The biggest news in the south pacific comes from the island of Fiji with the announcement that its tax rebate was increased to a whopping 47 percent at the beginning of this year. “We are quite excited about this, as the new increase has already begun to yield its expected results with increased interest ─ not only from Hollywood but from Bollywood as well,” reports Florence Swamy, acting CEO of the Fiji Audio Visual Commission. “In fact, a couple of productions from Bollywood have indicated interest in filming in Fiji this year using the new film tax rebate.”
The new changes to the Fiji government’s tax rebate laws effectively increased the amount of the rebate payable per film from 35 percent to 47 percent of Qualifying Fiji Production Expenditure (QFPE). “Further changes to the rebate laws include the removal of the requirement that a film must spend a minimum 35 percent of its total production budget in Fiji in order to qualify for rebate,” notes Swamy. Now, films can shoot part of their scripts in Fiji and still qualify for the 47-percent rebate provided that they meet the minimum QFPE of FJ$250,000 (about US$125,000). The maximum rebate per film has increased from FJ$8.75 million to FJ$11.75 million, and there’s no restriction on the number of films that can apply for a Fiji rebate in any one year.
Another significant change to Fiji’s rebate law is the new FJ$50,000-minimum QFPE for television commercials. Previously, TV commercials had to spend the same as feature films to qualify for rebates, despite their smaller budgets. In addition to allowing for the refund of the 15-percent Value Added Tax (VAT) paid in Fiji towards the making of a qualifying film in Fiji, the Fiji government has also given the Minister for Finance new powers to waive or reduce the 15-percent withholding tax charged against remittance of salaries of nonresident cast and crewmembers who work in Fiji on a qualifying film (provided that the cast and crew are from countries that don’t have a double-tax agreement with Fiji). “With salaries and inward-bound airfares of foreign cast and crew and offshore equipment hire and cartage to Fiji specifically included as QFPE, Fiji’s new rebate package has become one of the most attractive incentive packages offered anywhere in the world today,” says Swamy, who is based in Suva, Fiji. There’s also a helpful Los Angeles office for the Fiji Audio Visual Commission (contact Colin King at 310- 752-7950).
The Hawaiian Islands have always shown their versatility in working with productions. Just think of the tapestry of locations needed for the hit TV series “Lost” during its six-year run. Now, the action-packed CBS show “Hawaii Five-O” is showcasing a very contemporary 50th state, while ABC’s “Off the Map” turns Hawaiian locations into a South American jungle. The state’s tax credits are a big draw, along with the crew base and infrastructure that have helped the Hawaiian production community.
Producers Sean McNamara and David Brookwell are well acquainted with shooting in Hawaii. They did the Hawaii-based MTV series “Beyond the Break” years ago and have since returned with other productions. Most recently, they arrived with the movie Soul Surfer, which was directed by McNamara and produced by their company Brookwell McNamara Entertainment (BME). An extraordinary achievement, Soul Surfer was mostly shot on Oahu’s North Shore to capture the authentic surfer culture and actual locations from the true story of a teenage girl who became a surfing champion after losing an arm in a shark attack. The North Shore also stood in for Thailand for several scenes, with hundreds of locals used as extras.
During the film’s six-week schedule, beach and water scenes dominated the shoot. “[We were] filming in the water, under the water and over the water, getting the greatest aerial shots, thanks to [Aerial DP] Doug Holgate,” says Brookwell. “We got great support from the crew and locals, the staff at the Turtle Bay Resort, as well as the film office.” The preproduction process laid the foundation for the film, and Brookwell notes that the key ingredients were finding the right locations, crewing, casting and production services: “Working in Hawaii before, we knew the key people to bring everything together.” Brookwell and McNamara also give credit to Director of Photography John Leonetti, ASC and Production Designer Rusty Smith.
Brookwell says that a team of producers brought Soul Surfer to the big screen, and that Hawaii’s production tax credits were a great benefit. The Hawaiian film offices currently offer a 15-to-20-percent refundable production-tax credit and a 100-percent investment-tax credit. Productions with qualified production costs on Oahu receive 15-percent credit through the Hawaii Film Office, while qualifying productions on the neighbor islands (Big Island, Kauai, Lanai, Maui and Molokai) receive 20 percent through the Kauai Film Commission, Maui Film Office and the Big Island Film Office. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (starring Johnny Depp, directed by Rob Marshall and set for a May release) took advantage of the credits when filming on Oahu and at Kauai’s remote Na Pali Coast.
Just Go with It (starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston) recently shot on Maui and was among a wide range of productions the Maui Film Office has accommodated, ranging from movies, TV shows and commercials to documentaries and sporting events. The Maui Film Office boasts extensive locations, including miles of sandy beaches, pastures, ranch lands, lush jungles, bamboo forests and towns with distinct atmosphere, as well as the moonlike surface of the Haleakala Crater. Maui County also has competitive tax incentives and a film-friendly government and community.
As a filming location, Dominica is known as “the best kept secret.” But now that secret is out as mega-producers continually arrive with top productions, including Jerry Bruckheimer, who went there with two Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, and Mark Burnett, who did the reality TV series “Pirate Master” at historic pirate lairs. The small, English-speaking, East Caribbean island of Dominica offers beautiful scenery, tropical rainforests and a wide variety of exotic locations. There are over 300 cascading rivers, numerous waterfalls and freshwater lakes, plus jungles, swamps, grasslands, mangroves, mudflats and reed beds. The island is also home to one of the few boiling lakes existing in the world. It also offers Creole architecture, spectacular ruins and forts, with African, indigenous Indian and Caucasian extras ready to join the cast.
Dominica Film Commissioner Anita Bully is eager to help navigate your search for the right location. “The Dominica Film Office can take care of all the producer’s needs,” says Bully. “We’re a one-stop shop, facilitating cost-effective filming with a very easy process.” Dominica’s incentives include an exemption on all duties and taxes on filming equipment and supplies that are temporarily imported to the island, plus a 15-percent rebate on local spending for projects meeting certain requirements and a waiver. As a result of limited equipment on the island, a system is in place to allow producers to temporarily bring in equipment free of duties and taxes. And thanks to the filming activity over the last three years, Dominica has developed a pool of hardworking, resourceful and skilled local persons and artistic talent at competitive rates. Bruckheimer praises Dominica for his filming experience on the island, saying, “We selected Dominica because it’s beautiful and virtually untouched.”
“Come to Jamaica where great stories are told,” says Kim Marie Spence of the JAMPRO, Jamaica’s Film Office. She reports that a variety of great productions have shot in Jamaica, from Dr. No to Cool Runnings and, most recently, Knight & Day (starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz). The film commission at JAMPRO helps to guide filmmakers to Jamaica’s great locations as well as through the steps needed to bring film and TV projects to life. Investors wanting to produce films in Jamaica can benefit from incentives under the Motion Picture Industry Encouragement Act. Under this Act, a recognized film producer is entitled to income-tax relief for a period not exceeding nine years, after the first release of the motion picture. The investor would also benefit from an investment allowance of 70 percent of the total expenditure on the production facilities, and this may be carried forward. There’s also an exemption from the payment of import duty on equipment, machinery and materials for the building of studios or for use in motion-picture production. Additionally, there’s a General Consumption Tax (GCT) rebate of 16.5 percent on all goods and services purchased in Jamaica. “Jamaica has been in the business of film since at least 1914,” says Spence. “Our diverse locations, talented production personnel and film history help make filming here simple. There’s ba discretionary consumption tax waiver and a bond waiver for incoming equipment. Moreover, the Jamaica Film Commission has a long history of facilitating permits for locations and labor.”