Jamaica's Premier Film and Photo Locations
In photography, as in real estate, the three most important words are…location, location, location. And ever since Jamaica was first described by Christopher Columbus as "the fairest isle I ever did see" the word Jamaica has been synonymous with romance, tropical passion and beautiful scenery. It is therefore no surprise that in recent years it has become a highly desirable location for film and print photography as productions including fashion shoots, commercials, documentaries, music videos, feature films and recently reality tv shows, have been flocking to the island.
Three decades ago, the Jamaican government recognized the benefits of supporting the country's burgeoning film industry. The math was simple. Film productions have the ability to make a substantial contribution to the economic prosperity of a small country. They provide jobs for the skilled laborers, training and experience for the less-skilled and generate substantial revenue for many ancillary businesses ranging from lodging and catering for the often-sizeable cast and crew to transport services for equipment and personnel. In addition to this direct revenue, the product of their work, whether it is scenes from a major motion picture, a video or a fashion shoot serves to further promote Jamaica as a vacation destination.
The Jamaica Film Commission was established in the 1980s within Jampro (Jamaica Promotions Organization) as a one-stop-shop to address the requirements of film producers, simplifying the process and enhancing Jamaica's attractiveness as a location. The process is straightforward. In the case of commercial films, scripts must be submitted to the Film Commissioner, Mrs. Dell Crooks, for approval before shooting can commence- Jamaica is naturally very protective of its brand. Local liaisons are then recommended and approved by the Film Commission. The Commission then assists with clearing any red-tape related to work permits, licenses, duty exemptions and access to public buildings and support systems including helicopters from the Jamaica Defense Force.
The success of this cooperative effort coupled with Jampro's direct role in promoting "location Jamaica" to the Hollywood studios and international production houses, has been evident in the large number of overseas productions using Jamaica as a primary location. Jamaica offers a great variety of terrain from white-sand beaches to lush rainforests to waterfalls and mountain peaks. This allows for geographically disparate scenes to be shot in a single location saving time and money. Areas of Jamaica have been shot for Africa, Southeast Asia, the U.S., England and, of course, the greater Caribbean.
Jamaica has been a principal location for a number of Hollywood features over the years including: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Dr. No, The Harder They Come, Papillon, Live and Let Die, Return to Treasure Island, Cocktail, Mighty Quinn, Cool Runnings and How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Taxi drivers and other guides are generally eager to point out locations from past film shoots, so just ask.
Many major fashion houses and magazines use Jamaica for their cruise and summer catalogs and editorial spreads including Brooks Brothers, Teen Vogue, Ann Taylor, Self Magazine, Glamour UK, and Madame. Recent commercials filmed in Jamaica include Puma, Slimfast, Carnival Cruise Lines, Clairol and Herbal Essences.
In recent years, competition within the Caribbean has intensified, particularly for Hollywood projects, with several islands prepared to pay cash incentives for the privilege of hosting a big-budget production. Just this past summer Jampro announced that they would be reorienting their effort towards wooing more tv and commercials business, in addition to the feature films. These smaller productions have the ability to provide a steady stream of business for the local film industry and the strategy has already yielded some recent successes.
The Jamaica Film Commission website is located at www.filmjamaica.com. Contact: (876) 978-7755.
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