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Guatemala

Guatemala Film & Photography Production Services & Camera Crews

Are you a media company, brand, ad agency or production company looking for film / photography production support or shooting crew in Guatemala? Contact us for trusted fixers, producers, directors, DoPs, videographers, photographers, and full shooting crews tailored for the specific needs of your project.

Filming in Guatemala

For an introduction to shooting in Guatemala see below notes on film locations, permits, when to shoot, unique local stories, costs, tax incentives, crews, talent, equipment, communications, art department, studios, post facilities, visas and work permits for filming, transport, film-friendly accommodation, and safety advice.

Guatemala Film Locations 

Guatemala is a land of volcanoes, mountains, cloud forests, lakes, plantations, Mayan ruins and picturesque villages with colourfully dressed locals.

Agricultural locations of note include sugarcane, coffee, banana, corn, sunflower, and palm oil plantations. Guatemala is a world leader in the production of cardamom.

The country has played host to several productions including The Story of God With Morgan Freeman (2016), The Fountain (2006), Survivor Guatemala (2005)Moonraker (1979), and Star Wars (1977).

Film locations can be divided into the following regions:

Northern

The Northern region includes the department of Petén.

Northern Guatemala is mostly lowland plains and hardwood forest, dotted with banana plantations. Here you can find the impressive Mayan ruins of Tikal, where 70m (230ft) high pyramids rise up above a vast green forest. Part of  Moonraker (1979) and Star Wars (1977) were filmed in Tikal. Farther north excavations continue on the Mayan ruins of El Mirador, speculated to be the birthplace of Mayan civilization. Filming Mayan ruins in Guatemala is a much easier and less expensive alternative to filming in Mexico. Northern Guatemala also has the picturesque town of Flores, situated on a small island in Lake Peten Itza.

Central Highlands

The Central Highlands region includes the departments of Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Chimaltenango, Chiquimula, El Progreso, Guatemala, Jalapa, Sacatepéquez, and Zacapa.

The Central Highlands are marked by mountain ranges, jungle and dense forest with rolling clouds.

This is the more populated region where the capital Guatemala City is located. Guatemala City is the main production centre where local crew and equipment are based.

Just one hour from the capital you can find Antigua, a beautiful colonial city sitting in the shadow of the spectacular Volcan de Agua. Nearby Pacaya and Fuego are two of Central America’s most active volcanoes. Acatenango is another volcano of note in this area.

In the east of the region Finca Los Girasoles has beautiful sunflower fields.

In the northern part of the region you can find Semuc Champey limestone pools known for their turquoise waters and cascades in a dense jungle setting, an ideal film location for any beauty product. The nearby Lanquin Caves are home to thousands of bats that take flight every sunset.

Western Highlands

The Western Highlands region includes the departments of Quiché, Huehuetenango, Quetzaltenango, Sololá, and Totonicapán.

Lake Atitlán is a stunning mountain lake surrounded by several picturesque villages and volcanoes.

The village of Chichicastenango has a colourful Mayan Market on Thursdays and Sundays. San Francisco El Alto is another colourful market town.

Quetzaltenango is an interesting film location known for its Spanish colonial architecture such as Espiritú Santo Cathedral, the House of Culture and Municipal Theater. The city has a backdrop of volcanoes, including the towering Santa María with its active lava dome.

Pacific

The Pacific region includes the departments of Escuintla, Jutiapa, Retalhuleu, San Marcos, Santa Rosa, and Suchitepéquez.

Guatemala’s coastal plain is intensely cultivated with coffee, sugarcane, corn, and banana plantations.

Monterrico offers black sand beaches and nesting turtles.

El Paredon is a black sand surf beach.

Caribbean

The Caribbean region includes the department of Izabal.

Castillo de San Felipe is located at the entrance to Lake Izabal.

Finca El Paraïso is a beautiful waterfall location.

The Caribbean town of Livingston is home to a predominately Garifuna population, an Afro-Caribbean people. The culture of music, dance and cuisine is distinct to the rest of the country. One Garifuna dish of note is tapado, a seafood stew in a coconut broth.

Guatemala Film Location Permits

Guatemala film location permits for small shoots are typically same day or within a couple of days. Citywide permits for b-roll shoots are possible. Shoots that require traffic control or other exclusive use of public space take at least 7 days to permit and require consultation with local authorities and the police. Permits for aerial filming are only needed in Guatemala City and Antigua. Most aerial and national parks permits take about a week. Permission to shoot the Mayan ruins of Tikal has very little red tape as opposed to shooting Mayan ruins in Mexico which is very prohibitive. This easy access to shooting Mayan ruins is one of the main reasons to shoot in Guatemala. Allow at least 2 weeks to permit Tikal. Please contact us for more location specific information.

When To Shoot?

Guatemala has a wet season from May to October and a dry season from November to April. The wet season in the mountainous area of southern Guatemala typically has rainfall earlier in the day followed by clear skies and pleasant temperatures in the evenings. The dry season in the mountains is sunny with cooler temperatures particularly at night. This is the best time to film with hot days and less rainfall. Northern Guatemala and the Pacific coast is hot and humid throughout the year with high rainfall from May to October. For monthly weather statistics please see here.

