Blockbuster Insights on Reel Economies

From left to right, Pierre Emile Vandoorne, Director of Public Policy for Latin America, Netflix, Catalina Dávila, Counselor, Embassy of Colombia, and Juan Manuel Cortelletti, Head of the Economic Section, Embassy of Argentina to the United States speak during a Diplocraft program at Meridian House in Washington, DC on November 9, 2023. Photo by Ralph Alswang.

November 9, 2023

In partnership with Netflix and the Inter-American Development Bank, Meridian welcomed a multisectoral audience to explore the far-reaching impact of screen industries on economic growth and prosperity. The program explored findings from the joint Netflix and IDB 2023 report, "The Economic Impact of the Screen Industries Latin America," featuring an expert lineup of speakers who examined the blockbuster impact of digital filmmaking on global economies. With introductory remarks by Meridian Vice President of the Meridian Center for Cultural Diplomacy TK Harvey, the speakers included:

  • Juan Manuel Cortelletti, Head of the Economic Section, Embassy of Argentina
  • Catalina Dávila, Counselor, Embassy of Colombia
  • Alejandra Luzardo, Sector Lead Specialist – Innovation, Inter-American Development Bank
  • His Excellency Esteban Moctezuma, Ambassador of Mexico to the United States of America
  • Juliano Seabra, Manager, Knowledge, Innovation and Communication Sector, Inter-American Development Bank
  • Pierre Emile Vandoorne, Director of Public Policy for Latin America, Netflix

Here are some top takeaways from the program:

1. From Screen to Economic Transformation: Spillover Impact

The film industry acts as a catalyst for spillover effects, uplifting sectors including infrastructure, car manufacturing, education, tourism, and hospitality. In a spotlight on Mexico, the city of Morelia experienced a 50% increase in tourism following the 2017 global animated film, “Coco” which colorfully represents the story of a young boy navigating Mexico’s rich music and culture. Literature is another beneficiary of the film industry. The Argentine book, “La ira de Dios” by Guillermo Martinez experienced a spike in demand after it was adapted into the movie “The Wrath of God.” Film output in Latin America attracts attention and brings dynamism to other regional industries, imbuing remarkable economic influence.

2. Government Incentives Igniting Industry Growth

Governments are power players in driving the success of national film industries. Strategic policy incentives, including  , have proven effective in São Paolo, Brazil, attracting production to the city and creating over 14,000 jobs. Similar programs have been initiated across the region, including in Mexico, saving production companies 17.5 percent, and in Colombia, where companies are incentivized by a 40 percent rebate on direct costs and 20 percent on accommodations. In Argentina, of the industry workforce have produced over 1,300 certified professionals, emphasizing the importance of effective governmental support. Government-led initiatives, like Mexico’s collaboration with private screen industry partners to nurture the local industry, exemplify a strategic approach to enhance the film sector's global footprint.

3. Streaming Drives Demand for Diverse and Inclusive Content

The advent of streaming giants like Netflix has driven growth in demand for and production of local content. From Netflix’s first non-English language production in 2011 to co-productions in Argentina and Colombia, the development of local industry carries tremendous power to accelerate representation of diverse voices on screen. Through the , 181 projects among Colombia’s indigenous and Afro-Latino communities were financially supported from 2006-2020. As a result of this incentive program and others, underrepresented populations are now involved in local productions and being represented in the process through responsible and ethical means. These initiatives are streamlining stories to a global audience to bring awareness of the amazing diversity of Latin America and the cultures they share.

4. A Beacon of Justice

The film industry in Latin America transcends economic benefits, acting as a lighthouse for human rights and environmental causes. The Oscar-nominated "Argentina, 1985" showcases the power of the rule of law and democratic institutions, while scenic portrayals like 2021’s animated fantasy film “Encanto” inspire governments to value and invest in conservation. The ability to display political and cultural narratives in Latin America has been pivotal in bringing to light social issues as well as highlighting the wonders within these countries that should be preserved. The audio-visual industry is not just an economic force, but a powerful architect of societal values, storyteller of global issues, and influencer of collective consciousness.

5. Screen Industries Shaping Cultural and Historical Legacies

Throughout Latin America and around the world, films shine a spotlight on their production locales. Having gained attention as an attractive destination for filming, public and private investment led to revitalizing of a local train station in Argentina and the broader development of the surrounding area. In cities and villages with indigenous or Afro-Latino representation, film productions upskill and employ the local workforce and have, in turn, canonized cultural and historical preservation, as evidenced by 2018’s “Roma” which follows a Mixtec protagonist in 1970’s Mexico, and family film “Encanto” portraying Afro-Colombian heritage with inspiration from Colombian region, Choco and hairstyles like chonta marimba. Screen industries around the globe have the potential to represent diverse traditional cultures and to revitalize historically significant landmarks.




Project summary

Blockbuster Insights on Reel Economies | November 2023
Regions: Western Hemisphere
Countries: Argentina, Colombia
Impact Areas: Cultural Diplomacy, Media and Journalism, Business and Trade
Program Areas: Diplomatic Engagement
Partners: Diplomatic Corps, Private Sector, NGOs, Public Sector