Panama City offers a beautiful modern skyline, Spanish colonial buildings, new subway system, and a modern container port. Biomuseo, Frank Gehry’s first work in Latin America, adds a splash of color to the city.
Travelling from Panama City you can reach the Panama Canal within a few minutes, rainforests within 30 minutes, rivers and mountains within 45 minutes, beaches within 1 hour, and volcanoes with 2 hours.
The palm-lined, white sand, aqua marine San Blas Islands are 2 hours by boat or 20 minutes by air. Also on the Caribbean side lies Bocas del Toro, an ex-banana plantation turned paradise resort. On the Pacific side you can find pristine Coiba Island, a former penal colony, now nature reserve. Isla Escudo de Veraguas is home to the pygmy sloth.
Cost & Rebates
Panama uses the USD as legal tender. The greatest cost is the need to bring in your specialized equipment and possibly your key crew but that is offset by the relatively low cost of locations, talent, supporting crew, transportation, accommodation and meals. Panama is generally slightly more expensive than other Central American countries, but less expensive than Costa Rica.
Tax Incentives. Panama offers a 15% cash rebate on local production spend. The full rebate can be escrowed upfront with the bond company to cashflow the production. Requirements include a minimum $3 million spend. The incentive program covers feature films, television pilots, television series (broadcast and cable), television commercials, music videos, industrials, documentaries, video game design and creation, and other forms of content.
Panama also offers tax incentives such as tax-free temporary importation of all film equipment with no deposit required, as well as no payroll tax.
When To Shoot
Panama has a tropical climate. Temperatures in mountain areas and on the Pacific side tend to be lower than on the Caribbean. The dry season runs from December to May. This is the best time to film for weather. The rest of the year is rainy, with the greatest intensity of rain during the months of October and November.
Entry is subject to regulations from country of origin. Western passport holders can enter Panama visa-free for stays of up to 180 days. Visiting productions receive free work permits and reduced costs on multiple entry visas. Contact your local Panamanian embassy or representative for more information.
Cast, Crew & Equipment
Panama has a very small pool of local directors, directors of photography and stills photographers. Panama also has a small depth of good, fast working crews most of which speak English. Since it is still a small, developing production centre it may be necessary to bring in key crew depending on the availability of local crews. Talent day rates and buyouts are negotiable. Day rates are very reasonable and negotiated on a personal basis.
Panama offers mainly International-Latin and Amerindian looks. Several ethnic groups exist including the unique, colourful Kuna Indians that live on the picturesque San Blas Islands, or the Embera people who live in Darien Province. With the existence of the Panama Canal there is also a sizable community of US and European citizens. Standard camera, lighting and grip equipment is available locally. Local production companies have their own equipment and share when necessary. The overall stock of equipment is quite small. All specialized equipment and operators are required to be brought in from abroad. Miami is the closest major production centre. Mexico and Colombia also have a range of equipment and are cheaper alternatives than bringing equipment from the US.