San Juan Mayor Jorge Santini announced on Wednesday the intention to transform the capital of Puerto Rico and the entire island into a prime destination for moviemaking operations capable of competing with the world’s key filmmaking centers. “The time of Hollywood is over,” he said. Santini said that the studio, which will be 34,000 square meters (359,000 sq. feet) in size, will be part of a project to revitalize the economy of the metropolitan San Juan area.
The mayor refused to get into details about the location of the center or the sources of financing for a project of those dimensions. The initiative will also include the creation of the San Juan Film Commission with the aim of facilitating movie projects for interested production companies in the Puerto Rican capital. The executive director of the Puerto Rico Film Corporation, Mariella Pérez-Serrano, said that her organization during the past 22 months had been making substantial efforts to promote the Caribbean island as a filmmaking destination. Pérez-Serrano said that so far this year 11 films have been fully or partially shot in Puerto Rico with an investment of $64 million, and they have created 20,000 new jobs, although it was not clear how many of those positions have been permanent ones. She said that thanks to the government’s efforts, Puerto Rico had transformed itself “into a filmmaking center of (worldwide) importance,” emphasizing that the island had become a “true film paradise.”
The variety of landscapes that Puerto Rico offers has allowed filmmakers to shoot scenes supposedly taking place in spots as diverse as Kuwait, Bolivia, Colombia, Brazil, Miami, Cuba and Spain, she said. Pérez-Serrano also said that the growth of Puerto Rico as an international filmmaking center has been due, among other things, to the existence of air links with New York and Miami, as well as with Europe via Madrid. She also emphasized that filming in Puerto Rico was providing work for drivers, makeup artists, electricians, painters, mechanics, sound engineers, publicists and extras, among many other professions.
Regarding the studio, Sen. Juan Hernández Mayoral recently announced that he will sponsor a bill in the Puerto Rican legislature to allocate resources for the construction of a film center. Hernández Mayoral noted that Puerto Rico was intending to give film companies who want to shoot movies on the island a 40 percent tax credit for all local expenditures. Several weeks ago, the San Juan press also reported the potential interest of Jennifer Lopez and husband Marc Anthony in investing in a film studio on the island, a project that – so far – has not been confirmed.
Puerto Rican director and producer Jacobo Morales, whose 1989 film “Lo que le pasó a Santiago” was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category, said that before promoting the island as a filmmaking center local moviemaking should have been pushed.
So far this year, the films that have been shooting in Puerto Rico have included “FastFive” (Universal Pictures), “The Losers” (Warner Brothers), “Pirates of the Caribbean 4” (Disney Pictures) and “Eastbown and Down” (HBO), among others.
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Photo: Scene from The Rum Diaries, filmed in San Juan.