Island locale offers beefy rebates

'Anacondas' first studio pic to reap benefits

AUCKLAND — The handover of a $2 million check, the first fruit of a rebate scheme designed to attract film productions to the Fiji Islands, presages a boom in the islands’ movie biz, insiders say.

The check presented by Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase to Gary Martin, Columbia TriStar prexy of production administration at Sony’s Culver City studios, represented the 15% rebate the Fiji government is making to productions shot in the islands, in this case for Columbia’s “Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid.”

Pic, a sequel to 1997’s genre hit “Anaconda,” used island locations to stand in for Borneo where an orchid hunting expedition is menaced by giant snakes.

Wayne Covell, legal and marketing manager for the Fiji Audio Visual Commission, said the movie had lifted Fiji’s profile as a filmmaking destination and vindicated the establishment last year of a scheme that competes with those offered in Australia and New Zealand but kicks in at a much lower level of eligibility.

The Oz and Kiwi schemes, though structured differently from each other, offer 12.5% rebates on local expenditure if that cost is 70% of total budget — and only when spend is $15 million in local dollars. Fiji, on the other hand, offers a larger rebate and requires the spend to be only 35% of total budget; the eligibility hurdle is set at less than $150,000.

Covell says the year-old scheme was tailored for “Anacondas” but is part of a broader package. TV movies and docs also qualify, and with commercials recently added, Pepsi and MasterCard have just completed shoots in the islands.

“We’ve now got 30 film and television productions we are negotiating to attract to Fiji,” Covell says. “It’s a great welcome mat to say to people we are a film-friendly environment.”

Meanwhile, Miramax’s animated film “The Great North Pole Elf Strike” started production last week at new animation studios on the island. Toon, based on a popular Internet game of elf bowling, is being made by Chris Walker’s Modern Cartoons.

The Fiji Audio Visual Commission is barely 2 years old. The rebate scheme was developed after Tom Hanks’ pic “Cast Away” was filmed on the small island of Monu-riki, off the western side of main island Viti Levu.