Music videos, property and nature shows a niche for Cayman
When the opening scenes from a James Bond movie or epic action sequences from “Pirates of the Caribbean” are broadcast across the globe, it is the Bahamas flashing across millions of movie screens.
Invariably, as the backdrop for glamorous Hollywood beach scenes, the islands gain invaluable exposure from the movie industry.
While politicians and broadcast companies here accept that they are never likely to compete with their much larger neighbor, they believe there is space for the Cayman Islands to grow as a set for movies or television.
Sean Bodden, the new chairman of the Film Commission board, hopes to increase the number of film crews coming to the island.
“Our main goal is to market the island to filmmakers and to bring people here to showcase the Cayman Islands in a unique way,” he said.
Mr. Bodden, director of Whirlybird Productions, has been appointed as the head of a new-look board made up of broadcasters, producers and moviemakers, including Badir Awe, the co-director of locally made movie “The Devil You Know.”
The board has the support of Tourism Councilor Joey Hew, who has moved the Film Commission into the ministry in an effort to expand its marketing reach.
“It is definitely an area we want to develop,” said Mr. Hew. “We might not have the capacity at the moment to take on a full production, but even a single scene would have a tremendous economic impact.”
Beyond Hollywood, there are potentially lucrative opportunities in the world of music videos and commercials. Currently, the most common productions in Cayman are unscripted television broadcasts – house hunting shows, fishing and diving documentaries, and the occasional reality show. “It is a common misconception people have that the Film Commission is supposed to be attracting major big budget, $100 million dollar movies. The truth is that our core market may not be that, at least not right away,” said Mr. Bodden.
Recent productions filmed in Cayman have included U.K. Channel 4 property show “A Place in the Sun” and VH1 reality show “Atlanta Exes.” Not quite James Bond, but Mr. Bodden said the value of this kind of content could not be dismissed.
“When HGTV comes to film a show here, for example, they showcase million-dollar mansions and high quality of life to the millions of people that watch that channel,” he said.
Mr. Bodden believes there is steady demand from production houses for “non-scripted” content, but he believes the commission could be more proactive in efforts to entice crews to Cayman.
Mr. Hew added, “We need to take advantage of all the opportunities out there. As long as we are careful about what we allow to be filmed here, the kind of exposure we could get is something marketing money can’t buy.”
Initial efforts of the new Film Commission board include revamping its website and establishing relationships with production companies.
They also want to look at the incentives offered to film in Cayman. Currently, film crews are offered permit rebates and duty reductions for equipment on a negotiated basis.
Mr. Hew also hopes an increase in film production in the Cayman Islands will create opportunities for young people who currently feel they have to move overseas to pursue their dreams.
“It is equally important that our young people get to work on these sets – even as volunteers. We want to expose our young people to the type of experience they need to develop their talent.”