Written by The Location Guide on Apr 26, 2013. Posted in Interviews

Filming on location in Cuba with local producer Luis Lago

Luis entered the film industry in 1993 as a runner at the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Arts and Industry and a little less than ten years later became an independent producer. In 2007 he set up Shoot Cuba with his partner Mike Barker.

What can you tell us about Cuba as a filming location?

Cuba is known for its beaches and exotic nature, as well as its contrasting ecosystems. The country also has different urban environments marked out by varied architecture, which makes it an interesting location.

The historic capital is known as Old Havana and is a World Heritage site. It has beautiful baroque and neoclassical buildings with narrow streets and its natural bay is now the port of Havana that offers beautiful wooden houses, with courtyards, parks, churches and cobbled streets. Miramar developed in the 50s with beautiful mansions, country clubs and major avenues.

We have high the latest digital cameras including the RED Epic and the Alexa, as well as film cameras, lights, grip, cranes and dollies. There is an extensive technical and artistic crew of professionals with lots of experience in the field.

The ethnic diversity in Cuba means we have different casting and art schools that ensure a high quality of local performers.

The historic capital is known as Old Havana and is a World Heritage site. It has beautiful baroque and neoclassical buildings with narrow streets.

What locations are most commonly used by film and TV crews?

Usually clients come looking for beaches, nature and Old Havana, with small country towns and churches, parks, forests and marine environments all popular.

What are the more unusual locations that our readers would not necessarily associate with the region?

Cuba has doubled for different parts of the world like the French Riviera of the 1960s, contemporary New York, Louisiana of the 1970s, Rome of the 1940s, the Amazon and Montreal of the 1940s.

What has been your most difficult location assignment to date?

We shot a feature film in Baracoa in the east, which is one of my favourite locations. Here you can find lush vegetation, waterfalls, rivers, mountains and the sea in close proximity, which makes it a very exotic resort. The hotels where the crew stayed were in Baracoa City but the locations chosen were incredibly beautiful, although not easily accessible. Arriving every day at the location was very strenuous and risky.

What types of production do you work on most often?

We've been working mostly in commercials and films, both for television and for the movies. We also work on music videos, documentaries and photo shoots.

In 2012 we shot the first action movie filmed in Cuba, the Jason Bourne-inspired Bollywood blockbuster Ek Tha Tiger, made with Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif in Havana.

Are there any tips that you would like to share with our audience about filming in Cuba?

To shoot in Cuba you need a permit from the Cuban Film Commission, which we handle for you. You need a synopsis, treatment, or brief storyboard of the project for the cast and crew to get authorisation to work in the country. We also handle work permits for foreign personnel. We need a copy of the passport, date of entry and exit to the country and the crew member’s position within the project.

Which are the best airports to use?

The most important airport in Cuba is the José Martí in the city of Havana, but depending on where you’re filming you can also use the Varadero, Santiago de Cuba and others.

What are the most film-crew-friendly hotels in your region and where is your favourite wrap party venue?

The Hotel Nacional de Cuba is the most emblematic hotel. We also use, depending on the characteristics of the project, the Hotel Cohiba, Melia Habana, Hotel Riviera, Hotel Santa Isabel and others. My favourite wrap party was in a bar next to the Santa Maria beach where we all ended up swimming in the sea at 2am.

What would you recommend crew and cast do to have fun and relax locally?

The Cuban people are very outgoing, so walking through Havana is an experience. Relax after all that walking on the beach and have a mojito, sit on the malecon and then in the evening a seafood restaurant before finishing with a dance in a Salsa place where a Cuban band play alive.

Thank you

Luis runs Shoot Cuba with Mike Barker. To contact Luis please click here.


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