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By Doug Gray, Contributing Reporter

Jan Roldanus and friend on the set of the TheraFlu commercial for Belize Productions, photo Raquel Dias.
Jan Roldanus and friend on the set of the TheraFlu commercial for Belize Productions, photo Raquel Dias.

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s film industry has had a checkered history since its beginnings at the turn of the last century largely led by American fashions, then French and Italian style in the 40s and 50s, and the firm guiding hand of the military dictatorship in the 70s and 80s.

From the mid-90s, and notably with the release of internationally recognized films such as Central Station and City Of God and the ever-increasing popularity of the weekday soap operas, the film industry underwent something of a boom, drawing attention to the country from global film and production companies.

At the center of this growth lay Rio. With its iconic landmarks, tropical climate and quintessentially Brazilian energy it was easy to see why national as well as international production companies wanted to associate their brands with the city and its people.

One such producer was Jan Roldanus, an Englishman first introduced to Brazil some fifteen years ago and who in 2004 decided to leave a successful career in London to set up a new company in Rio under the name GreenGo Films. He pinpoints the shift in attitudes towards the country as an increasingly viable location thusly;

“City Of God was undoubtedly an important moment for foreign perceptions of Brazil’s local film scene, as was an award-winning advert for Playstation called ‘Man Mountain’. Both showed that exciting and innovative stuff could be produced here, encouraging people who might previously have had reservations about coming to Brazil to shoot their spots and movies.”

One look at the client list of GreenGo Films and it is clear to see that it was a vision that was shared by some of the world’s leading brands. Enticing the likes of Gillette, Wrigley’s, TAG and Heineken into collaboration, 2005-2006 saw a boom period for production in the city, with companies taking advantage of a weakened real to come and shoot here.

“We provide production services primarily to high-end TV commercials from the US and Europe, and they were increasingly thinking of Brazil as a location” says Jan, and it was not just adverts. Music videos for U2 and Snoop Dogg were shot here and more recently John Legend and Will.I.Am, as well as recent blockbusters from Hollywood, but the recent economic situation has forced GreenGo to look at things from a slightly different angle.

While the combination of Roldanus’ industry experience and local knowledge in a city that can still put off people by reputation alone has been invaluable, he is now looking to develop more and more content for the local market, shifting his priorities as the overseas money to invest in advertising runs dry. The country has a long history of political and social film making, and this combined with its incredible geography make it a perfect place to shoot documentaries, an avenue that GreenGo is increasingly looking to explore.

What could be risky for the Brazilian industry as a whole is if this trend continues and foreign interests in shooting here continue to disappear. The Incredible Hulk was filmed on a relatively tight budget in Rio given its Hollywood cast, and shooting for the recent Sylvester Stallone movie had to be wrapped up in May.

The National Cinema Agency figures for the last three years also gives an uncertain picture of the immediate future of the industry in Rio. With the number of successful applications for production permits down 10% in 2008 compared with 2007, and only 32 approved to date in 2009 compared with well in excess of 200 for the whole of last year, the situation could be considered bleak. (ANCINE)

What the government needs to do in Jan’s eyes is to look at the problem at source and act upon it to lure business back; “US studios are always looking to save money on productions, for places that offer financial incentives like tax credits or rebates. Until Brazil starts offering such encouragements to foreigners we won’t see a marked increase in foreign production here.”

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