Written by Rowena Carr-Allison on Oct 29, 2010. Posted in Interviews

Bahamas Film Commissioner discusses location shooting

The Bahamas, an archipelago of Carribean islands north of Cuba and south-east of the USA, has always had a certain dreamy ring to it.

Perhaps great tourist board marketing, perhaps it’s just the 29 islands, 661 cays and 2,387 islets sitting in that turquoise water that make it so attractive.

Spread over 5,000 square miles, the islands are said to get their name from the Spanish baja mar or "shallow seas." Following Columbus’ landing in 1492, the local Arawak Tainos were soon shipped to slavery in Hispaniola by the Spanish. By 1718 the islands became a British colony and, although now independent, the Commonwealth of The Bahamas still counts the Queen as its monarch.

Its natural beauty and close proximity to Florida have made the Bahamas a popular filming location for years hosting all kinds of movies, from Fool's Gold in 2007 to Children of God in 2008 and Why Did I Get Married Too? in 2009.

Who can forget Sean Connery and Kim Basinger’s underwater tryst at Clifton Pier in Nassau Harbour and the aptly-named Love Beach?

The range of locations - catalogued on the Bahamas Film Commission' website - is vast and will be familiar to many. Bond was back in the Bahamas in the opening scenes of Casino Royale, doubling for Madagascar.

Craig Woods, the Film Commissioner, admits the Casino Royale appearance is one of his favourites:

“It was shot at the Royal Bahamas Defense Force Base at Coral Harbour on the Island of Nassau, New Providence. Daniel Craig ran up the crane chasing the bad guy, with all the wonderful blue and aquamarine water in the background!”

Other Bahamian highlights include a sword fight action sequence with Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley and Jack Davenport in Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, making Sandy Cay on Exuma Island famous and a love scene on the beach of Paradise Island with Salma Hayek and Pierce Brosnan in After the Sunset.

Craig jokes:

“With the waves lapping the bodies all the surf mixed with salt and sand, it made for a very romantic scene, not to mention good aromatherapy.”

Beaches are not in short supply. Filmmakers have their pick: Paradise Island Beach, Cabbage Beach or Pink Sand Beach on Harbour Island, Cape Santa Maria Beach on Long Island, Coco DeMama Beach on Eleuthera, Fernandez and Sammy T's beaches on Cat Island, to name just a few.

But it’s not just sea and sand. Duplicity in 2008, starring Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, was shot on Paradise Island at the One And Only Ocean Club, used as the US Embassy in Dubai. Who knew the famous closing scene in Silence of The Lambs where Anthony Hopkins utters the unforgettable line “I’m going to have an old friend for dinner" was filmed on the Island of Bimini?

Obtaining permits from the Film Commission is, according to Craig “hassle-free”. He adds:

“We pride ourselves on it! Once production can get their request to us with sufficient lead time - seven working days preferably - we can obtain the approvals in time for the first day of principal photography.”

As for the technical necessities, there is a five-ton grip truck on the island with equipment such as dollies and lighting rigs, but Woods says “lead time is critical.”

Although there are several people on the island with camera packages who can assist, large-scale productions tend to bring in their equipment. As for incentives, Craig smiles:

“We feel the best incentives are the beauty, efficiency of the people and ease of getting to The Bahamas to film! But of course, every location can say that. We do have film incentive legislation in development. It’s expected to happen in due course.”


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