Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico bait film producers

The Cayman Islands’ newly launched film commission hopes it will be as successful as neighboring island Puerto Rico’s has been.

Over the past two years, Puerto Rico has attracted Steven Soderbergh’s “Che” and George Clooney starrer “Men Who Stare at Goats,” thanks to a generous 40% tax rebate. Both pics spent more than $12 million in Puerto Rico, an unprecedented amount since its film commission started touting its rebate in 2005.

In the past, the Caymans has attracted “The Firm” starring Tom Cruise, as well docus, television specials, photo shoots and musicvideos.

The British overseas territory is a tax-neutral jurisdiction, which means no income, corporate or sales taxes, says Dax Basdeo, executive director of the Cayman Islands Investment Bureau and interim film commissioner. “We will be looking at ways to bring that forward to support the growth and development of the film industry in the Cayman Islands.”

Undoubtedly, Puerto Rico is the envy of the region.

According to deputy film commissioner Cristina Caraballo, Puerto Rico subbed for Iraq, Iran and Kuwait in the Clooney pic.

This year, Johnny Depp’s “The Rum Diary” will shoot entirely in Puerto Rico where it is expected to spend north of $12 million.

Revenues from location shoots in Puerto Rico have shot up from $5.5 million in 2005 to $36.2 million last year. Meanwhile, “The Good Shepherd” and “Miami Vice” tapped the Dominican Republic, spending an estimated $2 million each.

The country offers free shooting permits and import duty exemptions. A pending film bill in Congress includes a 25% rebate for productions which pledge to spend at least $1 million on location as well as a five-year exemption from a 16% sales tax to investors in exhibition, production facilities and other key audiovisual infrastructure. Bill is expected to pass two to three months from now.

“We are also mulling the possibility of offering a single permit to shoot in all locations,” says Marlon Soto, director of the Dominican Republic’s Film institute, Direccion Nacional de Cine.

Local film production has also boomed, adding to the country’s roster of skilled crew. “Local film releases have grown from one to two films a year to the expected 13 this year,” says Soto.

As Hollywood has been discovering, these island countries have much more to offer than just pristine beaches and sleepy fishing villages. Officials tout the lack of paparazzi as a draw, too.

“Clooney went jogging on our beaches and visited local bars without being hassled,” says Caraballo.

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