More famously known for the Panama Canal, Panama in Central America is a relatively fresh destination for filmmakers looking for a tropical backdrop
Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is the southernmost country of Central America. With its relative proximity to the US and more than 30,000 square miles of
terrain, Panama presents filmmakers with a variety of locations, including tropical rain forest, Caribbean beaches, volcanic areas, islands and a cosmopolitan skyline.
Panama is bounded on the north by the Caribbean Sea and to the south by the Pacific Ocean. It shares its eastern border with the Republic of Colombia, and is bordered on the west by the Republic of Costa Rica.
Filmmakers shoot in Central America and set their sights on tourist-soaked Costa Rica and Guatemala, so it’s hard to shake the feeling that while in Panama, you’re in on a secret the rest of filmdom is yet to discover. In fact, Panama’s highlights are still very much off-the-beaten-path destinations, though it’s likely that this will change in years to come.
Blue-green seas, foggy highlands and snaking rivers that fringe a great tropical wilderness, It is the perfect location to shoot. Panama remains accessible to filmmakers on an affordable budget, and there’s no shortage of beaches, mountains and rain forests to explore.
Although the canal has defined Panama for the last century, it’s what lies just beyond this engineering marvel that could define the next hundred years. Pristine beaches, lush rainforest and big-city nightlife offer a taste of the country’s outstanding assets. Always a creature of potential, Panama lives with a sharp contrast between its urban and rural counterparts. Panama City is all sparkling skyscrapers, cement mixers and scaffolding.
Panama has a tropical climate. The temperatures are relatively high and vary during the year. In Panama City, temperatures typically range in from 24 °C to 29 °C. In the Pacific Ocean side of the country, the temperatures are usually lower than in the Atlantic side. Nevertheless, the country has a tropical climate all around. It is always recommended to use tropical clothing and try to stay away from direct sunlight for long periods of time.
Benefits for the film industry
Tax incentives such as tax-free temporary importation of all film equipment with no deposit required
No payroll tax
Low labour costs (there are no film industry trade unions in Panama)
Customs and immigration benefits (certain immigration service fees are greatly reduced, and some altogether eliminated, for film and audiovisual production companies). Cost of visa as well as processing fees are offered at a reduced rate. In addition, multiple entries into the country are permitted with the visa
Work permits are free
Special economic areas are provided for the development of the film industry
Considerably low location permit costs, depending on location
Temporary Residency Visas are provided for film industry related work
Permanent Residency Visas are provided to film and audiovisual industry investors
One-stop shop for all film production paperwork and licencing
Fiscal and tax waiver incentives for film and audiovisual companies
Political, economic and legal stability
Low costs of labour, transportation, lodging, meals and production services
Excellent living and safety conditions
Special areas which provide fiscal benefits are available for the development of the film industry
Unexplored landscapes: most areas of Panama have not been filmed by international film and audiovisual productions
Preserved historic landmarks such as the Panama Canal and several UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Pick from a variety of geographic landscapes and diverse architecture which provide endless possibilities to recreate settings of other countries
Geographic landscapes include extensive low and highlands, century-old rain forests, pristine and secluded beaches of both black and white sand, volcanic settings and deserts, varied coastlines bordering Caribbean and Pacific waters, all easily accessible and with convenient proximity
Architectural diversity including a major city with a modern skyline of high-rise buildings, picturesque colonial and modern neighborhoods, as well as rural towns and villages throughout the country
A multi-ethnic culture and the region´s most impressive biodiversity with an abundance of natural landscapes
Important facts about filming in Panama
The country of Panama requires a permit when filming on public property
It requires a road closure permit for any production that interferes with the normal flow of traffic
Large, long-stay productions filming on public property must carry a minimum of $ 1 million liability insurance and $ 100,000 workers’ compensation plus third party liability
All productions filming in residential or commercial neighborhoods are advised to notify and provide leaflets to all the residents.