Puerto Rico preps for bow of $15 mil complex

Puerto Rico’s film industry will receive a boost with the construction of $15 million Caribbean Studios, Puerto Rico’s first movie studio, located in Canovanas.

The first step in the planned four-phase El Comandante Entertainment Complex, Caribbean Studios will offer facilities for film, TV and photography. The project is a joint venture between Interstate General Properties — a subsidiary of 40-year-old real estate corporation Interstate General — and Caribbean Film, Television and Studio Fashion Corp.

The studio contains two 12,500-square-foot soundstages, four still-shot studios, a workshop, photo and media labs as well as production and post-production facilities and other amenities. The project also incorporates a technical training school for local filmmakers. A 10-acre backlot complements the facility.

With summer 2000 the expected completion date, the studio will go into production with Hamilton Entertainment Group’s TV series “Dream Team”. Roger Moore toplines the actioner as head of a modeling agency that serves as a front in the war against international terrorists and drug trafficking.

Approximately two years of negotiations between Hamilton, government officials and the Puerto Rico Film Commission netted a tax credit of $25 million against a $75 million production expenditure in Puerto Rico by Hamilton, said Manuel Biascoechea, executive director of the Puerto Rico Film Commission.

The studio hopes to draw business from the Latin American market.

“The Latin American market is wide open and since we speak the same language, we can use our financiers, producers and distributors to boost the Latin America film industry. They, in turn, will then transform our industry into one of the most powerful,” said Elia Enid Cadilla of the Motion Picture Council.

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Film and TV production in Florida should get a boost now that the Motion Picture & Television Underwriters Society & Foundation has been formed.

Created with private funds, the society is a nonprofit organization that plans to use financial incentives, such as grants, to entice Los Angeles and New York-based producers to Florida. The org also aims to help independent Florida producers.

The group, headed by Robert Weneck, wants to develop a permanent state film industry and jobs, particularly to benefit students studying the arts, film and TV who are attending Florida schools.

Many productions shoot in Florida, but, Weneck said, “the studio people come in, bring their own crews, shoot and leave. The economic impact for the area is minimal.”

Palm Beach County film commissioner Chuck Elderd estimates that film and TV production in Florida generates about $2.5 billion a year — mostly from TV production — a number that he says has been rising steadily.

But a TV exec who visited the state recently told Weneck, “You have the weather, you have shown the desire to have a film industry. You know what you don’t have? The money.”

“Our members represent the who’s who of Florida and the film and TV industry,” said Weneck, who serves as TV development chair of the Broward County Film & Television Commission. He is presently a candidate for Florida state film commissioner.

– Kay Chang

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