Festivals and events of interest to filmmakers and photographers include:

• Coffee Harvest Celebration takes place in Fraijanes in February.
• Semana Santa takes place in March / April. Elaborate Catholic processions wind their way through Antigua’s cobblestone streets. Candlelight vigils are held. Streets are covered with colourful, aromatic carpets made of flowers, pines, clover and fruits.
• Folkloric Festival in Cobán (Rabinal Ajau) celebrates Guatemala’s Indio traditions in July.
• Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in November sees events such as wild horse racing and colourful kites flown over graveyards.
• Burning the Devil celebrations take place in December.

Public holidays may affect timing, availability and costs. See here for public holiday dates in Guatemala.

Unique Local Stories

Brands are looking for local stories that match their brand narrative. Our local teams are a great lead for sourcing those unique stories and characters.

If you are looking for stories for your next shoot, send us your brief and we will pitch you ideas.

If you have a unique story you would like to pitch to a brand anywhere in the world, pitch us your idea. We have well-established processes to ensure that your ideas are properly seen and protected.

Costs & Tax Incentives

Costs. Local costs, such as locations and talent, are inexpensive. Most visiting productions prefer to bring in their own key crew and equipment which will add to production costs. On the whole, Guatemala is a very cost competitive film destination. Our Guatemalan fixer / service producer will negotiate local deals and provide the appropriate level of production support to match every budget.

Tax Incentives. At present there are no tax incentives for foreign commercials or films shooting in Guatemala.

Film Crew & Talent

Crews. Guatemala has a very small pool of local directors, directors of photography and stills photographers. Local crews have a limited depth of experience in international productions. Most visiting productions choose to bring in their own key crew.

Contact us if you are looking for a director, DP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, or any other film crew for your shoot in Guatemala.

Talent day rates are very reasonable and buyouts are negotiated on a personal basis. Casting facilities are rather undeveloped so most casting is done in house. Guatemala offers mostly Amerindian looks (Mayan and Xinca) with some Mestizo and European faces also available. The Caribbean town of Livingston is made up predominately of Garifuna people. All other talent looks need to be cast abroad.

Guatemala Film Equipment

Equipment. Guatemala has most of the standard camera, lighting and grip equipment available locally including 12K HMI lights, RED cameras, and 10 metre Jimmy Jibs. If more sophisticated equipment is required, this can easily be trucked in from Mexico City. Alternatively, Guatemala is a short 2 hour flight from Miami.

For visiting crews looking to carry in small amounts of gear, our Guatemalan fixer / producer will provide you with a Guarantee Letter to present at customs. For larger productions looking to bring in more gear, Guatemala is an ATA carnet country. We can arrange a customs broker to ensure hassle-free entry and exit of your gear.

Communications. Communication is key. Our agility and global experience allows us to customise the right communications systems for every shoot.

Web posted casting, scouting, and videoconferencing.

For clients that are unable to attend set we offer a virtual video village solution. This dedicated and secure high-resolution video streaming platform allows clients from one or multiple timezones to view setups without compromise and to participate in real-time with the team on set. Separate systems can be set up for the discrete conversations that are required to make a job run right. Working remotely with our local teams reduces your content production costs, turnaround times, carbon footprint, and risks associated with unpredictable global events.

Art Department, Studios, Backlots, & Post Production

Art department and set construction. Limited to mostly local looks. Guatemala has a couple of good, albeit expensive, art directors. Set construction crews are inexpensive. Guatemala is known for its colourful chicken buses (old converted American school buses) that are available for filming.

Studios and backlots. None exist at present.

Post Production. Post abroad.

Visas & Work Permits

Entry is subject to regulations from country of origin. US, EU and other western passport holders can enter visa-free for up to 90 days. Contact your local Guatemalan embassy or representative for more information. 

Transport & Accommodation

Transportation. Guatemala has an extensive, well maintained road network. Some rural roads are slower going particularly in the wet season. Our Guatemalan producer / fixer organises safe and reliable transportation. Several international airlines service flights to Guatemala.

Accommodation. Our network offers clients and members up to 40% off the rack rate on recommended Guatemala City hotels as well as very competitive rates in Antigua, Atitlan, and Tikal hotels. Recommended film friendly hotels in Guatemala include:

Guatemala City:
Hotel Vista Real
La Inmaculada Hotel

Tikal & Flores (for Mayan ruins):
Jungle Lodge

Antigua Guatemala (for colonial looks):
D’Leyenda Hotel

Please contact us for special film industry rates. For longer stays we can also organize serviced apartments.

Final Notes

Safety. See here for up to date travel advice. Our Guatemalan fixer / producer arranges armed guards when filming in more remote areas.

Down Time. Take a few days off to relax by Lake Atitlán.

Projects. For an example of TV commercials, stills campaigns, online content, corporate videos, virtual reality 360 content, feature films, TV series and documentaries shot in Guatemala, please see below:

Hire Guatemala Production Support & Shooting Crew

If you are looking for a film or photographic production service company, line producer or fixer for your shoot in Guatemala, please contact us.

If you are looking for a shooting crew for your shoot in Guatemala, such as a director, DoP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, please contact us.

We are able to provide you with answers, references and bids quickly.