Carla Ponte


In this new edition of Portada’s new Brazil Corner feature, Carla Ponte and Luiz Duarte focus on the São Paulo Film Commission’s work. The comission is celebrating its one year anniversary with impressive results and also an innovative app to facilitate film set location. The incentives to create optimal conditions for international film production are enormous as they can bring large investments and tax revenues.

A city often described by its multiple shades of grey and hectic pace aims to become a prime production set for the Film Industry. This is the challenge of São Paulo Film Commission. Created in May 2016, it is celebrating the first results and launching an innovative app to make producers’ lives easier in the biggest city of the Southern Hemisphere.

The São Paulo Film Commission is launching an innovative app to make producers’ lives easier in the biggest city of the Southern Hemisphere.

Filming in a city of 12 million people and 8 million cars that make for a chaotic traffic at any time of the day can be a real nightmare. So somebody has to do a real good job to convince producers to come and do just that in São Paulo. Its Film Commission aims to facilitate the filming in public spaces of this immense city and, after a year of existence, has released its first report on results: some 670 productions placed over 2,600 requests for filming authorizations, resulting in about 20 simultaneous shootings across town on any given day. “We have a specialized team of producers that understand the dynamics of an audiovisual production company, what facilitates the communications between producer and municipal authorities. We pass on to the various offices the specific needs for shootings in any particular São Paulo City-owned location”, explains Tammy Weiss, head of the São Paulo Film Commission (SPFC). According to her, before the creation of the Commission, producers had to go to at least 10 public entities to get an authorization to shoot a short/feature film, TV series, webisode or advertising film in public locations.Now, the producer goes through only one public entity, which is the São Paulo Film Commission.

Driver of Economic Growth

This facilitation has a strong impact on production budgets, through time and money savings, as well as on the economics of the city. Within the last 10 -12 months, these productions moved almost US $100 million (1 USD/ 3.1 BRL) in São Paulo, considering only those shooting in public spaces, and generated more than 20,000 temporary jobs. Of course, those are a fraction of the average 2,500 productions on any given year in New York. According to the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting  – New York Film Commission – the film and television industry contributes nearly US$9 billion and over 130,000 jobs to New York City’s economy. But filming in New York City wasn’t always as easy as it is today. In the 1960’s, producers often required upwards of 50 permits to shoot their project. In 1966, Mayor John Lindsay changed this process and gave the Department of Commerce the authority to issue a single permit for filming in City-owned locations. In an open letter to the public, he wrote “Each additional feature film or commercial television show means additional jobs for New York residents. Additional jobs mean a healthier economy. And a healthier economy means a healthier city.”

New York City’s Example

Tammy Weiss_Head of SPFC_Press Release PhotoFor Tammy Weiss (photo), the example of John Lindsay is a major inspiration for the SPFC. “He was a visionary that understood his city had to be seen by the world, that NY culture had to be one the world acquired. The NY Film Commission is 50 years ahead of us. We are just completing our first year, but we are proud of our accomplishments.”

The Commission was an old request from the audiovisual sector in São Paulo, joining the Brazilian Film Commission Network (REBRAFIC in the Portuguese spelling), which now includes 10 Commissions at work and 16 others in the process of being created. “A major audiovisual center like São Paulo, a reference for Brazil and Latin America, ought to have a Film Commission”, explains Andrea Barata Ribeiro, Executive Director and Partner at o2 Filmes, producer of City of God, Blindness, and Trash, amongst other internationally awarded films. “For producers — large, medium or small — who need to shoot in this megalopolis, the São Paulo Film Commission represents a watershed accomplishment.”

The SPFC has a price table that offers discounts according to the budget constraints of each project. For example, in the case of shorts and documentaries, which traditionally have low budgets, producers have up to 95% discounts on locations, including any public building, park or square. Eduardo Sallouti, founder of Nation Filmes, took advantage of this discount for a series of documentaries he produced for Italian TV RAI in partnership with other European channels. “If it were not for these discounts I would have never been able to shoot in some public spaces I wanted, such as Parque Ibirapuera, which is a very expensive location.”

Beyond the democratization of public spaces for audiovisual shootings through the reduced bureaucracy, São Paulo Film Commission has just launched a mobile application for Android and iPhone with a catalog of municipal public spaces available for shootings. “We already have 250 locations listed and hope to reach 1,000 by the end of the year”, states Tammy Weiss. She explains the goal of the App is to help producers think beyond the usual well-requested locations and present the less-known side of São Paulo to many people. “It is an innovative tool for Brazil and we want to open it to locations under the State responsibility too.” According to Sallouti, efficient and transparent tools like this help instill a level of confidence in the foreign producers coming to Brazil. “It is the kind of positive feedback we got from the European producers and channels involved in the documentary series.”

