A Dark Truth, a thriller starring Andy Garcia, was the first film to qualify under the program: Producers received a credit worth $300,000 of the $1.2 million they spent filming here.
Ellis said two more major Hollywood productions are likely to film in the country over the next couple years, but he declined to name the films because the negotiations are ongoing.
“The tax incentive that states and countries offer play a big role in determining where a film will get made,” said Caleb Duffy, a California-based location manager who has helped scout locations for films such as Traffic, The Artist and Into the Wild.
“I am starting prep on a film that submitted for the California incentive, and we did not get picked in the lottery, so, although it is a story that is about California, it will be filming in New Mexico and Puerto Rico with only two of the 12 weeks here in L.A.,” Duffy said.
Tax incentives have become standard for countries across the globe. But Caribbean countries are competing for a limited pool of films that are seeking a tropical setting.
The producers of Home Again, which will be screened Saturday morning at this year’s American Black Film Festival in Miami Beach, chose to shoot the majority of their film in Trinidad and Tobago even though they were making a feature-length film about Jamaicans deported to their home country.
“We went to Jamaica and interviewed more than 40 deportees. And I was born in Jamaica. It seemed natural to film there,” said Jennifer Holness, the film’s co-writer and lead producer in a telephone interview from her Toronto office.
But over the next four years and numerous negotiations with government officials, Holness was facing a budget shortfall because she had not been offered a dime to film in Jamaica.
She turned to Trinidad, where the government is trying to cultivate a film industry. Under the country’s incentives, she received a $320,000 cash rebate on the $1.2 million she spent to film there.
Although the film crews had less experience than Jamaican crews, the country was more than willing to accommodate requests.
“It was challenging. Home Again was the biggest film ever shot in Trinidad. But the willingness to help [from the local cast and crew] more than offset the challenges,” Holness said. “The fact that I’m able to make a film and help people of color to learn the business and grow professionally is tremendously gratifying.”
Jamaica Film Commissioner Kim Marie Spence said while her nation’s history with the international film industry dates back to 1914, Jamaica isn’t in a position to offer rebate incentives due to the impact of the global recession and its own financial hard-times that recently forced it to seek help from the International Monetary Fund.
“The offering of cash rebates has not been an option for Jamaica. Trinidad is an oil and gas-exporter and is in a very different economic situation,” said Spence. “Nevertheless, Jamaica continues to host a number of film projects — including marquee television productions, such as America’s Next Top Model — due to the quality of its crew and locations.”
In addition, she said, Jamaica remains a cost-effective country to film and since January, has benefited from more than 30 international film projects.