Filmmakers Head to Cuba As Cuban Embargo Disintegrates

cuban embargoAs the Cuban embargo dissolves, more filmmakers are shooting in Cuba

Slowly, but surely, the Cuban borders are opening to U.S. citizens for various purposes – in this particular case, it is due to the lifting of the Cuban embargo. Filmmakers have taken a particular interest in the island nation detached for decades from U.S. businesses.

Several projects are filming in Cuba

The longstanding, now fading, Cuban embargo signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, barred filmmakers from taking their projects to the communist island in the Caribbean. These days, however, film projects are trickling into the country as the Cuban embargo is taken apart piece by piece. For example, Don Cheadle’s Showtime series “House of Lies” filmed in Havana in early 2016, shortly after the Treasury Department published new regulations allowing filming in Cuba in January. In addition, in April “Fast & Furious 8” began production there.

Both the U.S. and Cuban governments are pushing to end the Cuban embargo, though how quickly that happens has yet to be determined. A full removal of sanctions requires Congressional approval.

Pros & cons of going with Cuba

Similar to choosing a specific U.S. state to film in, going with a certain country comes with pros and cons. This goes for Cuba just like anywhere else. Bob Yari, the director of “Papa: Hemingway in Cuba,” recently spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the ups and downs of filming in a country long isolated from U.S. influence.

Yari began working on getting permission to film their prior to the decision to lift the economic embargo, which means the director had to go through two years worth of paperwork before he got there. However, he noted that one advantage of filming in Cuba was relative affordability. Personnel and supplies, he told the publication, were cheaper there. However, flying equipment into Cuba was expensive.

In addition, it should be noted that the Cuban government is still wary of what happens within its borders. Filmmakers are required to submit a synopsis or script to the country’s cultural authorities, according to The New York Times. Anything too controversial in the eyes of the communist government may not receive approval.

It is also important to consider technology limitations on the island. Cell phone service and Internet connection are not what they are here in the U.S., which can prove to be a setback for some films, Matthew Carnahan, the creator of “House of Lies,” told The Times. However, he noted that Cuban actors and crew were “passionate.”

If you’re a filmmaker thinking of shooting in Cuba, consult an entertainment law attorney to learn more about the requirements.

For more posts dealing with the entertainment law behind movies, check out:

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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