Costa Rica is considering offering incentives to attract international film and television productions, which currently choose other destinations in the region where they do receive financial benefits.
The Legislative Assembly is discussing an initiative supported by the government of President Carlos Alvarado to promote investment and development of international productions of films, documentaries, TV 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 in projects that considered coming to Costa Rica,” José Castro, film commissioner of the Foreign Trade Promoter (Procomer), a public entity that promotes the initiative, told AFP.
He specified that this volume of investment could mean “more than $345 million 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 income taxes, as well as allow the duty-free importation of equipment and materials necessary for 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 M. 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.
Positive economic impacts
“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,” Segura highlighted.
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,” he said, citing the film trilogy based on the work of JRR Tolkien, which attracted visitors to that island country.
He noted that people 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 lower 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,” Castro said.
Likewise, they can go in a short time from a volcano to a beach or a jungle.
The film commissioner said that Costa Rica hopes to initially attract projects of $3 to 5 million, 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 the public purse,” thanks to linkages with local services that do pay taxes, Castro explained.
“It is an industry that energizes the local economy,” he said.