The state-backed Trinidad & Tobago Film Company (FilmTT) was launched a little over a decade ago as a headquarters for the local film industry and to provide logistical support and film commission services to any productions interested in shooting on this pair of South Caribbean islands. Trinidad & Tobago is seeking to boost local production and attract international shoots with an incentive programme offering cash rebates of up to 55%.
“The market has definitely opened up, with several local productions taking place,” says Lisa Wickham, the locally based producer/director, president and CEO of Imagine Media International Limited. “Companies have started to invest in trailers and equipment to support the infrastructure.
“Once an international production understands the limitations and is willing to work around them, they can have a very successful and cost-effective production.” International productions to have shot in Trinidad & Tobago in recent years include features Bazodee, Girlfriends’ Getaway and Home Again and CNN’s travel series Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
Trinidad & Tobago offers a cashback production rebate of up to 35% on qualifying local expenditures, as well as an additional 20% cash rebate for local labour costs. Minimum budgets are $100,000 and there is a cap of $8m.
Full details on financial incentives in Trinidad & Tobago: FilmTT
Infrastructure and crews
Crew labour on the islands, still in a development-and-training phase, can accommodate up to two productions at a time with budgets of $2m-$5m, and production costs are lower here than elsewhere. Imagine Media’s Lisa Wickham notes that on the shoots of Canadian film Home Again and the TVOne movie Girlfriends’ Getaway, “blended crews [worked best], where there were a few international keys supplemented by a strong, second-tier local crew”. There are small studio spaces as well as larger warehouse spaces for conversion to sets. A good supply of stage lighting and portable power is available on Trinidad, with quick access to Miami for importing supplemental gear.
Trinidad is less than 2,000 sq miles in size, and Tobago is smaller than 120 sq miles, so moving around by land should be quick. But, as Zero Point Zero’s Tamara Lodge, who travelled to the islands in January for CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, says, “Some of the roads aren’t great in Tobago so you have to be extra vigilant when driving around the island. There’s also a lot of traffic in Port of Spain, Trinidad.” She recommends padding your schedule to accommodate. Daily two-hour ferries and hourly 15-minute flights run between the islands, and two international airports service North America, South America and Europe. There is also a daily water-taxi service linking the south of Trinidad with the northern capital city.
Tamara Lodge, producer, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, says:
“Everyone is very friendly and wants to help you get what you need. People were willing to be on camera, the weather is great for shooting, and Trinidad and Tobago are beautiful islands.”
First person to call
Nneka Luke, general manager and film commissioner, Trinidad & Tobago Film Company (FilmTT)
Need to know
- DO consider hiring security for shooting in some areas in Port of Spain. A local locations manager or fixer can help advise on this front.
- DO plan around rainy season, which runs from about June to November, and Carnival, which runs from December 26 until Ash Wednesday, occupying spaces and crews and affecting costs.
- DO make time for eco-tourism, including bird and leatherback turtle watching.
- DON’T rely on public transportation, which can be inconsistent.
- DON’T leave without a visit to the House of Angostura’s 20-acre complex in Trinidad for a taste of its renowned rum and bitters.