Producer Aaron Berger, an American who works in both Rio and Los Angeles, said the subsidies helped get things rolling for his series Gaby Estrela, which is about to premier on Globo TV’s kids cable channel Gloob. “It was a tremendous boost for us,” he said.
Over the past decade, the federal government has spent more than $450 million on films, and many state and city governments also invest in movies made locally, provided they meet requirements that typically include hiring at least a certain number of local employees. And since Brazilian law allows corporate tax write-offs for cultural projects, companies such as petroleum giant Petrobras and cellphone provider Claro often underwrite movies.
Brazilian films have made inroads internationally in the last five years, notably the Elite Squad films probing gang violence and political corruption in Rio. Other domestic fare includes smart comedies and smaller budget films aimed at the art-house circuit.
The industry also got a boost from a 2011 law requiring all cable television channels to show at least 3 1/2 hours of independently produced local content each week during prime time.
“All of a sudden there’s a huge demand for this sort of content,” said Steve Solot, president of the Latin American Training Center, a Rio-based audiovisual consultancy. “It’s a fantastic new market.”
The industry’s sudden growth has caused shortages of qualified technicians, such as electricians, camera operators and sound people, and RioFilme is scrambling to fill the gap through training courses.
“We wouldn’t be seeing this kind of shortage if there weren’t a lot of demand,” said the agency’s president, Sergio Sa Leitao. “In a strange way, it’s a really good thing.”