Film Friendly Mexico / Production / Filming guide / Take 4: Budgeting Mexico

Take 4: Budgeting Mexico

Mexico is one of the most competitive countries in terms of costs of materials and labor to build spectacular and impressive sets, making the most imaginative production designs a reality. There is a big number of Mexican artists and craftspeople who have built ships, spaceships, and entire cities for film and audiovisual productions.

Once the initial scouting of our country is finished, you will have a great amount of information at hand to budget Mexico as a film destination, with a clear idea of costs for transport, logistics, management fees and location rentals among other things.

To complete your production budget in Mexico and to lock costs before you establish your production office in the country, your local production manager will be sure to negotiate the best possible quotes for all the elements that will shape your below the line production budget: rental of studios and soundstages, equipment, camera, grip, electrical equipment, sound equipment, wardrobe, set dressing and props, physical special effects, catering and accommodation, as well as hiring local art directors, technical staff, set builders and all personnel who will form your workforce.

For this budgeting exercise on Mexico we suggest you to take note of the following recommendations:

  • It is important that your production manager makes sure that the costs stay fair and in correct proportion and that they are not artificially increased by being quoted for a grand scale foreign production.

  • It is advisable to do an advance economic exploration without mentioning that it is about a film production. Do some research on the microeconomics developing in every place where shooting is to be done, as base salaries and work days are subject to change. A cautious handling of these aspects will help to prevent the creation of artificial inflation in the region and therefore to avoid abuses in the quotations. This applies to local labor commonly involved in a production like carpenters, skilled workers, drivers and craftsmen.

Principal photography
  • Studios and Soundstages

    Mexico has two big movie studios, the Churubusco-Azteca Studios, in Mexico City, and the Baja Film Studios, in Rosarito, Baja California, which have provided production services to grand scale films and which often complement one another in their offer of services for the benefit of a production. You can also find in the country soundstages for TV commercials and audio-visual productions of medium or small scale.

    We invite you to consult the Studios section in Film-Friendly Mexico, where you will find more information about our infrastructure for audio-visual production as well as links for direct contact with the studios to request specific services quotation.

  • Equipment

    In Mexico there are specialized rental companies, with vast experience, that offer the latest in film or sound recording equipment, servicing both foreign and national productions. It is advisable that you get the rental tariffs of image and sound gear in your home country, and compare the prices with those of Mexico, taking into consideration in your cost analysis the expenses involved in the shipping fees.

  • Cameras

    In Mexico, rental companies supply with the best in cameras for film and audiovisual productions : Panavision, MovieCam, Arriflex, Alexa, Mitchel, Eclair, Aaton, Cinema Products, and fast cameras like the Phantom and the RED, with camera-related accessories such as the whole array of steady cams, Tyler mounts, grip mounts, fast, normal, close focus zoom and spherical (Frazier) lenses, among others. It is convenient to request the equipment well in advance to confirm availability. Any camera equipment not available in Mexico can be imported in a short period of time by Mexican camera rental companies.

  • Grip and Electrical Equipment

    In this branch there is a big variety of equipment available in the country through professional gear suppliers: silent DC and AC generators, dollies (Panther, Super Pewee, Elemack Spider, Elemack Cricket, Fisher, Doorway, Western, etc.) and cranes (Motion Control, Tulip, Pegasus, Javelin, Vinten and Technocrane). There are representatives of the main lighting brands for filming offering the whole array of lamps available: quartz, halogen, tungsten, HMI, soft lites, Fresnel, minibrutes, dinkies, stroboscopic, sun guns, fluorescent lights, among others.

  • Sound

    In Mexico, producers always find what they need in sound equipment through the extensive and updated catalogue of our recorder and microphone suppliers: Nagra, DAT, Tascam, Fostex Adat, Sony, Electronic, electronic slates, Xela mixers and Swintek, Sony and Senheiser wireless microphones.

  • Wardrobe

    Having the country a long textile industry tradition, it is customary to manufacture, more that to rent the wardrobe than is needed for a production. When a big wardrobe quantity is needed, a good alternative is to manufacture it. Compared to other countries, tailoring costs in Mexico are very low.

  • Decoration and Props

    In Mexico a production is often referred to antiquarians and collectors to rent or to buy articles for set decoration and props . A qualified decorator will help your prop specialist to define which of the articles needed by the production can be found in Mexico. Consider, in special cases, the need to import some of the articles which may not be found in Mexico.

    The labor of our country, which has deep roots in its vast artisan tradition, is of excellent quality, and its cost is very competitive. Everything can be created or recreated in Mexico in terms of construction or manufacture: the sets, decoration, props and wardrobe of James Cameron's Titanic was all made by specialized Mexican workers.