Viaduto do Chá - São Paulo (SP) - 25.01.2015 - Geral - Viaduto do Cha, liga a Praca do Patriarca a Praca Ramos de Azevedo, sobre o Vale do Anhangabau, na regiao central. Foto: Jose Cordeiro/SPTuris
Viaduto do Chá – São Paulo (SP)  Foto: Jose Cordeiro/SPTuris

On the App, producers find photos and information on each location, including availability of bathrooms and places to eat, pricing for reservations, and availability calendar. Location scouts can easily share the information with Art and Photography directors to quickly reach a decision. Every request for shooting reservations is made online and the Commission has specific deadlines to answer: three business days for advertising, eight for other types of shootings. Per Weiss, many Rio de Janeiro productions are being switched to São Paulo, including some Rede Globo soap operas, despite the large drama structure that Globo maintains in Rio. “In 2016 we brought three Globo telenovelas — something unprecedented — and this will help promote São Paulo on Brazilian open air television, as well as in international markets, given the global reach of these productions.”

Attracting foreign producers remains a challenge though, since Brazil lacks some competitive edge according to Steve Solot, Executive Director of REBRAFIC. “There is a ferocious competition among FCs around the world to offer locations, infrastructure, service and, especially, a range of subsidies and rebates to reduce the cost of shootings for films, TV shows and commercials. Through economic impact studies, the FCs have demonstrated that subsidies have a high return on investment for the public coffers. Solot cites an example in Latin America that reflects the importance of incentives on locations decisions. The Chilean film Los 33, about the 33 Chilean miners stuck in a copper mine during two months, was shot in Colombia with a Spanish-American protagonist (Antonio Banderas) and Brazilian Rodrigo Santoro. “The movie was the first project to take advantage of the incentives offered by the Colombian Film Commission for international productions, which offers 40% reimbursement of production services plus 20% for logistic services, such as transportation and catering.”

Through economic impact studies, Film Comissions have demonstrated that subsidies have a high return on investment for the public coffers.

Solot defends the establishment of federal, state and municipal policies for competitive incentives. “The economic benefits are significant. In the U.S., for example, a movie shooting by a major studio generates an average of US$200,000 in economic activities and public revenues for each day on the set, according to the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).” These incentives brought shootings like Lord of the Rings to New Zealand, Game of Thrones to Spain, Brave Heart to Scotland, Evita to Hungary and Skyfall to Istambul. Even without the benefit of such incentives, Weiss celebrates a recent win in this international competition. Among the 670+ productions organized by the SPFC in its first year was the American TV series “Sense 8”, for which it closed important roadways. “Besides the SPFC support, we had a major point of attraction for them, which was the largest LGBT Parade in the world, key action for their story.”

São Paulo Film Commission is a governmental office, under the umbrella of SPCine – a public company created to develop São Paulo’s audiovisual market dedicated to the promotion of the city as a film-friendly place. São Paulo Film Commission is a partner for producers from all over the world. It makes filming in the city a great experience. The skilled team of São Paulo Film Commission gives assistance applying for a permit, from registration to authorization, and also gives support for post filming to check if all is as accordingly to what was previously set.

Brazilian Film Commission Network – REBRAFIC is a national non-profit Film Commission association whose objectives include: ensuring a standardized, high level of support for national and international producers, promoting all regions of Brazil as premier locations for national and international productions, and organizing and making available information on film commissions from all regions of the country. The members of REBRAFIC include 10 existing, legally – established film commissions, as well 16 film commissions in the process of formation in 14 states and the federal district.


CHECK OUT prior articles of BRAZIL CORNER:
– BRAZIL Corner:João Daniel Tikhomiroff – On the Intricacies of the Brazilian Audiovisual Market
– João Daniel Tikhomiroff – On Branded Entertainment, New Financing Models and More (Part 2)


In the first article of  Portada’s new feature Brazil Corner, Sao Paulo, Brazil, based journalist Carla Ponte interviews João Daniel Tikhomiroff, one of the top producers and filmmakers in Brazil. Tikhomiroff is founder and partner of Mixer, a Brazilian production company.

