That will not happen, however, given that the rebates are also acutely needed by local producers following the collapse of federal funding and the serious economic crisis brought on by the pandemic.

The program is also making a pioneering push for sustainability, using carbon credits to mitigate the CO2 emissions produced by each project, making it one of the most green, forward-thinking film programs in the region, Toledo says.

Also significant is its affirmative action policy, which incentivizes the hiring of women, as well as Black, indigenous and transgender people for key positions in a production, from directors to editors, art directors, DPs, actors and department heads.

Applying any of the above incentives can help raise the base cash rebate of 20% to 30%. This 10% bump can also be obtained by including São Paulo in the screenplay, making use of its infrastructure (if at least 30% of its shooting days are in the city, for example) and hiring locals for prominent positions in the production.

“There are myriad options to obtain that final 10%,” Toledo says, adding that a producer need only apply one of these incentives to get the extra points.

A cutting-edge incentive program in many ways, SPcine’s cash rebate scheme is already seeing the film commission carrying out consulting work for other cities or states that wish to establish rebates in their region, says SPcine president Viviane Ferreira. These partnerships with new film commissions will be an important mechanism for diversifying locations, she adds.

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