Brazil Supersizes Film, TV Funding, Unveils New Sao Paulo Rebate (EXCLUSIVE)

Brazil is back. 

Brazilian President’s Lula Inácio Lula da Silva’s new government, which took office on Jan. 1,  looks set to invest just under $1 billion in 2023 into the country’s audiovisual sector.

It’s one of the biggest upticks in government film and TV aid in history, and comes after Lula predecessor Jair Bolsonaro slowed state aid to a glacial pace. The new financial injection should turn Brazil into the film and TV powerhouse of Latin America. 

Brazilian audiovisual secretary Joelma Gonzaga told Variety that regulation of global streaming services operating in Brazil, which foreseeably will introduce quotas for Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video and other players, is also on Lula’s government agenda. 

Possible steamer investment quotas represent “an urgent question that is a priority for the country’s audiovisual industry: Brazil needs to regulate VOD . Platforms must invest in audiovisual production, and Brazil needs to have control of this intellectual property,” Gonzaga said. 

How could such regulation play out? What will be the priorities of Lula’s government? At least some initial ideas will be given at a Marché du Film panel May 18, called New Perspectives and Opportunities for Film in Brazil, hosted by Spcine, the São Paulo city film commission, which Gonzaga will attend. 

At the panel, in another bullish initiative, Spcine president-director Viviane Ferreira secretary of culture and creative economy for São Paulo state Marilia Marton will jointly announce a call for applications for a second phase of São Paulo’s pioneering cash rebate program targeting international, non-Portuguese- language productions. 

Some federal financing details are already clear. On May 11, in the run-up to Cannes, the Paulo Gustavo Law (named after the late Brazilian actor/director) released R$3.8 billion ($769 million) for Brazil’s culture, of which 70%, R$2.8 billion ($567 million), is destined for audiovisual sectors. 

To be channelled to Brazil’s states and cities, in a drive for decentralization, this marks “the biggest money transfer to culture in the history of Brazil,” Gonzaga told Variety.  

Brazil’s Fundo Setorial do Audiovisual, its central subsidy fund, is investing a further RS1 billion for 2022 and another R$1 billion for 2023 into the audiovisual sector, making for a total financial injection for 2023 of R$4.8 billion ($972 million). 

Marche du Film panelists also take in Marcelo Calero, secretary of culture at the City of Rio de Janeiro which has also launched an international shoot rebate, and Ana Paula Repezza, business director at Apex-Brasil, the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency. 

Specific funding lines still have to be established, Gonzaga told Variety. One thing is clear, however: “Audiovisual is a priority in the management of President Lula and [culture] minister Margareth Menezes, just as culture as a whole,” Gonzaga affirmed. 

New ‘Second Phase’ São Paulo Cash Rebate

Launched in 2021 by São Paulo City film commission Spcine with a total annual rebate of $1.6 million, 2022 saw the city team with São Paulo State, the size of a country with 46 million inhabitants, for a second, far increased cash rebate, budgeted at around $7 million, for feature films in fiction and animation and TV series in fiction, animation or reality genres lensing in city or state. A first phase, targeting Portuguese-language projects, has already closed with the approval of four titles, one a co-production, three more seeing São Paulo companies offer production services on titles. 

Approximately $5.1 million will be available for the second phase, with the cap per project raised from the first phase to now approximately $3 million per title.   

2021’s inaugural rebate offered a maximum 30% return for productions’ hiring women, as well as Black, indigenous and transgender people for in leadership positions. 

51,5% of the Brazilian population is female and 54% is black according to a study by Brazil’s IBGE institute. Yet in 2016, there were no black female directors of commercially released feature films and only 3 black men, in comparison with 107 white male directors and 28 white female directors.

The diversity drive remains for the cash rebate Ferreira told Variety, highlighting “our commitment to developing an increasingly diverse industry through our affirmative policies, implemented in recent years, and transversal to all Spcine initiatives. Brazilian and  São Paulo stories are truly interesting when they reflect the enormous diversity of our territory.”

“We are also seeing an increasing acceptance, confidence and interest in our cash rebate program by U.S. studios, which make up some of the largest in the world,” added Luiz Toledo, Spcine director of investments and strategic partnerships. 

São Paulo-based producers are delighted to use the rebate. “In terms of industry, the rebate can boost the city economy by attracting film productions, creating jobs, and generating revenue for the city when the streaming platforms are reducing the number of projects they are producing,” said Karen Castanho,  producer of “Charcoal,” from Carolina Markowicz, and “Pedro Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” by Lais Bodanzky.

Castanho will tap a rebate for a film for a U.S. company which will  shoot in July, mainly in Sao Paulo city. “We can benefit from the expertise of our partner in producing for a big and international audience, “ she added. “Additionally, film incentives can provide filmmakers with more resources to create higher-quality films. This can include more money for production design, visual effects, and post-production work, leading to more visually stunning and polished films. 

São Paulo State will bring 10 São Paulo companies to the Cannes Festival. “Just as participating in SXSW and the Game Developers Conference (GDC) was important to make a strong presence for significant investments in the creative industry of the State of São Paulo in the fields of innovation and games, our expectation is to promote the film sector in Cannes,” commented culture secretary Marília Marton.

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