The Dominican Republic looks like it would be great place to film. It has visually arresting array of white sand beaches, tropical forests and Spanish Colonial architecture, along with cheap labor, economical accommodations and seven international airports. Yet aside from brief shoots for a handful of features, including 2006’s “Miami Vice” and “The Good Shepherd” and 2009’s “Fast & Furious,” and a recent visit by the reality TV show “The Real Housewives of New Jersey,” it’s been virtually ignored by Hollywood. In the meantime, projects have been flocking to neighboring Puerto Rico to take advantage of its production incentive, which includes a 40% tax credit for payments to residents and an additional 20% tax credit for non-resident salaries.
But the Dominican Republic is fighting back. Last year, it created an incentive of its own featuring 25% transferable tax credit for all local above and below the line production costs for film and TV projects with a minimum in-country spend of $500,000. And soon it will have something Puerto Rico doesn’t have: a major soundstage facility.
Last February, construction began on Pinewood Indomina Studios, a $50 million complex about 40 miles east of the capital Santo Domingo. Set to open in the third quarter of 2012, the 35-acre site will initially have 5,000 square meters (53,819 square feet) of soundstages, 161,458 sq. ft. of production support facilities and an 640 sq. mile water effects facility featuring a 246 feet by 246 feet exterior water tank with natural ocean horizons.
Indomina Group vice chairman and CEO Jasbinder Singh Mann says before starting construction, a study was commissioned comparing the two territories, which showed that when the variables are factored in (including the price of goods and services), the cost of shooting in the Dominican Republic should be 15% less than in Puerto Rico.
If the Dominican Republic has one major disadvantage, it’s a lingering reputation for corruption and instability. For many years , the country was considered a blacklisted location in Hollywood due to an incident involving the 1990 film “Havana,” starring Robert Redford. Filmmakers cut a deal to shoot on the island with one government official, then when production wrapped, they were presented another less favorable deal by another official.
Dominican Republic film commissioner Ellis Perez acknowledges the “Havana” incident, but insists there are now safeguards in place to prevent similar problems.
“I know we are now on test,” Perez says. “People are watching us to see whether we are able apply the law correctly and deliver. (But) I expect that we will have an explosion of filmmaking in the Dominican Republic next year.”