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Location Spotlight: Brazil

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Story Productions on the immense diversity of the country’s landscape and population

Location Spotlight: Brazil

Copacabana Beach, Christ the Redeemer, football, samba… Brazil has its stereotypes. But there’s so much more to the world’s fifth largest country. As well as the seemingly endless coastline flecked with palm trees, there are snow-topped mountains in the south and year-round tropical weather in the north. There’s desert, canyons, rainforest, and a vastly diverse population. 

It’s long been known as one of the most accommodating countries to shoot commercials in, but to help us dig a little deeper, Story Productions’ Catherine Balston reveals her insider tips. 


Why Shoot Here?

LBB> How would you pitch Brazil to any production companies looking to shoot in your region? 

Story Productions> Brazil is good at reinforcing its stereotypes: Copacabana Beach, football stadiums and tanned, toned bodies shaking to samba beats. While there is all that, there’s so much more, and it’s that diversity which makes Brazil such a flexible choice for foreign productions. From palm-lined beaches to rocky coastline, snow-topped mountains, waterfalls, canyons, rainforests, deserts, gaucho savannah, arid interiors, colonial towns, sprawling metropolises and modernist architecture, the location possibilities are only as limited as your research. 

Casting opportunities are huge, too, with Brazil’s ethnic make-up as diverse as its immigration history, with Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Southern and Eastern European descendants, not to mention its native indigenous and vast Afro-Brazilian population all part of the mix. 

Shooting in a country the size of Brazil has its logistical challenges, but with the right planning in place, our clients love being on location here. Brazilians are famed for their charm and hospitality, and a willingness to lend a helping hand. 

Government incentives have helped set Brazil apart as the place to go for filming in South America. Funding is available for co-productions, which need to be approved by the national film agency, Ancine. Story Productions can help international production companies obtain Ancine authorisation for their shoot.


LBB> What are the main qualities of your region? 

Story Productions> Geographical, climatic and ethnic diversity as well as a friendly approach to doing business all make Brazil an attractive and flexible choice for filming. Brazil is the centre of South America’s financial and creative industries, with São Paulo in particular being a hub for advertising, media and the arts. Brazil’s architecture is as diverse as its history, with striking colonial, modern and contemporary architecture meaning foreign crews are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding the right location. While the country’s continental proportions can throw up logistical challenges, there are hundreds of domestic airports and extensive road networks.  


LBB> What would you say are the top locations in Brazil? 

Story Productions> Rio de Janeiro, with its picture postcard scenery, remains a favourite place for foreign shoots. São Paulo is where the advertising industry, and much of the country’s creative talent, is based, not to mention being the country’s financial hub. As for filming on location, the sky’s the limit. 

The Amazon basin covers 2.9 million square miles of forest while the Atlantic forest clings to the eastern seaboard in patches along its 4,600-mile length. Head inland and the landscape ranges from savannah to mountains, pampas and the Pantanal wetlands. Together, these ecosystems boast the largest collection of plant and animal species on the planet. There are countless locations where you can spot iconic species, from capybara to pink dolphins, jaguar, scarlet macaws and sea turtles. 

Story Productions has production teams based in São Paulo, Porto Alegre and Manaus. 

LBB> What’s the climate like and what are the best or worst times to shoot in Brazil? 

Story Productions> Brazil has five climate zones – equatorial, tropical, semi-arid, highland tropical and subtropical. In the south, the summers are hot and the winters are cold, with snow in the mountains, whereas the tropical north of Brazil is warm and humid all year round. The northeast is the driest, and also the hottest, with strong coastal winds making it a favourite for kite-surfers. 

The summer months (December to April) are also the wettest, though rain usually falls in short bursts in the afternoon. For shooting, this means that you can find four seasons in one day in Brazil, and it’s our job to help foreign production companies choose the right location for their shoot. We’re also expert in understanding the qualities of light at different times of the year, and can advise on what looks best when for our clients’ needs.

Brazilians joke that the year starts after Carnaval, which falls between late February and March. While the country-wide Carnaval celebrations are a big opportunity to capture the country at its glittery, fun-loving best, it can hinder turnaround times for permits, or make access to interviewees tricky, as most Brazilians are on holiday. 

Q> What specific work permits/visas are required to shoot in Brazil?

Story Productions> A prior authorisation by the Brazilian Film Agency (ANCINE) is required for all foreign movie production projects within Brazil, as well as other kinds of audiovisual productions including commercials, documentaries and institutional videos. The only exceptions are news productions, which do not require any prior authorisation.

