FILMING IN BRAZIL: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Picture this: you are going to Brazil for a film or video shoot and you don’t know much about the country, its language or what to expect from your production experience there.
You have heard that you need special paperwork, that customs can be tricky, and that you may need to get a special visa. Depending on your situation and the particularities of your shoot, all of the above may be true. But more than anything, you will need a good local partner to help you pull off your shoot in Brazil. And Brazil Production Services wants to be your partner! Take a look around our site, where we have tons of information that will help you get ready for your upcoming Brazil shoot.
In the last decade, Brazil Production Services has produced hundreds of shoots in Brazil for our foreign clients. And so, we have compiled a list of 10 basic tips that will help you as you prepare for your Brazil shoot.
10 TIPS FOR FILMING IN BRAZIL
Brazil’s main language is Portuguese. Foreign producers and crew members SHOULD NOT expect the average local to speak English or Spanish in Brazil. At Brazil Production Services, we can provide your crew with bilingual fixers and crew members to facilitate the execution of your project in Brazil. Assuming that you will get far on solely English and/or Spanish in Brazil is setting your production up for either failure or disappointing results.
The Brazilian currency is the Real (R$). In most cities, your crew members will have access to ATM machines with international banking capabilities to withdraw cash if they have foreign ATM cards. Your crew can also exchange foreign currency at the local international airports at more competitive rates than at airports in Europe or the United States. Many hotels also offer exchange services, especially from Dollars or Euros to the Real. International credit cards can be used in most places of business. In some remote areas though, cash is still king.
Depending on where you’re shooting and what you’re shooting, you will need to mind security. This usually goes for most exterior shoots in big cities. For many of our shoots, Brazil Production Services hires security guards to accompany the crew and make sure the production goes on without an issue. Guards aren’t always necessary, so each production that BPS undertakes undergoes a risk assessment by one of our office coordinators to ascertain how much exposure they will have in order to decide whether or not to hire security guards and what additional safety measures may need to be implemented.
Depending on where you are shooting in the country, the following vaccines may be recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies, Typhoid, Dengue and Yellow Fever. The CDC also recommends Malaria medication if you are visiting some malaria-prone areas. These recommendations hold true for shoots in the Amazon and some other remote regions of the country. Recommendations for shoots in urban centers like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are not as stringent.
5) LARGE VEHICLES:
Differently than in many countries, large production vehicles in Brazil (bigger than 6 passengers) require drivers with special licenses. Therefore, the van and truck rental companies already provide dedicated drivers for equipment trucks or vans. Your local producer or PA CANNOT usually drive these vehicles like in the US or other parts of the world. If your production will require trucks or cars with more than 6 seats, plan on having to hire dedicated drivers with special licenses to drive these large vehicles. (Because of the chaotic nature of Brazilian traffic, we normally recommend local drivers anyway).
6) TAP WATER:
While in Brazil, don’t drink tap water. Anywhere. Period. Even in nice hotels. Tap water in Brazil isn’t potable for the most part, so stick to bottled water to avoid health issues.
7) CITY VS COUNTRY:
Brazil is a big country with many large cities and many areas of sparsely populated forests, wetlands and prairies. In cosmopolitan cities like Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, you will have your pick of stores, services and restaurants to attend to all of your needs. However, when shooting in more remote locations, the options may be more restricted.
Therefore, in order to make a shoot happen in more remote areas, we at Brazil Production Services often suggest deploying crew, equipment and resources from some of the country’s more developed areas, and primarily from Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. We can usually achieve higher quality results in this way.
8) CULTURAL SENSITIVITY:
Brazil has a culture of its own. Some aspects of this culture can delight foreign crews while others can be frustrating. In our experience assisting hundreds of foreign crews with their shoots in the country, we recommend a flexible mindset. Brazil is not a backlot at Warner Brothers or Pinewood Studios and certain work processes won’t happen in the same manner as they happen in our clients’ countries of origin. Sometimes, some processes in Brazil can happen more quickly than elsewhere but at other times, other processes will happen more slowly. We thus recommend that our clients work with us and attempt to navigate Brazil with some patience and understanding of cultural differences.
9) CREW COST:
Specialized local crew members in the audiovisual industry can at times command salaries comparable to salaries in the United States and in Europe. Production costs in Brazil will usually be cheaper than in places like the United States, but not by much. We would say about 20 to 25% cheaper in general. Even though Brazil is a developing nation, prices are not as low as one may expect. The audiovisual industry in Brazil is fairly developed – which allows you to make big and complex productions. However, a lot of that development is concentrated in the biggest cities in the Southeast of the country and therefore to make a shoot happen in more remote areas of the country, we oftentimes have to deploy people or resources from these developed areas. Thus, budget allowances for travel and accommodations for local crew has to be made at times.
10) TAXES AND FINANCIAL TRANSMISSIONS:
Brazilian taxes are another factor that contribute to the “not-so-cheap” Brazil prices. Taxes usually come in between 12 – 17% of the budget, but each company has different arrangements depending on their fiscal election with the Brazilia tax authority. Another thing to keep in mind is that paying Brazilians from the US is notoriously difficult because of rules in the Brazilian banking system. When you hire Brazil Production Services, we can facilitate this process immensely by invoicing your company directly from our American entity and taking on all tax payments and local payroll on the Brazil side of the equation upon ourselves.
SHOOTING IN BRAZIL: THE TAKEAWAY
To quickly summarize, here are the 10 points that foreign producers should keep in mind as they prepare to shoot in Brazil:
1) Brazil’s official language is Portuguese.
2) The Brazilian currency is the Real.
3) Depending on the nature of your shoot, security guards may be required.
4) If you are shooting in jungle areas, you and your crew may need to get a couple of extra vaccinations before going to Brazil.
5) In Brazil, large vehicles require dedicated drivers with special driver’s licenses.
6) Do NOT drink tap water in Brazil!
7) If you are going to remote areas of the country, infra-structure, goods and services won’t be as high-level as you would find in the cosmopolitan areas.
8) Be flexible and understanding of cultural differences.
9) The best bilingual fixers and crew members are usually São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro based and may need to travel with your crew to other parts of the country to properly assist you with your needs.
10) Taxes usually come in at about 17%, but each company has different arrangements. Brazil Production Services can facilitate this process to you immensely by taking care of local taxes and paying your Brazilian vendors from the US.
We hope these tips are helpful to you when planning your next production in Brazil!If you have a project that requires filming in Brazil, please send us the details by filling out this form and one of our office coordinators will get in touch with you.