Caribbean Filmmaking: 5 Island Spots Worth the Trip
From a Ben Affleck-starrer to a Bond movie, the perfect beaches, lush jungles and unique cityscapes attract Hollywood with robust incentives.
This story first appeared in the May 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Despite the recent global recession, international film locations with established infrastructure are thriving, especially those that boast diverse landscapes and few logistical headaches. The Caribbean offers both, with islands such as Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas -- which hosted the Cannes out-of-competition entry All Is Lost last year -- also establishing specific incentives and policies to promote this booming sector.
With its proximity to the U.S. (no passport required in cases like the U.S. Virgin Islands), and experienced film commissions, the Caribbean is fielding more international film shoots each year and recently has welcomed top brand commercials, Disney Channel productions and the latest Ben Affleck flick.
With about 3,500 square miles of terrain -- including plains, mountains, jungles, cities, lakes and 350 miles of coastline -- Puerto Rico offers a diversity of locations within a few hours' drive of one another. Puerto Rico's 40 percent production tax credit on payments to local companies and individuals, and a 20 percent production tax credit on nonresidential individuals, make it the finest Caribbean location in terms of incentives. "We have all the benefits and protections available on the U.S. mainland, including applicability of U.S. labor, safety and minimum wage laws, U.S. intellectual property and banking protections and U.S. currency," says film commissioner Demetrio Fernandez Manzano. Recent Hollywood shoots include the Affleck starrer Runner, Runner and Disney Channel's Teen Beach Movie.
The first Hollywood film ever shot outside of the U.S., 1916's Daughter of the Gods, was made in Jamaica. The local film commission is the region's oldest -- it opened in 1984 -- and offers the most comprehensive services, including location assistance, film licenses, work permits and duty/tax waivers. "Jamaica boasts some of the most experienced crews in the region, given the length of time Jamaica has been in the film industry," says film commissioner Kim Marie Spence. Since 2010, Knight & Day, America's Next Top Model and BBC's Small Island have been shot in Jamaica. Ian Fleming wrote many of his James Bond novels on the island -- 1962's Dr. No was filmed there.
U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS
Its three islands -- St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John -- offer long country roads, interior and beachside jungles, lush rain forests, quaint European towns and cosmopolitan settings. No passport is required for U.S. citizens in this English-speaking, dollar-run economy. Although the USVI currently does not offer formalized tax incentives, the film office does provide support on a case-by-case basis, often amounting to a generous subsidy package.
International Finance Corp., a member of the World Bank Group, recently announced a $20 million investment in the Dominican Republic's first full-service film and television studio facility. Pinewood Indomina Studios will offer production and postproduction services for regional and international film and television projects. Located about 40 miles east of the capital, Santo Domingo, the facility is expected to start operating by the end of 2013. Says Ary Naim, IFC's country head for the Dominican Republic: "With its diverse landscapes and good infrastructure, the Dominican Republic is well positioned to compete in this dynamic sector and capitalize on its benefits -- from job creation to innovation and development."
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
This pair of islands has all the aesthetic benefits of an island nation -- varied topography, crystalline waters, etc. -- without falling prey to the hurricanes that plague most Caribbean nations. According to Carla Foderingham, CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Co., T&T offers up to 50 percent cash back up to $3 million through a production expenditure rebate. "In 2013, the rebate was revised upwards from 35 percent to include an additional 15 percent cash back for the hire of local labor." The 2012 Canadian-deportee drama Home Again, starring Tatyana Ali, was shot in Trinidad and Tobago (doubling for Jamaica), and Trinidad native Nicki Minaj shot her "Pound the Alarm" music video there.