US film enjoys smooth filming in T&T
As the US-TT film “Grown Girls Getaway” wrapped its on-location filming in Trinidad, its US producers were elated with T&T.
Their positive experience underscores the role of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company (TTFC) in facilitating such productions and developing the T&T film industry as a whole.
Director Roger Bobb said in an interview on the film’s set at Maracas Bay on June 13, “The Film Company was very good in facilitating everything we needed in terms of cargo and visas. Things happened but ultimately it didn’t slow down production at all.”
The TTFC worked with Customs and Immigration to obtain clearance and waivers as necessary to bring in equipment and supplies as well as US cast and crew for the film. Assisting producers in navigating Customs and Immigration, as well as permits and permissions from Fire Services, Police and other bodies, falls under the TTFC’s ambit. For example, the TTFC assisted in getting the Tourism Development Company’s permission for “Grown Girls Getaway” to film at Maracas Bay.
The TTFC played another significant part in bringing the film to this country.
Bobb said the first reason T&T was considered was because of the generous cash-back incentive this country offers.
“I’ve never really thought about Trinidad” as a film location, Bobb admitted. He discussed T&T and the 55 per cent cash back rebate opportunity with TTFC CEO Carla Foderingham in March while she was in Los Angeles, California, for the AFCI Locations Show.
“It was very serendipitous that I was LA and Carla happened to be in LA at the same time,” Bobb said.
He quickly organized a location-scouting trip and was impressed with the possibilities of filming here—and especially with local cast and crew. Using T&T cast and crew in key positions is a condition of accessing 20 per cent of the rebate.
“No one had shot [a recent] American film here,” said scriptwriter and co-producer Cas Sigers. “We wanted to be the first. Once we found out you guys had great crews, you had a solid group of actors, it made sense.”
The film’s local producer Lisa Wickham, of Imagine Media, was on set on June 13, and proudly introduced media workers to her discovery—actor Frances De Lancey. De Lancey, a UWI theatre graduate who dreams of becoming a director, plays the role of “Ruth” in the film, a speaking role that pits her against the character played by Hollywood Haitian-American actor Garcelle Beauvais.
(Beauvais is known for her work on “The Jamie Foxx Show” and “Fraklin and Bash” among other TV roles.)
Sigers noted that the local cast members and crew were capable, flexible and hardworking on set. “Grown Girls Getaway” is an African-American “chick flick”, conceived along the lines of the mainstream 2011 hit “Bridesmaids”, a film that was critically praised and also earned nearly US $300 million internationally.
Although “Grown Girls Getaway” is a made-for-TV film, Sigers said, it looks like a much more costly production, partly because of its visually stunning T&T locations and partly because of the expertise of T&T director of photography (DP) Sheldon Felix.
Felix is an experienced cameraman and director of photography for Imagine Media International. His CV includes the film “Forward Home: The Power of the Caribbean Diaspora”, a documentary film shot in nine countries across Europe, North America and the Caribbean; corporate features; and award winning advertisements and music videos.
As a nexus for the development of the T&T film industry, the TTFC created training opportunities for interns, who were placed on the set of “Grown Girls Getaway”. This builds on the Film Company’s work in training young filmmakers through its annual Secondary Schools Short Film Festival, in which it employs trainers to teach filmmaking, writing and acting to teens.
Angi Bones, one of the film’s producers, said that other US producers such as William Packer (“Think Like a Man”) were now looking at T&T as a possible location because of the rebate and the seamlessly smooth experience “Grown Girls Getaway” enjoyed while filming in this country.
Though T&T may not be able to compete with the new studio facility in the Dominican Republic, T&T’s well developed infrastructure in film and satellite industries such as catering, transport, styling and other requirements could help to make this a preferred destination for international productions.
Foderingham said T&T’s profile as a location would further be enhanced as the TTFC is working with the relevant authorities for local filmmakers to import their own equipment without duties and taxes. This will improve local productions and also make it easier for international crews to film here.
“This is a great opportunity for everybody,” Sigers noted. “This is a bridge that could start a flow of films coming here or people coming here to work.”