Written by Rowena Carr-Allison on Nov 24, 2010. Posted in On Location

On location in Jamaica

Unlike the other Caribbean islands, Jamaica has a unique personality born of the sun, the sea, the sand and the reggae…

The third largest island in the region, it offers unparalleled natural beauty, from its bewitching Blue Mountains inland, lush with tropical forest and famous coffee plantations, to Negril’s dramatic caves and rocky cliffs and the picture perfect beaches of Montego Bay.

The first English-speaking Caribbean country to enact legislation (the Motion Picture Encouragement Act 1948) to promote the industry, Jamaica has a long history of filmmaking, with its first foray dating back to 1916 with Daughter of the Gods.

Proud to have the region’s oldest Film Commission, aged 26 years, Jamaica is still a choice location today with recent projects such as Tom Cruise’s Knight and Day, the BBC’s Small Island and Chris Browne’s local feature film Ghetta Life, as well as European productions Blue Yellow Stars, Zoomslide’s World Kitchen and Goodbye Germany. Around 150 films are shot every year on the island, ranging from feature films to daily music video shoots from the likes of Drake and Amy Winehouse.

Jamaica’s also built its reputation with a connection to the James Bond franchise. All the novels were written at Ian Fleming’s Jamaican home, while Goldeneye, Live and Let Die and Dr No were filmed there too. Other big names ‘made in Jamaica’ over the years include How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Cocktail, Legend of the Fall and Cool Runnings.

Over the years, Jamaica has spawned highly trained directors and producers, as well as a plethora of state-of-the art music and lighting services. The island can support two feature films at once from grip to DPs and the film crews are non-unionised, working up to 12 hours a day six days a week.

The breadth of locations was crucial to the islands’ success on the silver screen. With both white and black sandy beaches, mountains, caves, jungles, forts, Georgian architecture and paradise-like landscapes, Gillian Wilkinson McDaniel, Senior Consulting Officer at the JamPro Film Commission, says it’s hard to choose which is the most popular. The Commission’s website catalogues them all, but, she adds “Perhaps our most ‘popular’ location would be the iconic Dunns River Falls and Frenchman’s Cove. Downtown Kingston’s historic Ward Theatre has also been popular, as has the newly restored  Holy Trinity Cathedral. Other spots would include Geejam in Portland and The Caves in Negril, while Chukka Cove is preferred for water sports and action filming.”

Referring to Instinct, starring Anthony Hopkins, and Knight & Day she adds: “A lesser-known location is the Rio Grande river that meanders like the Mekong Delta and can double as Southeast Asia!”

Being old hands in the industry also means the paperwork is straightforward with license applications online for a USD300 fee. The Commission also comes with significant perks, helping with specialised import permits, work permits, bond waivers for film equipment, location scouting and sourcing local security, accommodation and transport. As for the finance, Jamaica offers a 17.5% tax rebate on local goods and services, duty-free concessions, a substantial investment allowance and tax-free dividends to shareholders.

So, aside from the great weather, beautiful beaches, tropical atmosphere and fantastic Caribbean seas, you’ll find exotic food, great music and a great ‘yah mon’ attitude!

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  • Eben Bolter


    Great piece.