Panama’s Culture Minister Giselle Gonzalez: Panama to Build New Film Studio, Pledges More Support for IFF Panama (EXCLUSIVE)

In her speech at the Dec. 2 inauguration of the Panama Int’l Film Festival (IFF Panama), Panama’s Minister of Culture, Giselle Gonzalez, revealed that the country would likely have a major studio facility in the future and pledged more support for the festival, which has suffered major pandemic-induced budget cutbacks.

In an exclusive interview with Variety in Panama, Gonzalez said a feasibility study was underway for the studio with potential sites to include Sherman in the province of Colon, as well as existing infrastructures in the Ciudad de las Artes in Curundu and the Ciudad del Saber, a former U.S. military base some 20 minutes from Panama City.

“The feasibility study should provide us with the variables for a safe investment that meets the country’s objectives and lists the competitive advantages on an international level,” she said, adding: “it is essential to be clear about all aspects: Environmental, social, technical, technological, accessibility, and financial, among others.”

Once the results of the analysis are in, which are expected by June next year, Gonzalez estimated that “in a smooth timeline, the studio could be operational by 2026/27.”

Speaking of Panama’s film festival, now celebrating its 11th edition and firmly established as a major force behind Central America’s emerging film industry, Gonzalez said: “We’re committed at the state level to providing it with greater support, both financially and in promotion and training.

Pointing out the festival’s all-important contribution to Panama’s film industry, and by extension that of Central America and the rest of the region, she added: “We are firmly committed to supporting the festival as it continues to grow.”

A major studio facility in Panama will be an invaluable bonus to the country as a location, given its highly competitive incentives, which attracted the likes of the “Suicide Squad” franchise and, on a smaller scale, Claire Denis’ Cannes Grand Prix winner, “Stars at Noon,” which was shot entirely in Panama last year and opened IFF Panama Dec. 2.  

Filming in Panama grew even more attractive last year when its 15% cash back rebate film incentive was upgraded to 25%. The minimum expenditure was lowered from $3 million to $500,000 for all productions, including feature films, TV series and videogames.

IFF Panama runs Dec. 2-4.

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