You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Exotic, but still part of the USA

Scout & About: Puerto Rico 2012

Filmmakers who’ve worked on tropical locations caution that crews tend to observe “island time,” as if the overabundance of sun, surf, palm trees and umbrella-topped drinks has literally slowed their metabolism. Things happen when they happen, and those who try to push it will be met with indifference.

But when production designer Charisse Cardenas traveled to Puerto Rico last summer to make “Runner, Runner,” starring Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck, she found the opposite to be true.

“Across the board, everyone just jumped in and did it,” Cardenas says. “No matter what the request was, it just happened.”

The crew base in Puerto Rico is bilingual, but it is only about four productions deep. However, producer Justin Kanew says that worked to their advantage on the low-budget comedy “Welcome to the Jungle,”starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, which shot there in early 2012.

“They’re a pretty tight-knit group down there, so they take pride in what they do,” Kanew observes. “I’ve made a couple of things where you’re just one product on the conveyor belt, but in Puerto Rico it felt like everyone had ownership of the project and cared, and when you’re trying to do a lot for a little, that’s really important.”

Puerto Rico has no soundstage facilities, but what it lacks infrastructure it makes up for in photogenic locations, including a wealth of beaches and rainforests, capital city San Juan’s modern urban landscape, well preserved colonial Old San Juan, neighborhoods that can double for the suburban U.S. and verdant mountain ranges that look like they could be in Colombia, Ecuador or Peru.

In “Runner, Runner,” Puerto Rico subs for Costa Rica. In recent years it has stood in for locales ranging from Brazil in “Fast Five” and Mexico in the second season of HBO’s “Eastbound & Down” to the Iraqi desert in “The Men Who Stare at Goats” and India, Bolivia, Chile, and the U.S. in “The Losers.”

All told, Puerto Rico has hosted some 90 shoots since 1999, including episodes of TV series such as “The Big C” and “White Collar” and the recent BBC adaptation of “Treasure Island,” but Cardenas believes filmmakers have yet to take advantage of all it has to offer visually.

“You typically see the same few things — the rainforest, the beach and Old San Juan,” Cardenas says. “But there are a lot of interesting neighborhoods that haven’t been touched or shot yet that look like they’re right out of a movie.”

As examples, Cardenas cites two locales she used for “Runner, Runner” — Fort San Felipe del Morro (aka Morro Castle), a 16th-century citadel on the northwestern tip of San Juan, and La Perla, a slum on the northeastern wall of Old San Juan that is home international drug traders, arms dealers and narcotics distributors.

Director John Stockwell is planning to take advantage of the latter locale for his Cargo Entertainment feature “In the Blood,” which is scheduled to begin shooting Puerto Rico this month.

“You don’t go in there unless you have the permission of the local people, and our location scout knew enough people that we could at least scout it safely,” Stockwell says. “Everyone seemed very friendly and open to us filming there, so hopefully everything will come together.”

The good news: if they run into any trouble, they can call for help on their smartphones.

“The best part is your phone works there,” Kanew says, “so you don’t have to get an international cell phone.”

Scout & About: Puerto Rico 2012
Tax break stakes’ giant leap | Exotic, but still part of the USA | Film firms, financiers funnel funds for features

More Scene

  • Adam Driver appears at the curtain

    Adam Driver on Starring in 'Burn This' for a Second Time

    The Hudson Theatre’s new production of “Burn This” marks its first Broadway revival since it premiered on the Great White Way in 1987, but Adam Driver is no stranger to the work. He starred as Pale in a Juilliard production of the Lanford Wilson drama when he was still a student — and only now, [...]

  • PMC Event Rome

    Film, Fashion, Formula E Mix at Rome E-Prix Bash

    Film, fashion and Formula E auto-racing fused during a dinner and celebration of the Rome E-Prix on Thursday at the Palazzo Dama by the Piazza del Popolo in the heart of the Eternal City.  Guests mingled and sipped cocktails as hors d’oeuvres were passed around in a former home of the Italian nobility with conversation [...]

  • Katy Perry, Diane von Furstenberg, Arianna

    Katy Perry and Anita Hill Honored at the DVF Awards

    Katy Perry was among the honorees at the 10th Annual DVF Awards on Thursday night. The singer was recognized for her advocacy work with both UNICEF and the LGBTQ community. “Music has opened the doors for so many opportunities for me,” she said while accepting the inspiration award. “The ability to meet people and champion [...]

  • Chrissy Metz'Breakthrough' Film Premiere, Arrivals, Regency

    Why 'This Is Us' Star Chrissy Metz Could End Up Performing at the Next Oscars

    Chrissy Metz made her live-singing debut on Sunday when she performed “I’m Standing With You” from her new movie “Breakthrough.” Was that just a step on her way to performing at the Oscars? Could be. The song was written by 10-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren. “They said Chrissy had to sing it and I was [...]

  • Bob IgerSimon Weisenthal Gala honoring Bob

    Disney's Bob Iger Blasts Hateful Political Discourse and Social Media: 'We Can Do Better'

    Bob Iger didn’t mince words while being honored Thursday by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Upon receiving the Humanitarian Award at the organization’s National Tribute Dinner from Jeffrey Katzenberg, the Walt Disney Co. chairman and CEO delivered a scathing critique of social media and the current state of political discourse. “Hate and anger are dragging us [...]

  • David Harbour'Hellboy' special film screening, Arrivals,

    Why David Harbour Just Compared 'Hellboy' to 'Hamlet'

    David Harbour understands if movie-goers don’t realize he’s the star of the new “Hellboy.” “I was kind of stunned. It’s quite a transformation. I didn’t even recognize myself,” the “Stranger Things” star recalls about seeing himself for the first time as the half-demon superhero. “And as the process went on I started to actually fetishize [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content