Cayman’s first movie to be shot since the setting up of the Cayman Islands Film Commission is edging closer to reality.
Discussions to finalise the financing of the film, a crime thriller, are being held this week in Cayman and Los Angeles, and if all goes according to plan, the film could be shooting here by autumn.
Filmmaker and actor John Shea, who starred as Lex Luther in the 1990s Superman TV series, Lois and Clark, and also featured as Adam in the TV show Mutant X, wrote the screenplay for the as-yet-titled movie and will direct it.
He was on Island this week scouting locations and actors.
‘The first thing I wanted to do was see the island and get to know it,’ Mr. Shea said. ‘I wrote this film. I did not write it for the Cayman Islands, but I’m now rewriting it for the Cayman Islands.’
Originally the film was set on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts.
Mr. Shea said the movie had been in development for two-and-a-half years, and he and his production partner in Hollywood were about to begin casting when he was approached by the Cayman Islands Film Commission.
‘They asked if we would be interested in filming it down here and would we consider transposing the film from my island to their island,’ he said, adding the unlikely rejoinder, ‘Nantucket is similar [to Cayman] in many aspects, apart from being 1,500 miles apart. All islands share similar characteristics.’
He described the movie as an ‘international detective thriller’.
For those still sensitive about the money laundering aspect in another movie shot in Cayman, The Firm, Mr. Shea assured that the film would not be about financial services or tax issues.
‘It’s about a detective investigating a crime,’ he said. ‘He comes to Cayman to find somebody and it’s about what happens to him when he gets here.’
If financing for the movie can be put in place soon, Mr. Shea predicts that filming will begin in autumn, with a five-to-six-week shooting schedule. The film should be completed by the end of the year, he said.
He has already had a taste of the Island’s hospitality and the close-knit community here.
‘It seemed the minute I hit the island, I was already starting to get to know it,’ he said.
He spent two and a half days scouting locations in Grand Cayman with radio presenter Gilbert Nicoletta, and said that by Monday, he had explored most of Grand Cayman, except for North Side and Rum Point, which he planned to cover before returning to New York on Wednesday.
‘I’ve been into caves and down back roads and into places that most tourists would never get to go,’ he said.
On Little Cayman, Cate Ferreira from Southern Cross Club was his tour guide, while Lolita Bodden showed him around in Cayman Brac.
While the main film crew will be imported from the US, Mr. Shea said he wanted to recruit locals and help people interested in the film industry become trained and get some experience on a real film set.
The Film Commission is running movie workshops to help train individuals to work on film crews and Mr. Shea said these can work hand-in-hand with the production of his movie, for which he would need local location scouts, make-up artists, carpenters, electricians, extras and actors.
‘This will be an army of people we’ll need to recruit,’ he said. ‘It’s an opportunity for them to learn and get experience in an apprenticeship programme.’
It’s not the first time Mr. Shea will be turning to local talent for one of his productions. He previously directed Southie, a gritty crime drama set in the rough and tightly knit neighbourhood of south Boston. In that production, there were 40 speaking parts and only seven were cast from professional actors in Hollywood or New York.
‘Everyone else in that film was from south Boston. I auditioned them. They were naturally talented. All I had to do was help them in a minor way to be relaxed in front of the camera,’ he said.
He said he expected there to be about 100 non-speaking roles in the film, and about 12 speaking roles for local actors.
The film will be funded locally and in Los Angeles and discussions were ongoing this week with investors in Cayman and the US.
The Cayman Islands Film Commission was launched in January. From 1 July, it will offer an indefinite 30 per cent rebate on film, video, commercial, and television productions that are made on island.