With production wrapping this month on “Serenity,” the Matthew McConaughey starrer about a fishing-boat captain whose past catches up to him in the tropics, bizzers on the island nation of Mauritius are hoping to make the most of their time in the spotlight.
The $25 million mystery-thriller, produced by IM Global, Guy Heeley and Greg Shapiro and serviced locally by Andreas Habermeyer’s Identical Pictures, is the first major Hollywood feature to shoot in the small Indian Ocean country. Directed by Steven Knight, it also stars Anne Hathaway. Executive producer Carsten Lorenz says he’d never traveled to Mauritius until this year, when he found himself unfurling a map on his kitchen table as he looked at possible shooting locations for “Serenity.” “Our movie takes place in paradise,” he explains, pointing to the challenges of capturing that aesthetic in the Caribbean as hurricane season loomed.
A former colleague who’d worked in Mauritius suggested the island nation, a four-hour flight from Johannesburg. “I jumped on a plane with a ticket for a five-day exploratory trip,” Lorenz says, “and I’m still here five months later.”
Since introducing a film incentive in 2013, Mauritius has hosted more than 50 international projects, including feature films, documentaries, commercials and TV shows. The country offers a 30% rebate on qualifying local expenditures and up to 40% for feature films, with a minimum $1 million qualifying spending.
The country boasts a thriving banking sector and a business-friendly government that’s aggressively pushing to develop its film industry. Business runs smoothly. It took the producers of “Serenity” roughly two weeks to line up approval from Mauritius’ Board of Investment, which locked in a 39% rebate. The rebate loan was financed by a local bank. The movie’s kick-off party was hosted by Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth.
Because the industry is in its infancy, much of the equipment and crew for “Serenity” was brought in from South Africa. But local officials are inviting foreign studios to invest in the country and courting film schools that could lend training and skills development. A major European studio is in talks with the government to repurpose some of the island’s old sugar mills as state-of-the-art studio facilities.
“There’s a great openness and a great willingness to get the industry up and running,” says South African producer Jeremy Nathan, who’s set to begin shooting on “Agent,” a prestige drama series co-produced with Mauritius’ Collective Dream Studios and France’s Canal + Intl.
“It’s an embryonic industry, but it’s growing at a very rapid speed,” he says, recalling the sudden growth he witnessed in Cape Town 10-15 years ago.
Lorenz points to the eagerness of Mauritius to ensure that production ran smoothly as a sign of great things to come. “It was a nice marriage,” he says.