Costa Rica is considering granting incentives to attract international film and television productions, which are currently seeking other destinations in the region where they do receive economic benefits.
The Legislative Assembly (parliament) is discussing an initiative supported by the government of President Carlos Alvarado to promote investment and development of international productions of films, documentaries, series, commercials and music videos.
The country intends to compete with others such as Colombia, Panama, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, which offer tax incentives or cash refunds in exchange for investments in audiovisual productions.
“In the last three years we have documented almost 114 million dollars in projects that valued coming to Costa Rica,” José Castro, film commissioner of the Foreign Trade Promoter (Procomer), a public entity that promotes the initiative.
He specified that this volume of investment could mean “more than 345 million dollars injected into the Costa Rican economy,” thanks to the production chain generated by a film business. “This project is part of an agenda to reactivate the tourism sector,” declared Tourism Minister Gustavo Segura.
The initiative seeks to exempt taxes on income, as well as on the temporary importation of equipment and materials used in filming. It also plans to expedite the granting of visas to the personnel involved and facilities to process the required permits.
Despite having no incentives, Costa Rica has occasionally attracted some international productions, such as the film “After Earth” (2013), directed by Indian-American filmmaker Night Shyamalan and starring actor Will Smith. However, other films such as “Jurassic Park”, whose story is set in Costa Rica, were not filmed in the country.
“Every time film productions come, there is an impact on tourism, because they hire transportation, lodging, food services, and link other sectors, such as actors and technical equipment for scenography, costumes, video and sound”, highlighted Minister Segura.
Castro noted that the presence of internationally recognized actors and the use of local scenarios generate a positive image for the country. “We are interested that in Costa Rica a phenomenon like the one that New Zealand had with ‘The Lord of the Rings’ could happen,” the film trilogy based on the work of JRR Tolkien, which attracted visitors to that island country and turned it into a cinema post-production center. He recalled that there are people who travel to England in search of the locations where “Harry Potter” or “Bridget Jones’s diary” were filmed.
Castro indicated that Costa Rica, among its advantages, offers a variety of locations close to each other, which allows lowering production costs. “I tell the producers that they can film the sunrise in the Caribbean and that same day film the sunset in the Pacific without having to take a plane,” said Castro. Likewise, they can go from a volcano to a beach or a jungle in a short time.
The film commissioner said that Costa Rica hopes to initially attract projects of 3 to 5 million dollars, and in a few years, with more experience, to receive larger productions. “We have studies that show that for every dollar granted in incentives (for film productions), 2.6 times more is received from public funds,” thanks to linkages with local services that do pay taxes, Castro explained. “It is an industry that energizes the local economy,” he added.