This article was originally published in Spanish by Isabella Cota from El País.
Temu production for the 2023 Super Bowl. Photo by Rebeca Becerra
It’s not only Tesla. US Companies are moving their manufacturing operations from China to Mexico, but the country is also experiencing another type of nearshoring: the audiovisual industry. Rising cost pressures in the United States, geographic proximity, and award-winning Mexican talent have made Mexico an attractive film and television production destination. Last year, foreign direct investment in the film and video industry in Mexico reached $5.332 billion, up from $23 million in 2020, according to data from the Federal Government.
Direct investment in film and video in Mexico City alone rose by 49% from 2020 to 2021, with a total investment of $563 million, according to data from the Film Commission of the Government (CFilma). In the past two years, ten commercials produced for the Super Bowl, the most crucial advertising day in the US, were made in Mexico, according to Avelino Rodriguez, CEO of Mexico’s largest audiovisual production company, The Lift, and president of the National Chamber of the Cinematographic Industry (Canacine). This year, five alone were produced in Mexico and he added “this should have been six, as it’s a territory we have won.”
Turbotax, SuperBowl 2023 Ad
Avelino Rodríguez’s enthusiasm is contagious. “This is an exciting, hard-working generation who makes art with the understanding that business also plays an important role,” says Rodríguez. Some days before receiving EL PAIS in his office in the San Miguel Chapultepec neighborhood, in Mexico City, Rodriguez met with the country’s labor minister, to underline Mexico’s enormous potential and the importance of seizing the moment.
In 2020, the US imposed mobility restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while Mexico was more lenient. This led the US film industry to come to Mexico, and while doing so, it discovered other competitive advantages, including the consistently good weather in Mexico’s center zone, making filming easier. Additionally, the salary of a technical worker in the US is between three and four times higher (in the case of post-producers, the difference is 10 to one), making Mexico a more cost-effective option. With the labor market in the US continuing to tighten, geographic proximity, and “world-class Mexican talent” Mexico is becoming an even more attractive destination, explains Rodríguez.
The successes of Mexican film directors such as Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón, and Guillermo del Toro have helped to create momentum for the industry throughout the country. Mexican costume designers, art directors, and other technical workers are now recognized for their world-class skills.
“One of the Super Bowl commercials was made by a Mexican costume designer competing with the best in the world and many Oscar winners. We have had art directors, Oscar winners, who come and say, ‘Why is she my assistant? She’s better than me!”, explains Rodríguez.
Irish Spring, Super Bowl 2022 ad. Photo by Eduardo Herce
In the latest final selection of the annual award given by the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP), 15% of the work was done in Mexico, and four commercials earned a mention, earning them a place in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA). Every recognition in this industry counts, especially when competing with countries like Spain, Portugal, Iceland, Canada, Uruguay, and Chile, which are well-positioned and offer incentives.
The audiovisual industry’s growth in Mexico also has a positive economic impact on the tourism sector. Even if the production team is local, American companies in charge of the projects travel to Mexico to supervise the production, creating a demand for premium hotel rooms. “We were the lifeline of the premium tourism sector during the pandemic.” said Rodriguez “Last year, The Lift booked 8,500 nights at the Four Seasons hotel, making it the chain’s largest client, even larger than Formula One, JPMorgan, and Ford. Every time we are entrusted with a production service, there will be supervision from those who hired us for the work.”
Next Tuesday, the head of government of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, will meet with executives from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPA) and Amazon Prime, the streaming platform, at the presentation of the CFilma statistical yearbook. “The opportunity to generate excellent results will strengthen the industry and allow it to take advantage of the current nearshoring trend,” says Rodríguez.
“The possibilities that exist at a time when the American market is becoming as expensive as it is and the Mexican market is gaining so much creative traction” are great, says Rodríguez. “I think it is a moment where there is a generational bonus in Mexican talent that is positioning itself.”