Colonial period film shoots in Cayman

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A movie featuring British settlers, pirates and Indians was shot in Grand Cayman last week. 

Scenes for To Have and To Hold, based on a book that was a bestseller in 1900, were filmed on board the Valhalla pirate ship, on beaches at Spotts and South Sound and at the Turtle Farm. 

Unit publicist David Fulton said the first day of shooting took place on the Valhalla on Wednesday, off Spotts, as filming on the ship on Tuesday was cancelled due to rough seas and bad weather. 

The bulk of the movie is being shot in Virginia, where the book is mostly set, but scenes involving pirates and a ship wreck are being filmed in Grand Cayman, with one day of shooting at a blue hole in the Bahamas. 

“We’re mainly shooting water sequences on a boat and some beach sequences in Cayman,” Mr. Fulton said. “We’ve had people on site for several weeks setting that up.” 

Unit Production Manager Jim Cawley, who arrived in Cayman in early November to set the filming in motion, said the Cayman Islands Film Commission and other government departments such as Immigration, Customs and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service had been accommodating and helpful in bringing about 100 crew members, equipment and props on island. 

Among the props were a replica 1600s musket and cannons that needed clearance to be brought into Cayman. 

“We retrofitted the Valhalla to take out the modern elements. We added cannons and changed the rigging and removed things that were not in keeping with the period. We took out tables and benches and the bar,” Mr. Cawley said. 

The book has been filmed twice before – both times as silent movies in 1916 and 1922. 

Three of the principal actors – Christopher Judge (Stargate SG-1), Aiden Turner (All My Children) and Kelly Greyson (Alone, Yet Not Alone) – are in Grand Cayman for the shoot. The film also stars Rusty Joiner (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story), Mark Dacascos (Hawaii Five-0) and John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King).  

Mr. Fulton said about 40 local people had been hired to work on the film.  

“The economic impact figure is considerable, probably close to US$600,000,” Mr. Fulton said. 

“What’s great about this story is it covers everything – pirates and Indians and settlers and romance and royalty. It really has everything and I think that shows the grand tradition of the books of that day. It was a huge bestseller in 1900,” he said. “We were able to capture a lot of that in Virginia. We rebuilt Jamestown.” 

Principal photography of the film, which is being directed by Ray Bengston, began in October in Virginia. Filming in Cayman wrapped on Sunday and the crew were scheduled to travel off island the following day. 

To Have and To Hold is described as a “sweeping tale of intrigue, love and adventure, spanning two continents and unfolding in the 1619 Jamestown, Virginia colony”. The story is based on a bestselling novel of the same name by Mary Johnston. Writer James Richards adapted the book for the screen. 

The film is being produced by Barbara Divisek and Allen Taylor, with Mr. Richards serving as executive producer.  

“This period of history offers abundant cinematic flavour,” Ms Divisek said. “In addition to the fascinating story of colonising America, this particular era is rich with tales of royalty, pirates and romance.”  

The filmmakers have worked with local production house Caymana Productions on the Cayman portion of the movie. 

The story centres on Captain Miles Cambridge (Turner) who moves to the new colonies in America after leaving his English family estate, which has been stolen from him. 

by the same man who killed his father while he was away at war with Spain. Lady Jocelyn Leigh (Greyson), a ward of the king, who flees England for Virginia to avoid marrying the treacherous Lord Carnal, meets Cambridge and agrees to marry him. The couple survive imprisonment, shipwrecks, pirate and Indian attacks. 


Film makers shot scenes for the romatic period drama To Have and To Hold on board The Valhalla, pictured here during Pirates Week last month. – PHOTO: CHRIS COURT


  1. I’m glad customs and immigration and other government agencies permitted this to go through smoothly. The economic benefits are huge. In addition to the 600K they estimate it brought in revenues, there is the added benefit that (provided they were treated well and weren’t interrogated and strip searched by immigration) that they will return to the island at a later date with their families. If you’ve been somewhere on business and you loved it, then it’s natural that you want to return and share it with your family whilst having a vacation at the same time. Cayman needs more films to be shot and should be doing everything possible. Do know, however, that the film industry is small, so if it’s good, everyone in the business hears about it, if it’s a bad experience, then everyone in the business knows not to come here and goes elsewhere. So, you have one chance each time a film is shot here to make it right, make it smooth, and make it a pleasant experience for all.

  2. Cayman Mermaid,
    shame on you, 600,000 dollars is an insult and slap in the face and a cheap shot at us accommodating them. It was a privilege for them to be able to come to the Cayman Islands to shoot this movie.
    They will make millions off this movie and 600,00 dollars hand out is not even a part of the success equation.Cayman is worth more than that.

    Were our Caymanian actors privileged to participate? Who were the negotiating team, that’s important. There were some disgruntled people about the way it was organized, disenfranchising local actors, with their great talent. If they don’t know how to bargain collectively on behalf of our people getting a real piece of the real pie then you need to understand that 600,000 dollars is no money in this kind of business. Its peanuts.

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