THE BACKGROUND: With a prolonged political crisis, an economy struggling to overcome a long recession and endless scandals feeding an almost chaotic circle, Brazil has certainly provided an amazing collection of stories to writers and content producers. Nevertheless, the Brazilian entertainment sector has been growing at a high rate. Ancine, the agency that regulates the Audiovisual market in Brazil – reported  that in recent years – 2007 to 2014 – the Audiovisual sector grew almost 9% per year. In 2014 the sector had an overall size of US $7.9 billion.  The figures for 2015 and 2016 have not been reported yet, but some analysts suggest an average growth of 2% per year, which is still higher than most sectors of the Brazilian economy.
An institutional factor that explains the growth of the Brazilian Audiovisual sector is the Incentive Law that supports TV and cinema productions as well as by the implementation of national content quotas on Pay TV. These quotas were activated at the end of 2011 and require international channels to display 3 and a half hours per week of local content during primetime. The Pay TV sector is facing a  lot of pressure by a decrease of subscriptions – after a huge jump from 5 million in 2007 to 20 million in 2014 – and also by the growth of VOD and OTT services, which are growing in number of offers and subscribers everywhere in the world, including Brazil. What to expect for 2017?  Will the Brazilian Audiovisual sector  keep growing despite the country’s economy? How to break the chain and be less dependent on government support?

João Daniel Tikhomiroff (photo) answers the below and more questions in Portada’s Brazil Corner. Tikhomiroff is the most awarded publicity director in Latin America, with 41 Cannes Lions, and 10 years ago migrated to the Entertainment world to found Mixer, which ranks the top 5 Brazilian Production Houses with an internationally awarded portfolio.

Brazil Corner – Your agency Mixer opens 2017 with the release of the film “Os Saltimbancos Trapalhões – Rumo a Hollywood” directed by you; your company is also producing another season of  “O Negócio” for HBO Latin America – the first Brazilian series to reach a fourth season on the channel; you just got the renewal of the series “A Garota da Moto” for SBT – Open TV Network ; besides various non-fiction productions for multiple channels of Discovery Networks, including large realities as “Desafio Celebridade”. What share of the business does content production account for at Mixer? Is advertising still  essential  to pay the bills, even in this period of crisis in the advertising market?

JDT – Mixer’s revenue structure still needs the advertising market to pay its bills. But Entertainment – both content and branded – already represents 50% of our revenues. We closed 2016 with a 50/50 advertising/content revenue split. And, until very recently, the ratio was 60/40 (60% Advertising – 40% Entertainment). According to our business plan, in 2017, Entertainment should surpass 55%.

Brazil Corner – And what is the company’s main strategy for content production?

JDT  – We take great care with the structure. Mixer is the only Brazilian production house with its own development team, ie permanent writers (chief writers and writers who develop). And that is on both fronts, both in the fiction  and non-fiction entertainment space. This structure that is part of our DNA, because our aim was always to be a content producer which develops, and owns content and not merely provides service. Mixer was born with the goal of being a producer that, in fact, has its identity, its brand recognized through the work we create, develop and produce.

Brazil Corner – Ancine – Agency that regulates the Audiovisual market in Brazil – reported that despite the country plunged into economic  recession, the Audiovisual sector grew on average 8% per year. This growth rate is largely explained by  tax incentive laws. How can you overcome this dependence of the sector’s growth on tax incentives.?

JDT – “There are two issues here. The first is that tax incentive are key in any country that wants to create a new industry. And this goes for any activity, not only for audiovisual sector. The automobile industry always had tax incentives to set up plants in several states. And don’t forget that the United States also has state tax incentive, which is very strong in the production of TV series. In most American series, about 30% to 40% of the cost of production comes from tax incentive state laws. This happens in California, Florida and many other states. In addition, it is important to remember that when the TV entertainment industry was born in the United States, the US Congress passed a law that prohibited the channels to produce their own content. This law required that 100% of the content would be produced by independent producers or studios. And I’m talking about the Open TV channels in the decade of the 1940s and  later,  Pay TV in the United States, was born in a similar way to the current situation in Brazil, where content is produced by  independent producers.

Tax incentive are key in any country that wants to create a new industry.

Brazil Corner – It would be a legislation in the mode of Law 12.485 / 11, the so-called Cable Law, which came into force near the end of 2011 and which among other rules, requires international channels to display 3 and a half hours per week of local content in primetime.

JDT – “In Brazil we have a tiny share… and in the United States, the production process for TV in the forties started with a quota of 100% in Open TV channels. And that American law lasted 50 years. Only in the 1990s, the law was abolished by Bill Clinton, saying he believed that from that moment, the entertainment market was already mature and able to self-regulate. But nothing would prevent that, in case the reverse phenomenon is observed, a new request be presented to Congress to revive the law again. In the United States, this law helped regulate and create a way of doing business between channel, creators-writers and producers that lasted for decades. In other words, a relationship that has matured to the point of creating an audiovisual industry that is an economic powerhouse. So when we talk about Brazil and Latin America, we are still in our infancy. Because, in Brazil specifically, our content production for TV began in the opposite way compared to the U.S. As there was no law, it was considered best to follow a verticalization of production in Open TV with almost all content being produced internally. For Pay TV it was a semi-verticalized process, with several projects done internally, but, at the same time, opening a loophole for partnerships with independent producers for more specific projects, such as series and reality shows, because they had the know how and the financial savvy.  That is how Brazilian independent production was born. We got our first break, obviously, with the mechanisms of Tax Incentive Laws and also the so-called Cable Law that prescribes compliance with Brazilian content quotas. And this quota is very small compared to other countries like France, Spain, Canada.

