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2004-01-14 11:05:01

Bahamas Grossing Millions From Film Industry

The Bahamas Film Commission will bring in at least $20 million in revenue this year from numerous projects including two major movies being filmed in The Bahamas.

Mr. Craig Woods, who heads the Commission in an address at the Nassau East Rotary Club's weekly meeting yesterday, told his audience that the Ministry of Tourism's Film Commission had renewed its efforts to make The Bahamas a location of choice for Hollywood producers and directors. The rewards are significant.

“From January to November, we have generated over $20 million in revenues," Mr. Woods said.

Over 90 percent of that amount had been generated by the two films – After The Sunset and Into The Blue - which were currently being filmed in The Bahamas.

After The Sunset, a New Line Cinema production with Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson, Don Cheadle and Naomi Harris is being directed by Brett Ratner whose movies - Rush Hour 1 & 2 and Red Dragon – have grossed over $1 billion.

In The Blue is an MGM-Mandalay Pictures starring Paul Walker and Jessica Alba. The movie, directed by John Stockwell, whose 2001 Blue Crush was filmed in Hawaii, has been credited with increasing tourism business to Hawaii by 20 percent.

Mr. Woods said that not since The Abyss and Into The Deep had such an ambitious film been undertaken. In The Blue will have 40 minutes of underwater scene.

“That has not been accomplished in a long time," he said. “And all that will be showing the islands of The Bahamas, off Stuart Cove," Mr. Woods said. “We could not pay for the exposure these two films will bring us, especially In The Blue," he added.

Mr. Woods said that the Bahamas Film Commission, which was first established in 1986 as the Film Bureau, is working to have at least two major films made in The Bahamas each year.

He told his listeners that the “below the line cost of After The Sunset and In The Blue was $50 million and $32 million respectively." “Ten percent of the below the line production costs go to the location," he explained.

He said the money was spent on hotels , food, rented private residences, private locations, Bahamians who work on the production, transportation and telecommunication services.

Additional projects so far this year were 22 advertising commercials, 10 aerial shoots for product placement, 12 documentaries, six editorials, 46 Fashion shoots, four music videos, 40 photo shoots, four travel documentaries, 33 television shoots, 20 underwater shoots and 21 video shoots.

“Bahamians who work as extras in the movie get a minimum of $75 a day," he said. “And this money is paid immediately. They do not hold out until they get the best price. They have a deadline and will pay immediately for reasonable prices," he added.

Commenting on the disruption caused by the movie, and the condition of the Eastern Parade ground, Mr. Woods said that production companies are bound to leave what they use in as good a condition as they met it or better. He said it was in the production company's best interest to leave the place in good condition.

“It wouldn't be very good for them to have people say they left the place in a mess," he said.

 “If they use government locations that is free but if they use private locations to shoot, they pay for that," he said. “They have painted and fixed public and private properties that they have used and the work at the Eastern Parade will be completed," he explained.

So his audience could get an appreciation of the “economic impact a movie has on the economy", Mr. Woods said the movie, After The Sunset had a weekly Bahamian payroll of $70,000; he said they were spending $3,000 per week on water and ice supplies; that 400 Bahamian extras were presently in the movie and that the number would be going up to 1,700 Bahamians as extras.

Describing what had to be done to become and stay competitive in the film location business, Mr. Woods said the number one complaint of producers and directors against The Bahamas was that “we do not respond".

As an illustration, he said The Bahamas lost out on the Kevin Costner film Water World because someone failed to return a call. He explained that each year Hollywood loses $10 billion in production revenues because production companies are going to less costly locations both inside and outside the US.

He said The Bahamas had been competing for months for the two films against other locations such as Puerto Rico, Jamaica and The Cayman Islands.

He assured the Rotarians that the Bahamas Film Commission, staffed by “wonderful" people who “attend to the smallest detail required by filmmakers", was retooling its website, bahamasfilm.com and would be launching an aggressive promotion in the UK and Europe to attract more music videos.

 He said other initiatives included getting Reality Television Shows and network programmes shot on location in The Family Islands and Grand Bahama. He stated that this kind of activity “will keep the images of The Bahamas on Network or Cable TV for some 10 to 15 hours a week."

In the question period, Mr. Woods was asked about the proposed studio in Grand Bahama. He said that as far as he knew the Canadian group which had gotten the rights to the old US missile tracking station in Freetown, Grand Bahama, was still planning on completing the project.

“They are about five months behind schedule," he said. “The studio in The Bahamas would be an added attraction."

Describing the entertainment industry as recession proof, Mr. Woods said that the Film Commission was “working hard to bring more work to our country."

The Bahama Journal 

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