The potential for growth in the cultural sector is enormous, and Colombia offers numerous investment opportunities in this area. While other Latin American capitals like Buenos Aires have more than 300 theatres, for example, Bogotá has only 30. To promote the construction of infrastructure for the arts, we created a law of public performances, which envisages a 100% tax exemption for private investors who invest in building this kind of infrastructure. The law also removes the tax burden for international artists who wish to perform in Colombia. Previously, high taxes prevented artists from considering Colombia when touring in Latin America. Now that the tax environment has changed, we expect the country to receive more big events in coming years.
While the development of the theatre and performing arts segments has created a notable appetite, our focus has been on the audio-visual sector since the adoption of the Law of Cinema in 2003. This law was created to make Colombia a competitive destination for filming at the international level by offering incentives for investors in line with those being extended by other countries in the region. A second objective was to enhance technology and learn from advanced processes. Another provision of the law is that a portion of the price of a cinema ticket goes to a fund for the development of cinematography. The fund allocates its capital to projects through an open and transparent process whereby national and international jury members award resources to different areas of filmmaking, including scriptwriting, production (which receives about 70%) and post-production. Between this fund and tax incentives, more than $100m were allocated to the sector in 2013.
The domestic film industry that the fund promotes is now represented in international festivals such as Cannes, Sundance and Venice. We aim to build a strong industry so that Colombia can grow as a destination for filmmaking, leveraging its production costs, which are favourable compared to other countries in the region. With this purpose in mind, a second cinema law was approved in 2012. Movies shot in Colombia using Colombian talent now receive a rebate of 40% of their investment, and are further refunded 20% of logistics expenses.
Only four months after the law came into effect, we approved five projects, including two from Argentina, one from the US and another from Spain. We hope to have international teams filming in Colombia permanently in future. Bogotá and Medellin are positioning themselves as emerging filming centres thanks to the opening of new production and post-production laboratories. Medellin is thinking about developing a “creative city”, for which further investments are needed in technological innovation applied to audio-visual arts. At the same time, the number of universities offering academic studies in cinema, audio-visual and television production is increasing. Private television channels are getting more and more involved in co-producing films. All of this helps international companies to start seeing Colombia as an appealing destination.
The sector’s legal framework ensures stability for investments. Because of public sector efforts and the enactment of these filming laws, the industry is consolidating. We have increased the number of skilled professionals and widened the range of landscapes that can be used for shooting scenes. Our next steps will include incentives that encourage the entire chain, from conceiving movies to their distribution and presentation in theatres. Among our priorities is to find a way to boost the number of people who go to Colombian movies, which still struggle to find exposure against foreign ones. Our goal is to ensure that the public funds allocated for these films find an adequate economic return. In sum, Colombia needs to keep strengthening public policies that support culture as a whole, particularly the audio-visual and film sector, which we expect to be an important driver of foreign investment.