Written by Kianna Best on Dec 7, 2022. Posted in On Location

PSN takes top tier filmmakers to explore possibilities of Portugal

PSN along with six top tier filmmakers took a trip to the landscapes of Portugal to explore its endless filming possibilities. With guests from PGGB, LMGI and PGA, the industry professionals were able to discover the uncovered beauties of the region from the breadth of stunning sites to the captivating culture.


Two weeks ago, Production Service Network (PSN) hosted half a dozen filmmakers for a familiarisation trip to Portugal. On one hand satisfying some of the preconceptions of the south-west European country, the visitors were also able to discover the more unknown beauties of surrounding areas like Madeira. With a general sentiment of awe toward the whole experience, the guests, including producer Mark Foligno, PGA producer Bruce Hendricks, and LMGI location managers Harriet Lawrence, also associated with PGGB, Klaus Darrelamann, Sabine Schulmeyer and John Rakich, shared their thoughts while soaking in the sights.


What surprised you about coming to Portugal?

HL -  I hadn’t realised how close all sorts of other exciting bits were to Lisbon. And obviously, coming to Madeira, there is such a vast array all within an hour of Funchal so that’s really exciting.


SS -  Lisbon was quite a nice surprise. It’s very cinematographic. Very different and very unique at the same time. It wasn’t on the radar that much so it was good to come and have a look.


JR -  You get so much within one land mass. I mean, in the last few days I’ve seen both continents, both hemispheres, and right now I’m staring at a landscape my mind is having a hard time comprehending. I don’t know why this hasn’t been on film numerous times.


MF - What has surprised me is the actual infrastructure of film and television that is here that I didn’t realise was going to be so deep. There’s obviously a lot of high-end commercials done in the country you know for some global brands. It seems to be a destination of choice for commercials but not yet film. I think that what you find, with me a as a filmmaker, is that you’re going to have to look at new locations for people to see different views of the world, and you’re always looking for that. Surprisingly, Portugal hasn’t been used in films as much as you’d think it would’ve done. So yeah it’s impressive.


I can't keep looking away. It's hard not to dart my eyes in every direction while I'm here right now. It's gorgeous. It's perfect.

- John Rakich, Location Manager, LMGI


Why should people keep Portugal on their radar for filming?

BH - The thing that you really have to be here to see is just the beauty. You know, there’s just so many different looks from historic to contemporary. You could have a double for places in the United States. You could have a double for places for most anywhere in Europe. There’s just a lot of variety that you’re not aware of until you’re here.


SS  -  You can bring a truck easily up here you know. You can have a base camp close to set wherever. We didn’t go anywhere where I felt like, OK, it’s nice to walk up here but you couldn’t bring a film crew. No. Everywhere we’ve been, it would be a no brainer. You have the trucks right here. You have the base camp right there. It all works.


JR -  I came with an open mind and it blew me away. I mean the endless opportunities this country has from the main part and here in Madeira are just phenomenal. It’s untapped, it’s what everyone is looking for. It’s really why Portugal should be on everyone’s radar soon.



How has being in Portugal opened up your mind to the filming opportunities in the country?

KD - It is in hitting distance to a lot of film hubs so it’s not like out of the world. That’s a big plus; that you’re very close to other cities as well so if you have to shoot somewhere else for other reasons or you need a big stage, then you’re not out of the worl and you have a variety of locations that you can find here in Portugal.


BH -  There’s even more than that on Madeira. I mean, there were places yesterday that I thought we could be in New Zealand or Colorado. You know, the American West. It’s so varied. And with different climate zones here on the island, it’s so amazing.


MF - There’s no need to go to Hawaii when you have an island right off the coast of Europe. For any European filmmaker, this is a really great alternative, and obviously, a very cost effective alternative. From the unbelievable surf that we were witnessing over the last couple of days, from the mountains to the forests, the waterfalls to the rivers. You know it has a really beautiful selection of countryside which you really can see an adventure sportsman would love but also which cinematographers would love. And that’s really why we’re here. And you know, I can see it and we’ll definitely, hopefully, utilise it.


SS -  The mountain roads, they could be like the Alps of Austria, they could be Spain, could be Mallorca, or South Europe. Could be Croatia if you think about a castle. It feels Californian, you know, outdoors. You immediately think healthy food, a lot of outdoor activities, you have the ocean, I can see you have palm trees and lush vegetation, so I get why they say California.



With the development of technology in regards to location filming, why is it still so important to have these in person travel experiences?

HL -  Standing there in a town is always completely different to however detailed your research is. So I think, in this world of endless images, that early desktop research is great, and those conversations from film commissions and things bring images in, but you still need to go and look at it.


MF -  There is nothing like being there, and meeting people and seeing people. You know, obviously, there is so much you can see on a computer these days, and you can do zooms with people, and you can actually do Microsoft Teams with people, but there’s nothing like, excuse the phrase, but I know Bill Clinton used it, “pressing the flesh”. And you know, I think that meeting people, enjoying each other’s company, getting to know and trust people, is really important for a filmmaker. So locations familiarisation tours like this are really important.


KD -  You can go Google scouting, you can go street view scouting, but it never replaces the experiences to look at the place, to talk to the people, to experience the local production services that kind of drag you there, that bring you there for them to present what they have. This all gives you the impression that, OK, this is something I feel safe about. I would put my foot here and I feel like I’m in friendly waters. I’m in safe waters. That’s why it’s so important to do these FAM tours so people can actually experience first-hand, then the word gets out, and more people hear about it and get interested, and that’s how you drag productions in.


JR -  I don't know it's there until I see it. And I don't see it in a picture book. You want to see it with your eyes because then we can convey with our images and discussion the reality of what we saw, the passion of what we saw and the potential of it. There is something to being in the moment, in the room, in the space where it happened.


 I think once people are here they want to come back

- Bruce Hendricks, Producer, PGA


What was your takeaway from coming to Portugal?


KD - Modern architecture has been added to the landscape which is always a big plus so it kind of ticks more boxes. And obviously going to Madeira was quite a revelation because it is such a condensed mass of locations that you find in a very small place. You only have to travel an hour or a bit and you have the whole island at your disposal.


MF -  Madeira I knew was going to be a very beautiful island but I didn't realize the contrast in locations and geographies were so vast.


SS -  Madeira, I thought, it's like an island for pensioners, you know, I really have to admit that was my impression; a lot of parks with flowers. You know, it's always good to go and have a look and find out but it's really a super nice island. You get amazing views and crazy mountain roads so, yeah, immediately you think you go take a drone you just have your hero car going down the road here and there are excellent views in every direction. You can change with the altitude, change, now we are above the clouds, you know, you can be on the sunny side, you have a cloud forest which we just drove through so you can find a lot of magic areas, beautiful harbour areas, the ocean is amazing, the tropical plantation, the vegetation, that's more than I imagined.


JR - The time is now to start coming here. Stake your claim. Get it on camera before anyone else does. This will develop into what it should be, an amazing production centre.


HL -  I’ve been to Madeira before, and I’ve not really seen anything that I saw twenty years ago. We did a lot of walking in forests and going up mountains and things, whereas you’ve shown us very different stuff, so it’s broadened my horizons by coming here.



Images courtesy of PSN


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