When Sara Rossi, producer for Costa Rica Production Supports, looks at the virgin forests and pristine white- and black-sand beaches of Costa Rica, she doesn’t see only premier natural beauty: She sees an opportunity for Hollywood. The country as a whole agrees.
And why not? Costa Rica is by any standard one of the most beautiful on the planet, as demonstrated by wildlife filmmakers and photographers for years. It is likely only a matter of time until Tinseltown catches on.
“We have some advantages: the natural resources, the infrastructure minus the roads … the people who work in the field are bilingual, good hotels and access,” said Mercedes Ramírez, director of the Costa Rican Cinema Center. “But right now there are also some blocks.”
The main block at present is the lack of a central film commission. Any producers looking to get the necessary permits need to go through a proliferation of commissions, causing major headaches and a great deal of red tape.
“We hope to create a film commission this year,” Ramírez said. “(Then) a producer will need to handle business with only one person to get all of the necessaries.”
Rossi, who worked as an assistant director on “The Motorcycle Diaries,” a film about the early travels of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, has already had some success attracting clients in the four years since she teamed up with her Tica colleague, Gina Ortega, to start their Costa Rican business.
“We started working together because I was working as an assistant director and she was my assistant,” Rossi said. The movie they were working on was “End of the Spear,” the story of Christian ministers who were murdered by an indigenous tribe in Ecuador in the 1950s.
The team is now working in editorial and television advertising as well as motion pictures.
“We do photo shoots, film and commercials,” Rossi said.
The company recently did the second shoot on a film called “The Chosen One,” starring former Saturday Night Live funnyman Rob Schneider, famous for his role as an unwitting male prostitute in “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo.” The film marks the first full-length feature the team has taken on independently. By all accounts, the experience was a success, Rossi said.
“I live here, and I love it,” said Rossi, originally from Italy. “More people should come see it and shoot. Rob (Schneider) wants to come back down and work with us again. He loved the people. He loved working here.”
Despite the fact that “The Chosen One” is their first feature film effort, the team is not lacking in know-how.
“I (have been) an assistant director for 15 years,” Rossi said. “We have a great art director … We met (working on) the film ‘End of the Spear’ in Panama. Americans are always happy to have someone experienced.”
That art director, Rossi’s husband, Jeff DeBell, is a Hollywood veteran who has worked on projects ranging from science fiction blockbusters “Stargate” and “I Am Legend” to “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “Big Fish.”
Additionally, the team has had some major successes in advertisement, most notably campaigns with trendy clothing store Urban Outfitters’ spring/summer catalog and a 2006 shoot with Rolex watches. Their campaigns even caught the eye of President Oscar Arias.
“Oscar Arias said (no one) could have done a better job advertising Costa Rica,” Rossi said.
For the near future, Costa Rica Production Supports is in discussions with a European lingerie line about a potential photo shoot, and it continues to seek more work.
“I advertise a lot in Europe,” Rossi said, but admitted they were lagging in Hollywood. “It’s basically word of mouth and the Internet … That’s how we’ve been
For Ramírez, companies such as Rossi’s present hope for Costa Rica’s film industry.
“These people need more support,” Ramírez said. “Sara Rossi has worked (in film) for many years. These enterprises motivate us to become credible (as a location).”
Rossi acknowledged that the demand has not yet been channeled the way it could be, given the ideal conditions.
“A lot of people want to shoot outdoors, and they go to Colombia, and all the actors need bodyguards,” Rossi said. “(Here,) the vegetation is beautiful and it’s really safe.
You can do interior (shoots) too. We have a great crew, we have great ethnic diversity (for casting), we have great equipment and great hotels.”