Lisbon is attracting more attention than ever and leaving production hotspots like Cape Town behind, says Jack Alexandre
David Beckham demands attention. In H&M’s latest campaign, ‘Modern Essentials selected by David Beckham’, old golden balls is seen pottering around a city sporting his newest clothing line. Every passerby mimics Becks’ outfits, but clothes and celebrity aside, the real star of the show is Lisbon itself.
The Portuguese capital has been flying under the location radar for some time, but Lisbon is finally starting to gain the recognition it deserves. For Jack Alexandre, Producer at Lisbon-based production company SouthWest Productions, the city is starting to battle with the big boys in becoming a globally renowned location hotspot.
As a South African native, Jack honed his skills in and around the Cape Town area, but following his switch to Portugal, he now feels that his adoptive nation has closed the gap on his homeland.
“For the past 20 years or so, Cape Town has been seen as one of those locations where diverse shooting opportunities and cost effective pricing converge in one perfect spot,” explains Jack. “However, in recent years, the city and the surrounding areas have begun to lose the unique feel that first made it popular. More and more productions are casting off from the Cape to look elsewhere - with many landing on Lisbon’s shores.”
The underrated capital is one of the oldest cities in Europe – centuries older than London, Paris and even Rome – and boasts an impressive combination of old ruins, cityscapes and architectural styles ranging from Romanesque and Baroque, to Gothic and Postmodern.
With such diverse locales on offer, Lisbon is one of those rare cities that can ‘double’ as many others. SouthWest's work with Volkswagen, for example, demanded a city scene that would complement the car itself, whilst also presenting a location that was capable of giving off that universal city feel.
The Portuguese coastline, boasting both white sandy beaches and rough cliff faces, has been used in a number of high profile campaigns as a ‘double’ for another location. In 2010, creative agency adam&eveDDB used a beach about 80 miles south of Lisbon to double as the Australian coast for their Foster’s agony uncle series.
With Lisbon quickly becoming seen as a location that has everything that more established locations have to offer, not to mention the added benefit of being in Europe and the EU, many commercial, music videos and film productions have started to shun the long-haul flight.
“We at SouthWest have been going non-stop so far this year, and we expect to be continuing this pace as 2016 continues. There is so much on offer here it’s no real surprise that Lisbon is starting to trump locations like Cape Town. There’s great casting opportunities from Portugal’s very diverse, multicultural population; one of the mildest yet sunniest climates in Europe means filming season never really ends; local equipment rental houses service virtually any need; local post production houses mean post can begin straight after a wrap; and, perhaps most importantly in times like these, Portugal is quite possibly the most film-budget friendly country in all of Western Europe.”
“Cape Town will always be a treasured location," Jack concludes. "However, Lisbon is really making a name for itself. South Africa has been used so exhaustedly that its originality is wearing thin, but Lisbon and the rest of Portugal is ready to fill the gap.”
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