FILM IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Here in Guadalajara where we are participating in the Industry events, we spoke at length with Ellis Perez, the Director of DGCine, the government cinema industry organization for the Dominican Republic. Their new law on international and domestic production is so favorable that whereas for the last 15 years, there has been an average of 2 productions a year, in 2012 there will be 12-15 productions completed.
Six months ago priority #1 was how to get films to shoot in the Dominican Republic. Now the #1 priority is how to train DR youth for industry jobs – mainly in production, especially crew, to provide the basics for international producers going there to shoot.
They are looking for serious small filmmakers to make the $1-3 million films there to use their local people.
Indomina, the same company as the new U.S. distribution and international sales company whose acquisitions VP Rob Williams recently acquired the Sundance titles Luv (ISA: Hollywood Studios International), Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap (ISA: Indomina) and The Imposter (ISA: Protagonist) (and parenthetically an offshoot of the sugar company Domino) in partnership with Pinewood Studios in the U.K. is one of two organizations involved in the training AND is one of two companies building a studio with soundstages there.
In Cuba this December, Perez and Rafael Rosal Paz, the new Director General of EICTV (Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV, the international film school founded by Gabriel Garcia Marques with his Nobel Prize money) made the first agreement of its kind to certify the training. EICTV will help with training by sending 4 of its professors to DR to train 24 high level students in an intensive 3 week program in shooting, sound, lighting, etc. This will take place in April and again in the summer to prepare professionals for work on DR productions in the year 2013.
The DR markets for production are diversified. At least 3 Spanish productions will shoot there in the coming 12 months. Now prepping is The Life of Julio Iglesias (the singer who lives in DR). It will shoot in 6 weeks using Indomina as the local producer.
In addition 3 to 4 French movies will be completed soon. The first was completed January 2012 by producer Sergio Gobbi (Dracula 3D) who is completing his second film there.
Studio 37 from Paris is doing film on Pablo Escobar in April. Studio 37 is related to the telecom Orange which is based in Paris but has operations in DR as well.
Another production, The Truth, now in post is a film produced by Andy Garcia starring Eva Longoria and Forrest Whittaker and directed by Damian Lee from Canada who may return with a second film this year.
An additional 4 – 5 films from North America, to be produced by Indomina and 4 -5 Dominican films will round out the 12-15 feature productions for the year.
The new law which is enticing all these productions provides support for Dominican local production as well as for foreign productions.
For DR local movies, a 25% income tax return is provided to local businesses for investment in movies. For example, a company that owes $5 million in taxes can invest $1.5 million (25%) in a film rather than paying the same in taxes.
The DR President, Leonel Fernandez, sees this as a way to increase production, generate new jobs, and open the door to opportunities to young Dominican talents of all sorts entering the movie industry. It will also bring in foreign investment as well as promote tourism by making DR a destination. It is already #1 in tourism among the Caribbean nations with 4 million visitors a year who generate $4 billion income to the DR.
For foreign film production, for 25% of the local spend in the DR, with a minimum spend of $500,000, whether or not the entire production or only part of it is done in the DR the government will provide a transferable tax credit certificate which is buyable by local DR banks and financial institutions, including Indomina and Palmera Pictures which is owned by Capcanna, a tourist company. In other words, while the government will not give 25% in cash, that amount can be paid to the producer in a buyout.
And in addition to this 25% transferable tax credit certificate, there will be an exemption from paying the normal VAT of 16% usually charged for most items and services for films. (Some items will not be exempt)
Like Indomina, DR real estate investor Cap Cana is also building a studio there which will be completed by the end of 2013. The two studios will be the first studios built in the Caribbean. Cap Cana also participates in the DR Global Film Festival (whose programming consultant is our own Nicole Guillemet), hosting “Movies Under the Stars”.
I asked if all these wonderful incentives, plus DR’s lower infrastructure prices (hotels, etc) were subject to changes in the government. Ellis allowed for the possibility and states he will be ready to leave this government appointed post on August 16 when the new government takes office (after the May election), but it seems doubtful to him that this will occur. Of the two candidates for President, the incumbent has the leading edge. If President Fernandez wins re-election, the status quo will prevail. His opposition was President two terms ago and Ellis Perez was his Minister of Tourism. Furthermore, both candidates favor the current law. Ellis himself is not political, belongs to no party and was appointed to this post in June 2011. While he is prepared to leave August 16 if need by, he really is aiming to stay for the next five years.