Jamaica has long been a bucket list tourist destination for beach lovers, Carnival revellers and the throngs who have come to worship at the altar of all things Marley, but in the past year, another dimension to its allure has been as film destination, which the national GDP can’t stand to love!
Last summer, up-and-coming M-1 Productions Limited was invited to collaborate with Visceral Productions to film the Mexican reality show De Viaje Con Los Derbez.
This series centres on the family of Mexican actor and comedian, Eugenio Derbez, one of the Spanish-speaking world’s most recognizable stars, and is written and produced by Ben Odell and Nick Lee.
Landing the chance of a lifetime, De Viaje Con Los Derbez now ranks number one for Amazon Prime Video in Latin America – a big get for M-1 and a bankable score for the Jamaican economy’s bottom line.
The premise of the show centres on the Derbez family vacationing in Jamaica and trying to ground themselves in the culture. They traversed the island filming at scenic locations like Dunn’s River Falls, Glistening Waters, Waterland Art Walk, School of Vision, Rasta Village and even made it up to the Blue Mountains. The series promises to expose Latin American viewers to Jamaica’s culturally rich tapestry beyond the beach.
Javier Williams, senior vice-president of 3Pas Studios in Los Angeles and CEO of Visceral in Mexico City, was also on the ground in Jamaica, leading the team and directing the show.
“After two extremely successful seasons of the Pantaya and Prime Video show ‘De Viaje con los Derbez‘ in Morocco and in the US, we were looking for an interesting place not too far from Mexico that would offer exciting possibilities to explore our travel stories with our cast.
“We wanted a place that combined natural beauty with a cultural experience and social scene that could help creative activities and situations where the travelling family would flourish, while at the same time taking the audiences on an enticing journey with us.
“Also, we were looking for a beach environment, at least for a part of the trip, to have our cast travel to a different environment than they did in the previous two seasons. We did scout several places in Latin America and in the Caribbean but we honed in on Jamaica due to the beauty of its natural enclaves and its unique blend of culture, vibrant music, counterculture, and history. It was a place that offered all the elements we were looking for to continue this popular series,” said Williams
Visceral reached out to M-1 over a year ago about being the land company in Jamaica. In addition to line producing and production fixing, M-1 provided daily logistics and meals. M-1 also rented equipment to Visceral, provided audio engineers and supplied crew to assist with lighting and audio recording.
“Whenever we have to produce outside Mexico or the US it is of utmost importance to us that we partner with a local, professional production company that can help us navigate a foreign landscape,” explained Pablo Calasso, COO of Visceral who handled all back office and logistics from Mexico and serves as an executive producer on the project.
“We did careful research and we were fortunate to eventually work with M-1 Productions and its great team of professionals where we can single out Saeed and Leslie-Ann McDowell who both served as production fixers on set.
“They were always on top of things alongside us, patiently explaining to us the local processes and opening all the possibilities that the island offered to our production, while at the same time helping us in solving the unavoidable issues in any production, moreso in an unscripted one. We are happy that with the help of Jamaica’s film commission, we met M-1 and to have them as our guides in the local sensibilities and landscape and our key holders in the island was quite fortunate.”
Apart from the production and technical support, M-1 also provided some creative input by acting as a cultural ambassador for the production. By exposing the cast and crew to the very best of Jamaican culture they managed to enrich the content with nuanced historical details that only a local would know.
While the prospect of giving our tourism sector a boost is exciting, Saeed Thomas, the CEO of M-1 was equally enthralled by the cash injection our local economy received during the filming process.
“I believe that film can make a significant contribution to Jamaica’s economy,” says Saeed when discussing his experience.
“The ROK Hotel had just opened when we booked it out for weeks to film. That’s where all the foreign crew stayed and where we set up our production base. Apart from that, Visceral hired a 30-person local crew and engaged caterers, food trucks, drivers and transportation companies for the duration of the project. When we filmed at different locations, those places were paid location fees and will benefit from increased exposure once the show airs.”
This experience has expanded Saeed’s vision about filming with foreign companies in the future.
“Most of our experiences have been with English-speaking foreign companies, but working with Visceral allowed us to tap into a completely different market. We realised how big that market is, and we hope to be able to partner with Visceral again, as well as other Latin American production companies that want to harness Jamaica’s vibrant culture.”
As Jamaica heats up as an international film destination, who knows what benefits will spill into your collective streams? Stay tuned!