Brazil Corner – But how do you create other mechanisms and business models so that the independent production can be structured by creating a parallel dynamic to the stimulus already guaranteed by Law?

JDT – “There are several business models that can be followed. The first and the most obvious is to work with original content. Original productions for channels or platforms that do not use incentive laws and pay 100% of the  production, but the channel owns the content.  Mixer produced the series “O Negócio” for HBO Latin America under this model and the channel invests a lot more. The value per episode is much higher (than compared to projects linked to incentive laws) because the channel wants to achieve a standard of quality that guarantees the export of this product to other countries.”

Brazil Corner – And what does the independent producer get from this business model, since in exchange for this investment the channel retains the rights of the work?

JDT – “First, the producer has the opportunity to produce at a very high quality level, showing that it is capable of producing a series with a quality level on par with other international series and can be broadcasted in any other countries. And another very important point for the producer is that we make our mark on the international scene as a player able to compete in the top markets. Therefore, the business model based on producing original and exclusive content for the networks opens the door to the international market, both for the producer and for all professionals involved in the series. And this is extremely healthy and desirable in this maturation process of our audiovisual market.”

Brazil Corner – The series “O Negócio” was even mentioned in BuzzFeed as one of the 26 non-American series that deserve to be followed. It is a series that could be sold as a format, but in this case the rights belong to HBO. Does Mixer have other products of your property that it can be turned into international formats?

JDT – “Yes, since our DNA lies in  the development of content, we have series both fiction and non-fiction with good chances to catch on as formats in the international market. The youth series “Julie e os Fantasmas” is an example. It was a co-production with Nickelodeon, including a 2011 parallel airing in Open TV channel BAND (TV Bandeirantes Network) and caught the attention of some countries. Italy aired with dubbing on TV. And since the series was also among the five nominated to International Kids Awards, it won a high international profile and we are reaping the results now. We are currently in talks with players in the US to sell the format. And in this case, the business model can be a mere sale format, or may include an artistic supervision with monitoring by our head writer, who headed the development of the Bible production and the format and general director of the series, in an exchange with the professionals who will be in charge of the work abroad. And also in the youth genre, we have another series in pre-production that has everything to become a format model. We cannot yet disclose the channel, but it is a business model using incentive laws to gain the funds, as “Julie e os Fantasmas”, providing that Mixer keep the rights of the work. That is, the channel has distribution rights, but in the case of format sales it is one more product that we can sell freely and reap new rewards later.”

Branded entertainment and product placement are still a misnomer in Brazil.

Brazil Corner – In this business model, we have witnessed a growing trend of brand positioning in reality shows and other non-fiction programs that sponsor productions. However, in fiction productions for Pay TV, product placement is rare. Why has this practice, already proven successful in the United States, has not grown in Brazil?

JDT – “The use of product placement on Open TV helps fund telenovelas, series and other entertainment programs, generating a fundamental income stream for the channel. However, on Pay TV, the vacuum starts by the lack of a structure in the networks which relates to advertisers. The producers don’t have  contact with the advertising community. So, it is important that the channels have executives that focus on seeking opportunities to place products in the productions in partnership with independent producers.”

Brazil Corner – This already happens in non-fiction programs. Pay TV network have departments focused on this business, but this is not the case for fiction content. Do you think that in Brazil brands are open to  invest in branded content and product placement? 

JDT – “Very little. In the United States, no marketing professional thinks of doing marketing and advertising of their products without considering product placement and branded entertainment. In Brazil there is still a classic mentality that is vested more in traditional advertising. And the marketing people are still not fully convinced in branded entertainment From the point of view of creation and production, it is essential as a business model because it brings resources to production. It is a win-win relationship. At the same time it helps finance series and audiovisual products in general, the brands presence also helps to promote the products of the advertiser. Undoubtedly, this a business model that is hardly in practice in Brazil. In Argentina, the use of product placement is already more widespread both in series and in cinema. In Mexico, Chile, and Colombia as well. But it is in fact a business model still little common in the Latin American market. A loss of opportunity from all perspectives: the advertiser, the network and the producer.”

CHECK OUT: The second part of this interview: Brazil Corner: João Daniel Tikhomiroff – On Branded Entertainment, New Financing Models and More. (Part 2) .