What’s Next For Cuba?
After ruling Cuba for 47 years, the passing of Fidel Castro has left many predicting what’s next for Cuba. Will the country rapidly open up to the world or will the current regime continue its slow and cautious approach to change? We take a moment to run the thought experiment of what the future might hold for film productions planning to film in Cuba. As always, there are more questions than answers…
Visiting film productions are nothing new to Cuba. Even some US productions found there way to shooting in Cuba despite the embargo. More recently, the Obama administration has made efforts to open ties with Cuba and productions including non-journalistic projects such as music videos or commercials, which are now fully legal under US law. The incoming Trump administration has given mixed signals as to their planned approach to the current Cuban regime. If their demands for democratic reforms are met with acrimony from the Cuban government, the relationship may quickly head back to the way it has been over the last half century, cancelling any gains and opportunities for US companies to film in Cuba.
When planning to film in Cuba, permission needs to be obtained through a state approved production company. Projects of a politically sensitive nature have in the past not been granted permission to film. If Cuba moves to a more democratic political system, might we expect to see the opportunity for productions to openly investigate and film subjects that do not portray the government in a positive light?
If Cuba rapidly westernises, perhaps a more streamlined, less bureaucratic permitting system will come into place?
Arguably Cuba’s greatest attraction is its Old Havana looks. If the city is flooded with reconstruction investment money, what will that mean for visiting productions looking for Old Havana locations? Cubans will be eager to modernise. How attractive will Havana be to filmmakers if it is covered in scaffolding and demolition zones? Will renovations be careful to preserve the original architecture? The hope is they will recognise the unique jewel they possess and strive to build in a way that not only brings Havana back to its former glory, but gives it a chance to have a glorious future. The Cuban culture values creativity and beauty, so we can rest assured in that being a guiding principle.
Crew & Equipment
Cuba has long been home to a vast and talented network of experienced technical and creative crews. Continued interaction with western crews and more visiting productions will help to improve the size and experience level of local crews.
Opening trade will make it easier for new and more sophisticated film equipment to be imported and made available locally.
This is a tough one to predict. Will floating the CUC mean a devaluation that will make filming in Cuba more cost competitive? If we see a boom in film and tourist visitors then will the demand for crew, equipment, and other services fall short of the supply, thereby increasing those line item costs of filming in Cuba?
One thing we can count on is that we ought not to expect any government financial incentives designed to attract visiting productions, at least not in the short term, until the government has the funds to spare.
Cuba is one of the safest places in the world to visit or film. When Eastern Europe dived head first into democracy, capitalism quickly created winners and losers and many governments were too cash strapped to deal with the subsequent crime that followed. Lets hope the Cuban government learns from this experience.
In the short term, Fidel Castro’s death will not change much. In fact, Raoul Castro has been effectively running Cuba for the past years, so although the regime has lost its founding leader, it still remains strong and unrivalled.
In all likelihood, Cuba will seek to emulate the Chinese example where the current regime will maintain supreme political authority whilst enacting economic reforms that embrace the tenets of capitalism.
Whatever may come, this is a new chapter for the people of Cuba, and a time to be hopeful for the future.