  • Special Effects

    Due to the big number of action movies filmed in Mexico, especially from the 80s, like Missing, Under Fire, Predator, Jumper, Titanic, Quantum, License to Kill, Rambo First Blood Part II, Man on Fire and Dune, among others, magicians like Kit West have left in Mexico a school of specialists in special effects and film pyrotechnics who offer all of their skill and experience for your production.

  • Transport

    There is wide variety of movie production transports available in Mexico, conditioned for diverse uses. For example, outside mobile units for stage equipment (grip) and lighting or for equipment in general, camera trucks with air conditioning and dark room, 8-ton trucks of 9 and 10.5 meters long and all kinds of vans.

    The established rental tariffs are normally only for the service in the Federal District and the metropolitan area. In case the production goes out of the city, the transport rental companies will have to provide a quotation in accordance with the destination of the units, taking into consideration the place, the days before and after the actual shooting on location, and the type of service that they will provide.

  • Catering and Accommodation

    Mexico has done of its hospitality, its tourist industries and its gastronomy a mark that distinguishes the country on a global scale. This quality level in catering and accommodation is available for your production. This is a country where your crew can eat fresh organic food and a wide variety of tropical fruits. We have specialists in film catering with many years of experience and with quality standards that assures the good and healthy feeding of your team. Mexico has some of the best international hotels chains, such as The Four Seasons, St. Regis, Marriot, Sheraton, Hilton etc., as well as luxury hotels created by Mexicans for the most demanding tastes.

  • Talent and Crew Hiring

    Once the decision to film in Mexico is taken, it is time to start the negotiation process with unions. Rates for crew and services will depend on the dimension of the project and of the negotiation that is conducted by the representatives of the production.

    The relation with the Mexican film labor unions for the making of your audio-visual project is an important element that should be granted special attention. These organisms establish the work rates of payment both for the locally-engaged personnel and the foreign personnel used in the production. In the Mexican film industry the main production labor unions are the STPC (Cinematographic Production Workers Union) and the STIC (Film Industry and Connected and Related Technicians Union of the Mexican Republic). These unions, aware of the big competition that exists on a global scale for attracting international film and audiovisual projects, have developed formulae in accordance with the requests and specific needs for every production.

    To hire local talent it is necessary to contact the labor union that represents the actors in Mexico, The National Actors Association (ANDA). Any talent hired in the country must be affiliated to this union.

    Your Mexican production manager is the professional indicated to contact, solve and negotiate any agreement that has to be signed with the labor unions, whose mandate is to watch for the integrity, the well-being and the rights of the national workers of the industry. To cultivate a personal relation with the workers and to establish direct communication channels with them will contribute to an excellent working atmosphere during your shooting in Mexico.

    Contact STPC
    Contact STIC
    Contact ANDA

Postproduction and visual effects

Not everything has to end for Mexico after completion of principal photography. Our country has creative talent in digital special effects and animation with high-level international experience, offering to any international production a competitive advantage in quality and costs. Mexican VFX professionals produced in Country-based studios part of the ground-breaking visual effects of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, winner of the Visual Effects Academy Award in 2008.

Film-Friendly Mexico recommends you to explore the possibilities of doing post and visual effects work for your project and discover the advantage of cost and quality that our country offers to your production.

The Mexico Advantage

Once you have finished budgeting Mexico as a film destination, we suggest you do a comparative analysis with other destinations factoring all Mexico trademark advantages:

  • Strategic geographic proximity to Hollywood and other production centers

  • All the locations and climates in the world in just one country

  • Competitive production costs

  • Highly skilled labor at competitive costs

  • State-of-the -Art film and audiovisual production infrastructure

  • Film-friendly government services platform

We are sure that in pondering the factors and variables that this exercise demands you will discover Mexico's competitive advantage, in terms of finance, experience and quality. The savings that you get in Mexico will greatly help compensate any excess in your above the line budget, and if your production exceeds 40 million pesos in production expenses in Mexico and/or if you decide to take the advantage of doing post and visual effects work in Mexico and spend more than 10 million pesos, you will have the chance of recovering a significant quantity of your expense if you apply to the ProAV Fund , a tax rebate-based system administered by ProMéxico.

Before you take your final decision we at Film-Friendly Mexico/ProMexico would welcome the chance to explore with you the details of your project and assist you, with the support of COMEFILM , in any aspect that needs a better negotiation or greater flexibility so that you can lock your below the line budget to your entire satisfaction. In Mexico we make everything possible.