Hollywood in the Caribbean: 4 Film-Friendly Locations on the Rise

Discovery’s Cuban Chrome Henran Montalvo - H 2015
Courtesy of Discovery Channel

Discovery’s Cuban Chrome with Henran Montalvo, is the first U.S. series filmed entirely in Cuba.

Compelling incentives and state-of-the-art studio facilities are luring A-Listers (Sandra Bullock), streaming giants (Netflix) and late-night hosts (Conan) to the exotic Caribbean islands.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Conan O'Brien took Cuba by storm on a February episode of TBS' Conan (a late-night first since 1960), and Puerto Rico's versatile locales recently have hosted Amazon's Mad Dogs, Sandra Bullock's awards hopeful Our Brand Is Crisis and Adam Sandler's The Do Over on its shores.

What's luring Hollywood to the Caribbean? Compelling incentives, state-of-the-art studio facilities and bilin­gual crews are a few of the reasons American filmmakers steadily are looking to the rich history and exotic locations of the Caribbean for production value.

Says Demetrio Fernandez Manzano, executive director of the Puerto Rico Film Commission, "We have film professionals who have been trained to shoot for the highest standards in film­making with experience in over 100 productions."


An episode of Conan was shot in Cuba.

Following President Obama's call to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba in December, the nation has seen a series of Hollywood firsts. The Discovery Channel's Cuban Chrome, a docuseries about the island's car culture, became the first American TV series to be filmed entirely in Cuba, and Bob Yari's Papa — the first foreign feature shot in Cuba since the Revolution — wrapped filming earlier this year. Currently, a 25 percent rebate program is offered for productions with a budget exceeding $1 million. Beginning in December, new nonstop charter flights (via American Airlines in partnership with Cuba Travel Services) from L.A. to Cuba will be available with a flight time of around six hours. Plan well in advance to avoid the deluge of tourist bookings.


Furious 7, with (from left) Ludacris, Michelle Rodriguez and Tyrese Gibson, was partially shot in the Dominican Republic.

Cabin Fever: Patient Zero, James Wan's Furious 7 and episodes of ABC's The Bachelorette are just a few of the recent productions to make use of the Dominican Republic, famous for its main tourist attraction, the Colonial City, and state-of-the-art studio facilities, including a 65,500-square-foot horizon water tank. For productions that meet a minimum investment of $500,000, the Dominican Republic film law offers a 25 percent tax credit in addition to value-added tax and custom duties exemptions. Experienced crews are capable of supporting up to six major productions simultaneously.


Puerto Rico stood in for Belize in the Amazon series Mad Dogs. 

Netflix's upcoming Adam Sandler comedy The Do Over and Warner Bros.' Sandra Bullock starrer Our Brand Is Crisis are among the films drawn to Puerto Rico's 3,500 square miles of terrain. "We wanted an interesting, exotic location, and it was fantastic," Steven Brill, director of The Do Over, tells THR. The Puerto Rico Film Commission, in addition to offering 40 percent pro­duction tax credit for residents and 20 percent production tax credit for nonresidents, has added to its competitive incentives program an additional 10 percent production tax credit on all films or shows in which the main story centers on or explic­itly mentions Puerto Rico.


Reality television, music video and commercial shoots for companies such as DirecTV and Disney Cruise Line have boosted the economy of the U.S. Virgin Islands, which has amassed nearly $7 million worth of productions so far this year. "Often, [production crews] have in mind a very quintessential beach look," says Steve Bornn, development manager at FilmUSVI. "But we have a lot of modern buildings and locations that you would never expect in a trop­ical locale." Bornn adds that local swamplands and jungles can double for Costa Rica or Brazil, thus cutting down on lengthy travel time, and a new incentives law offers up to 17 percent tax credit and 29 percent tax rebate.