Under this rule any foreign production is required to partner with a local production company, which will be responsible for obtaining the ANCINE authorisation for the shoot. The foreign and the local production companies must sign a production agreement whereby the local production company agrees to provide a number of services, including obtaining the ANCINE authorisation. With this permit in hand, the international crew is able to obtain a business visa to shoot in the country from the nearest Brazilian Consulate.

Depending on the location, municipal shooting permits may be required, particularly when shooting outside and at landmarks. Story Productions can obtain all necessary permits. 

For more details, click here. 

Q> How is the infrastructure in Brazil for supporting large productions? 

Story Productions> São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are well set-up to support large productions, with hundreds of equipment rental companies and studios, not to mention being international and domestic air transport hubs. In São Paulo in particular it is possible to rent everything from cranes and dollies to specialist stunt cars and underwater equipment. 

Foreign production companies can now bring their own filming and sound recording equipment into the country with an ATA carnet. 

Q> What have been your biggest/most successful production in Brazil to date? Provide images/video if you wish.

Story Productions> Sharp Entertainment have followed a romance in Brazil for their hit reality series 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days, and Story Productions provided on-the-ground production support throughout the first two seasons. After completing a detailed recce report for Sharp, we provided all production logistics, a local fixer, two production assistants, camera assistant, two assistant producers and armed security guards for a 17-day shoot with the Sharp crew in the Amazon Rainforest – one of our most challenging shoots to date. 

We have supported a scaled-down Sharp crew for a handful of subsequent shoots in the Amazon, as well as solo shoot, in which a Story Productions line producer and support crew filmed updates to the couple’s relationship.

Read our case study on filming in the Amazon here.

DOs and DON’Ts in the Region

Q> As an outsider, what would you say are the biggest Dos and Don’ts in the region? 

Story Productions>  

- Do hire a local production company to help source the perfect location for a shoot – there are endless options to choose from, and factors such as logistics, climate and permits all need to be navigated. 

- Do plan thoroughly regarding logistics and transport. Whilst there are hundreds of domestic airports, accessing remote areas can be tricky. 

- Don’t underestimate how few people speak English in Brazil. Even in big cities, English is not widely spoken. 

- Don’t think that yes necessarily means yes. Brazil has its own code of communication in which things cannot always be taken at face value.

- Don’t underestimate the impact that culture barriers can have on getting the best out of interviewees, or accessing people and places. Story Productions can help overcome these barriers to get the most out of your shoot. 

- Do plan ahead; Brazilian bureaucracy, permits and permissions can all take time to navigate, particularly in the summer months of January to March. 

- Don’t be swayed by the news headlines about Brazil being a violent country, but do budget for a security detail; this is something Story Productions can help with. 

Q> What would be your number one tip to any coming to Brazil to shoot a campaign/film?

Story Productions> Be aware how much having local knowledge, contacts and the right accent can open doors, lower costs and facilitate every aspect of a production. Having a local production partner to overcome cultural and language barriers will mean getting the most out of a production. 


Insider Recommendations

Q> Where would you suggest a foreign production stay while they are in Brazil? 

Story Productions> In a country the size of Brazil, it really depends on where the shoot is, though most international flights will come in through either São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. São Paulo, Story Productions’ HQ, is home to 20 million residents and is the city of superlatives. It’s the largest city in South America and a place where you can find almost everything. Its three local airports connect with hundreds of domestic airports around the country, making it a good jumping off point for a visiting crew. 


Q> Where are the best bars and restaurants? Any hidden gems you could suggest?

Story Productions> Minas Gerais is famed for its food, Bahia for its beaches, Recife for its music scene, and São Paulo for having all of these in one place (except the beach; that’s a 70km drive away). 

Also, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro boast a handful of Michelin-starred restaurants, but the real Brazil is more laid-back. Locals drinking cold beers or caipirinhas, in shorts and flip flops, to the sound of a live jam session could be a typical scene in any town, big or small, across the country. 

Q> Any other tourist recommendations?        

Story Productions> Any decent guide book or the official Brazilian tourist website will introduce visitors to the country’s highlights. To get off the beaten tourist trail, consider visiting the open-air contemporary art park Inhotim in Minas Gerais, hiking up Monte Roraima on the border with Venezuela (the inspiration for Conan Doyle’s The Lost World), kite surfing in the Northeast, swimming in rainwater lagoons in the desert-like Lençois Maranhenses national park, donning a head-to-toe costume to parade in the Rio Carnaval, or whale watching in Santa Catarina. 

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Story Productions, Thu, 13 Dec 2018 17:00:33 GMT