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Hollywood has eyes on Havana as U.S./Cuba relations thaw
By Hollie McKayPublished January 06, 2015

LOS ANGELES – Hollywood and Havana are getting to know one another.

The musical “Rent” opened in Cuba on Christmas Eve for a three-month
stint, becoming the first American musical to debut in Havana since the
start of the U.S. in 1960.

Director Bob Yari also wrapped production of his Ernest Hemingway biopic
“Papa” at the end of 2014, making it the first Hollywood movie shot in
Cuba since that fateful year.

“Papa” reportedly received approval from the U.S. Treasury Department as
it was classified as a documentary. The Discovery Channel received a
similar designation from Treasury for its show “Cuban Chrome,” a reality
series that has also begun filming there.

Each of these deals presaged President Obama’s announcement on Dec 19
that the U.S. was moving to “normalize relations” with Cuba, but are
still likely harbingers of many movie and TV projects to come on the
previously off-limits island.

“With its warm climate, beaches and lower costs, the country will draw
film and TV producers,” Gene Grabowski, partner at communications firm
kglobal, told FOX411. “Moviemakers will be looking for easier places to
set up their shots without traffic, interfering onlookers or rigid
environmental restrictions. In addition, the Cuban climate is very
hospitable and the cost of and support personnel will likely be
much cheaper than in the United States.”

The nation’s picturesque scattered mountain range and its rolling
limestone plains dotted with tropical trees will no doubt draw Hollywood
location scouts. Plus the country looks like it did 60 years, which
makes it unique. There will, however, be challenges.

“Certainly Hollywood could benefit from this new relationship with Cuba.
An inexpensive location site, and I’m sure that at least initially the
Cuban government will bend over backwards to accommodate the American
film industry. They would welcome the dollars that would flow in as a
result of any productions taking place in Cuba,” said foreign policy
expert and former federal intelligence official Del Wilber. “But the
Cuban infrastructure is dilapidated and would present some serious
challenges to filming there.”

Wilber notes that the electrical grid is outdated and could cause delays
during filming. The close oversight and scrutiny of Cuban authorities
could also present problems.

“Graft and corruption would be pervasive with every Cuban official
standing with an outstretched hand between a film company and the
successful completion of a project,” he said.

According to producer Madison Jones, another big con is a lack of
skilled crew in-country.

“But any new country is a challenge that filmmakers would have to get
around, but everybody would love to go and film there,” he said.

The Cuba embargo originated in 1960 as a partial export ban and was
expanded to a full prohibition under the John F. Kennedy administration
two years later, following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Although
President Obama has claimed that the isolation inflicted on Cuba “has
not worked,” it will still require an act of Congress to revoke the embargo.

Source: Hollywood has eyes on Havana as U.S./Cuba relations thaw | Fox
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