Islands Lure Film and TV Production With Sun and Incentives

Destinations for producers dot the Pacific, Mediterranean and Caribbean

Pinewood Studios Dominican Republic
Courtesy of Pinewood Studios

The country is heating up as a film location, especially now that the Pinewood DR Studios is ramping up operations with new production pacts and local production is posting dramatic growth. Last year’s direct earnings from mainly reality shows were $1.6 million; this year, the film commission reports earnings of $8.4 million as of September, with greater projections for 2016.

International projects shooting this year included four fiction pics, seven docs and 10 TV series, says film commissioner Yvette Marichal. Local production, spurred by government incentives, rose from eight pics in 2008 to 20 in 2014. Some 36 shooting permits were issued this year to homegrown projects.

For international shoots, the country offers a 25% tax credit on all qualifying local spend above and below the line for a minimum spend of $500,000, and 18% VAT and customs duties exemption of temporary imports on eligible goods. Furthermore, “taxes on foreign hires have been decreasing one point each year; it’s now 27%,“ says Marichal.

Pinewood DR Studios feature a 60,500 sq. ft. water tank with natural horizons (pictured above). Antonio Gennari, CEO of the studio’s holding company, Lantica Media, has been forging new production pacts, the latest with Televisa USA and Pantelion. “We’re fully booked until June,” says Gennari who plans to add three smaller sound stages. Production arm Lantica Pictures is also co-producing film and TV content, aiming for up to seven pics a year.
— Anna Marie de la Fuente

In addition to providing landscapes that allow it to double for the deep Amazon, Borneo and even New York, Fiji offers a competitive 47% film tax rebate for qualified local expenditures. It recently lifted the cap on local expenses from $11.68 milliion to $28 million. Fiji residents are also encouraged to invest in international projects through a tax deduction of 150% if Fiji is integral to the plot and shown as is and 125% if it doubles for another place.

Furthermore, “the multi-ethnic society makes casting easy, and everyone speaks English fluently,” says Film Fiji CEO Talei Senikarawa, who adds that 11 provisional approvals have been issued this year.

Recent productions include a host of reality series such as Chinese show “Where are We Going, Daddy 2?,“ Australian reality show “The Big Adventure” and global franchise “Beauty and the Geek.” Indian pics such as mystery thriller feature “Table No. 21,” adventure thriller “Warning,” and horror-sci fi pic “3G — A Killer Connection” have also shot on location in Fiji.

“We have daily flights from Los Angeles on Fiji Airways,” Senikarawa points out. The only caveat is that studio facilities are limited and existing equipment rentals don’t provide cameras.
— Anna Marie de la Fuente

Thanks to a new broadband connection, Hawaii has moved a lot closer to Hollywood. The high-speed, private fiber technology was demo’d mid-October in L.A. on the Warner Bros. lot by GVS Connect.

There’s is now a live connection between Kona and L.A., “and the Honolulu-L.A. connection will be rolled out in November,” says Donne Dawson, state film commissioner at the Hawaii Film Office. “This will allow studios to take full advantage of our generous tax credits.”

There is a 20%-25% film, digital and television rebate, and no overall spending ceiling, with a per-production credit cap of $15 million including post-production. The advanced connectivity, along with Hawaii’s post and visual effects incentives, will enable filmmakers to conduct post and audio and create vfx via remote collaboration, as well as transfer and simultaneously edit burstable gigabytes of raw, high-definition dailies to producers and studios around the world.

Recent and current productions include the fifth season of CBS’ “Hawaii Five-O,” “Titan,” “Jurassic World” and “Aloha.”
— Iain Blair

Thanks to generous financial incentives, historic architecture, water-based filming facilities and long hours of daylight, the tiny Mediterranean island has always appealed to international producers. Thanks to all these advantages, 2015 has been a record year for the film industry, reports Josephine Vassallo Parnis, film commission coordinator.

“We offer generous cash rebates of up to 27% and a diverse, skilled and professional English-speaking film crew, specializing within the many areas of the production,” she says. “A number of productions have doubled Malta for the Middle East, and the period backdrops, ancient stone structures, forts and the narrow streets in Valletta create a timeless atmosphere.”

Recent productions include Angelina Jolie Pitt’s “By the Sea,” Michael Bay’s “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” “The Lake,” “Assassin’s Creed,” “Immediate Boarding,” “Mega Mindy Versus Rox,” “The Promise,” “Task Force 45,” Chinese production “No One Here (No One Is There)” and TV series “You, Me and the Apocalypse.”
— Iain Blair

Puerto Rico has reaped huge benefits as a prime location shoot venue. In the fiscal year ending July, the U.S. island territory earned $100 million from a glut of film and TV productions shooting across the island, up from $60 million the previous year.

Ever since “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” shot there in 2010, Hollywood has been lured to the island, sweetened by generous tax breaks that include a 40% rebate for expenditures on local services and a 20% tax credit for payments to above-the-line nonresidents, including producers, writers and other talent. Since May, Puerto Rico has tacked on an additional 10% rebate to the current 40% if the island is made integral to the plot, says Puerto Rico film commish Demetrio Fernandez-Manzano. Some 40 U.S. features, including “22 Jump Street” and “Fast Five,” have shot on location in Puerto Rico since 2010.

Other perks include the wealth of English-speaking experienced crew, the absence of foreign exchange and visa woes and hundreds of urban and rural locations, aside from its stunning beaches.

While it still lacks soundstages and full-service facilities, Puerto Rico boasts its first digital animation studio, Gladius, set up two years ago by producer Heri Martinez to provide animation, advertising, videogames, virtual reality, corporate videos and other ancillary needs. Puerto Rico’s first digital animated feature film is in the works.
— Anna Marie de la Fuente

The Trinidad and Tobago government offers a tiered cash rebate up to 35% on qualifying non-labor production spend and up to 55% on qualifying labor, one of the most generous in the region. Trinidad and Tobago Film Co. continues to serve as film commission, assisting with incoming production crews, location scouting assistance, research, and liaison between the community, production companies and government.

Trinidad and Tobago is one of the most prosperous countries in the Caribbean. Its geography makes it easily accessible to both South and North America — five miles off the coast of Venezuela and less than three hours from Miami by air.
— Iain Blair

The big news: brand-new production incentives; a transferrable tax credit up to 17%, depending on percentage of local hires, a cash rebate on qualified production spend up to 29% — a 9% base, an additional 10% with Virgin Islands promotion, and an added 10% if shot on St. Croix — and hotel tax waivers up to 8% based on hotel room nights/spend.

With an experienced film industry, English-speaking crews, the convenience of the U.S. dollar and film-friendly locations (“Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” both shot there), the islands have been busy with commercials and TV shoots for CBS’ “The Amazing Race” and Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern.”
— Iain Blair