Hollywood takes steps toward film production in Cuba


By The Associated Press

 

HAVANA — The producers of Showtime’s dark comedy “House of Lies” had $3 million and a mission: shoot the first episode of scripted American television in Cuba in more than half a century.

With less than a week to shoot the entire fifth-season finale on the chaotic streets of central Havana, director Matthew Carnahan told his just-hired Cuban crew that they’d be skipping their full lunch break to make up time the first two days.

“You know what? That’s not going to work,” the assistant director responded. “You don’t do a walking lunch here.”

The full lunch breaks got taken. And the shoot starring Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell wrapped up last week as part of a once-unimaginable surge of interest that could transform communist Cuba into a regular Hollywood location or fade rapidly because of the difficulty of working on the island.

A year after President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro declared detente, the mega-franchise “Fast and Furious” is awaiting U.S. and Cuban permission to shoot its eighth installment in Havana. There’s talk of a major U.S. car commercial shooting here. Actor Ethan Hawke said he wants to make a film in Cuba. “Papa,” an Ernest Hemingway biopic approved before detente was announced, premiered in Havana in December.

Until recently, Hollywood shooting in Cuba would have likely set off outrage among anti-Castro Cuban-Americans who say trade with Cuba feeds repression on the island.

The productions coming to Havana this year say White House staff have explicitly encouraged them as part of the administration’s warming with Cuba. Preparing for anger in Miami was never part of the planning.

“It just didn’t factor into it,” Showtime president David Nevins said as he watched the shooting in Old Havana last week. “We’re slowly renewing relations, and I think this show and the attitude that you’ll see within the show towards what’s going on with Cuba I think reflects where mainstream America is right now.”

Producers of “House of Lies” and other productions shot in Cuba said the 55-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba posed the primary obstacle to U.S. entertainment companies’ hopes to turn the island into a tropical backdrop. But particularly Cuban difficulties could also prevent U.S. productions from regularly working on the island.

“There’s a lot of stuff coming here,” Carnahan said. “Whether Cuba becomes a viable location on a regular, ongoing basis rather than a novelty is up to both countries.”

The Cuban government demands script approval, only accepting productions that put the country in a good light. Charter flights from the United States remain unreliable, although regularly scheduled flights are slated to start soon.

Read more: http://triblive.com/usworld/world/9846919-74/cuba-havana-cuban#ixzz3y8yT9d00

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