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IFF Panama: Caribbean to See ‘Major Boom’ in Production

Lawyer Ken Dhaliwal, producer-lawyer Romola Lucas sketch production opportunities in the Caribbean

Caribbean Panel, IFF Panama 2016
Photo by Martin Dale

PANAMA CITY — Media lawyer Ken Dhaliwal and producer-lawyer Romola Lucas addressed the opportunities for co-productions with Central America and the Caribbean, in a panel held during IFF Panama.

Dhaliwal is a partner at the Toronto legal office of Dentons and has represented producers on large-scale productions such as “Resident Evil and “The Twilight Saga,” and also smaller producers who put together co-productions. He has recently repped three co-productions between Canada and Colombia and several co-productions with Brazil. He has been in negotiations with co-productions involving Central America and the Caribbean but with no deal secured to date.

Lucas founded the New York-based Caribbean Film Academy and has been involved in various initiatives with filmmakers from the region.

Dhaliwal began by stating that a co-production agreement has many similarities with a marriage agreement – it’s important to get all the details in place at the outset because the situation can get very messy if things go wrong.

Both panelists emphasized that producers in the region in general lack information about potential co-production partners and what sales agents are looking for and emphasized the need to travel to film markets, contact producer associations and seek professional legal counsel.

They noted that individual filmmakers can often be reluctant to seek professional advice, in part because of the fees, but emphasized that flat rates and flexible payment terms can be negotiated.

Filmmakers were advised to try to maximize the local benefits that they can bring to a production, which not only include local incentives but also factors such as the number of social-media followers, including Facebook followers or the creation of a community of local fans who are likely to support the productions in the home market.

In terms of the Caribbean countries, Lucas said that it is a very exciting moment with new filmmakers emerging in the zone, as well as in Central America as a whole.

For co-productions, the situations are very different in function of whether the countries are former colonies of France, the U.K., Spain or the Netherlands.

In the case of former French colonies, countries such as Guadeloupe are overseas territories that benefit from France’s tax rebate schemes for films. This has enabled Guadeloupe, for example, to attract five seasons of the BBC TV series “Death in Paradise.”

There is no equivalent in the other non-French Caribbean countries, but some co-productions are being organized between French-speaking and English-speaking territories in the zone.

Lucas considers that the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, founded in 2006, has made a major impact in the zone, in its own right and also through partnerships with other festivals in the region such as the Havana Film Festival, FEMI in Guadeloupe, and the Curaçao International Film Festival.

“The Trinidad and Tobago Fest has brought in international sales agents, distributors and producers and provided a significant impetus for local production,” she said.

Lucas also underlined the importance of other events in Central America, such as IFF Panama, which have brought sales agents to the region.

She cited as an example of recent co-productions involving Caribbean countries, Kim Johnson’s 90-minute docu-drama “Pan – Our Music Odyssey,” about the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, and local director Mariette Monpierre’s “Le Bonheur d’Elza” a co-production between Guadeloupe and France.

At the Caribbean Film Academy, Lucas has organized a script competition in five English-speaking Caribbean countries and now plans to produce four shorts, selected in the competition – two to be shot in British Guiana, one in Trinidad and Tobago and one in the Dominican Republic.

“It’s a very exciting time to be making films in the Caribbean,” concluded Lucas. “Over the next two to three years we’ll see a major boom in this zone. There are so many exciting stories being developed. It’s a great time to be a new filmmaker.”