Island Locations: The Philippines

The Philippines had seen better days as a location destination. Boom time came in the ’80s when movies like “Apocalypse Now,” “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July” used lush spots in the main island of Luzon to shoot ‘Nam movies.

Major shoots continued through the ’90s, but by recent years the Philippines had so much trouble attracting production that “The Great Raid,” a World War II movie set on Bataan, about a battle where Filipino soldiers fought side by side with Americans, was shot in Australia.

Have the islands lost their attraction as a movie location? Not exactly. Not when two U.S.-based companies have dug their feet into two strategic locations in the country to pump blood into this aspect of moviemaking.

Bigfoot Entertainment, which aims to bring Hollywood to Asia, has built a 4.8-acre movie production complex worth $9 million in southern Cebu City’s much-touted new industrial hub, and offers production and post services to local and international markets. Its beachfront compound houses the Intl. Academy of Film and Television campus, where Hollywood filmmakers have hopped aboard as faculty. It is busy making indie feature films, television content and other product, and investing in emerging and established filmmakers in the region.

Bigfoot CEO Kacy Andrews says the Philippines has built-in attractions that make it worthwhile as an international location.

“Everyone speaks English. The weather is always hot. There are diverse terrain and shooting locations, like beaches, jungles, city. It offers economic savings,” she says.

Bigfoot is currently shooting its first feature film — actioner “Deep Gold” — in its facilities, which have two soundstages (one rated NC-24, making it the first true soundproof stage in the country) and the other boasting almost 12,000 square feet of floor space.

“We have more features scheduled to shoot in Cebu this year,” Andrews adds. “I am hoping the Philippines will come up with some tax breaks or other financial incentives to help attract foreign production.”

Closer to Manila, Shogee Studios, with offices in Santa Clara and Hong Kong, is in a joint venture with Cyber City Intl., an IT company, to put up the Clark Shogee Studio at the Clark Special Economic Zone. The studios will rise in 99 acres of the former American military base that have been transformed into a modern investments-and-logistics hub that attracts foreign business ventures.

Envisioned to be “the Hollywood of the Philippines,” there are huge tourism plans for the area, and a Universal Studios-like theme park is in the works.

An initial $2 million investment in CGI and visual effects will reach $10 million as the project completes its full three phases. The filmmaking studio will have 2-D and 3-D animation capabilities, with full production and post-production services.

Unlike Bigfoot, Shogee is located in an “ecozone,” an area earmarked by government for business, industrial and leisure development, and thus enjoys tax perks, duty-free privileges and more direct government support.

“Clark’s terrain and land area, the presence of world-class facilities and infrastructure like having the biggest international airport in the country, and its proximity to Manila have made the place attractive to Hollywood investors,” says Angelo C. Lopez Jr., head of Clark Development Corp.’s public affairs office. “The biggest attractions, however, are the people. They speak English, are skilled, creative, easy to train and ready for the technology.”

Even the nearby mountain ranges have been eyed by visiting Hollywood investors as Hollywood Hills material, Lopez says. “Maybe now they will really come alive.”

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