Cayman film: Ready for our close-up

Recent talk about launching a Cayman Islands film festival has us cautiously optimistic about the chances of our country netting some benefit from the multi-billion-dollar motion picture sector.

It’s notoriously difficult to lure movie business away from Hollywood and a relative handful of other established centers, even for jurisdictions far larger than Cayman, with a greater variety of scenery and dedicated funds for industry subsidies. 

Many American cities and states are experiencing firsthand that open doors, welcome mats, grants and tax breaks aren’t sufficient to attract filmmakers and keep them coming back, at a significant level and on a consistent basis. Even places that have had some success find actual economic returns on investment falling far short of initial program expectations.

Our government should resist any temptation to join that arms race. We’d be far too badly outgunned, and the strategy itself is suspect.

Cayman doesn’t have much of a film industry at the moment and can’t afford to invest millions of dollars per year on an open-ended chase for movie production. However, where Cayman does have considerable experience, and where our islands are already world-class, is in the area of event hosting and management. We may not have the Kodak Theatre or mountainous backdrops, but we do have red carpets aplenty and can throw bashes glamorous enough to wow any A-lister or their agent.

And who knows? If the festival becomes popular, and people in the industry become familiar with Cayman, perhaps deeper business relationships will develop.

But for now, creating a top-tier film festival by itself is an ambitious project worthy of our support.

The festival is the brainchild of local photographer/videographer Tony Mark, who for several years now has been seeking to leverage his film industry connections and make the event a reality. Finally, the red tape appears to have relaxed its stranglehold, and last November Mr. Mark announced that the Cayman International Film Festival — backed by the Department of Tourism and Cayman Islands Tourism Association — will take place in 2015, in the process absorbing the Cayman Islands Underwater Film Festival, which for nine years running has showcased local and international work. The sustained success of the Underwater Film Festival bodes well for the grander planned festival.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the existence of talented Caymanians and residents in the community who are accomplished industry professionals.

For example, in our midst we have filmmaker Frank E. Flowers (who recently inked a deal to write a feature film script about the life of LeBron James) and scriptwriter Phil Eckstein (who wrote Zombie Driftwood, filmed here in 2010), as well as film and TV producer Louis Massicotte (who has held premier showings of his work in Cayman).

Cayman is well-positioned to host the preeminent film festival in the Caribbean, and the potential exists for Cayman’s festival to grow into a rival for Cannes and Sundance. Our white beaches and turquoise waters are second to none in terms of visual presentation, and there’s nary a guild or union in sight.

It’s a good thing that the government is lending its support to the Cayman Film Festival. Now the best thing for the government to do is step aside, allow the private sector to flourish, sit back and enjoy the show.