Earlier this year the Cayman Islands Film Commission was officially launched at a star-studded party at Camana Bay. In the few short months since it kicked into gear the Commission has been working studiously to make Cayman the top choice for overseas movie producers looking for a well-priced location in the Caribbean, while simultaneously ensuring that Cayman residents reap the benefits that such a project can bring. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull finds out the latest state of play and reports.
Officially housed under the Cayman Islands Investment Bureau umbrella, the Cayman Islands Film Commission is spearheaded by CIIB Executive Director Dax Basdeo and his team. Basdeo has been working on a multi-pronged attack to make Cayman an attractive location for movie producers.
“We’re working closely with film companies in the States and we have also done extensive research into what other film commissions elsewhere in the world are offering them in terms of incentives and amenities on-island,” he confirms.
Local talent creation via workshops
As a result, the CIFC has established a series of workshops aimed at drawing in local residents to find out just who is interested in working in Cayman’s fledgling film industry. “Workshops work in two-ways,” Basdeo says. “It gives us the opportunity to see what talent is already out there and it gives local residents the chance to see what particular aspect of film making they might be interested in and how they go about getting themselves properly qualified for a career.”
The first group of workshops took place at the end of last month and featured David Lyman, from Media Workshops, a US-based firm that teaches the art of film-making all over the world (go to www.mediainternational.com for more info). The workshops gave an assessment of the types of jobs available in the industry and was an interactive experience for those who attended. Lyman was accompanied by guest presenter Bob Del Valle – a line producer and production manager with over 20 years of experience in both film and television production, including five seasons as the line producer / production manager on the HBO television series ‘Six Feet Under’. In addition, he has been involved in more than 20 other series and six feature films and mini-series.
Basdeo explains that the Film Commission is not necessarily looking for local residents who are qualified or experienced in film making, but they must however possess certain qualities: “We are looking for individuals who are motivated and interested. This is a brand new industry for Cayman and we need people who possess the right attitude – that is top priority. If they have the qualifications and experience as well, of course that would be great!” he states.
This first workshop was designed to put feelers out to assess the current level of interest from local residents, thus creating a springboard from which the next set of workshops can be developed.
“If we see a particular interest in script-writing, for example, then that will be the topic for our next set of workshops,” Basdeo explains. “The key is for us to create a wealth of talent on-island from which overseas producers can draw when then come to Cayman to make their movies.”
It is also anticipated that the CIFC will be in a position to facilitate those interested to achieve certification in their chosen area.
Basdeo adds: “It is important for people to realise that this is not an overnight quick fix. Creating a new industry for Cayman from scratch takes many months, even years, if it is to be done properly and in a sustainable manner.”
Local talent is also urged to sign on to the CIFC’s production resource directory, an invaluable tool for local residents to showcase their individual talent and a useful resource for producers to use when choosing local talent for
Incentives: give and take
The CIFC has already announced that it will give interested parties a 30 per cent incentive fee or rebate on every dollar they pour into Cayman.
“The fine print is still being tweaked,” Basdeo says, “however it is our aim to be the most competitively priced filming destination in the Caribbean. We are vying for interest alongside the likes of commissions in Jamaica, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Puerto Rico, all of which have their own incentive schemes in place. We think 30 per cent (at least initially) makes us highly attractive for movie producers.”
Basdeo says that it is possible that they will require some of that 30 per cent to be reinvested back into the local community to help fund further training for locals.
“We are also looking at ways in which we can ensure that interested locals are assured at least an assistant role within the production of the movie. It will give them the chance to advance their careers like no other,” he says.
Getting the most from the media
The CIFC is updating its location shots that appear on various media outlets so that prospective movie producers can get an all-round look at what the Cayman Islands has to offer, quite apart from the obvious sun, sea and sand shots.
As well as regular press releases and briefings, the CIFC has engaged in twitter, Facebook and blogs to create a real time update of the progress of the Film Commission, thus providing locals as well as the industry in the US with up-to-date information. Visit caymanfilm.blogspot.com, twitter.com/caymanfilm, caymanfilm on Facebook and their website www.cifilm.ky for more information. You can also visit www.caymanfilm.org which will take you to the main website and which also lists links to the social media outlets as well.
In order for overseas movie makers to see just what Cayman has to offer the CIFC is currently arranging scouting missions for those interested in visiting the Cayman Islands. Basdeo says he is currently arranging for interested parties to visit at least Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, as well as meet with services such as banks to see how the financing of such movies could be accommodated on-island.
“It’s all about building here what they need in order to make movies as cost-effectively as possible,” Basdeo explains.
At the time of writing, Basdeo says he has received at least 24 enquiries on various levels, with regard to making movies in the Cayman Islands, eight of which Basdeo quantifies as “very strong leads”.
Basdeo confirms: “The requests vary greatly – from preliminary enquiries about what we have to offer film companies, to more specifically the types of locations we have here. We have received a strong enough level of interest to know that Cayman has a really good chance at having a good shot at this.”