It had all the hallmarks of a Hollywood premiere – the red carpet, the celebrities, the flashing cameras, the press line and incredibly glamorous dresses, but this was the launch of Cayman’s new Film Commission, rather than a new movie release.
The glitterati of Cayman society was out in force to rub shoulders with the handful of acting professionals, producers and financiers who attended the launch of the new commission at Camana Bay last Friday night.
The Film Commission aims to convince movie, commercial and television programme makers that Cayman can be an ideal spot to film not just their exotic beach locations, but exterior shots that can double as Anytown, USA.
It also aims to build up a local film industry on island.
One of the stars of the night, Jennifer Coolidge, known for her roles in American Pie and Legally Blonde 2, arrived in Cayman the day before the launch and quickly became so enamoured with the country that she said she was thinking of buying a house here.
‘I’ve never been to Grand Cayman before and I don’t know why I haven’t. It’s stunning,’ she said, adding that a call out of the blue led her to make the trip.
‘I’m just blown away. I just didn’t know enough about it, about the island,’ she said.
When asked if she would go back to Hollywood and spread the word, she replied: ‘Oh my God, are you kidding? Absolutely.’
She explained that Friday’s event and the launch of the Commission could indeed lead to a boost in the fortunes of Cayman’s film industry. ‘All it takes is one person, and they tell 10 people and they tell 10 people and that’s how it works,’ she said.
John O’Hurley, star of Dancing with the Stars and Seinfeld, in an amusing speech called himself the Grim Reaper of Television for ‘killing’ Seinfeld and appearing in 50 shows that have all gone off the air.
On a more serious note, he commended Cayman for setting up its own Film Commission. ‘With the organisation of this Commission you have put yourself into play in the world entertainment economy,’ he said.
‘You cannot participate in the world as structured as it is looking at the bottom line unless you come in with organised production facilities, with a hospitality industry second-to-none and also incentive programmes.’
He said Cayman’s high-end hospitality and tax incentives for film production would attract Hollywood players to the islands.
Partners in LA-based production company J2, Justin Berfield, who appeared in Malcolm in the Middle, and Jason Felts, have been instrumental in helping to set up the Film Commission and have created a video that will promote Cayman to filmmakers overseas.
‘It’s just been incredible, the support locally, and the entertainment industry has really reacted to it,’ said Mr. Felts on the red carpet.
‘Cayman was already an incredible place that people know for tourism and it’s a great brand within itself. I think there was a certain stigma after The Firm and after Haven, that Cayman was all about banking and a tax haven, and it’s so not what Cayman is. It’s a place of hospitality and great culture and great people and tons of locations.’
Tourism minister Charles Clifford, after arriving on the red carpet in his tuxedo and satin red tie and cummerbund, said: ‘The opportunities we think that are going to be provided locally are going to be tremendous, everything from transportation to development of new talents and new careers in Cayman…
‘But it also is going to tell filmmakers that this is essentially the Cayman Islands positioning itself for the film industry, and the Film Commission itself is essentially going to be a one-stop shop for anyone who wishes to come here to film movies or commercials or documentaries.’
The guests then partied the night away at an after-party in muslin tents set up outdoors.