Puerto Rico’s film industry, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria, is hoping to get back on its feet before long to provide much-needed jobs and economic relief to the beleaguered island. In the meantime, local film crews – carpenters, electricians and technicians – are helping their communities in ongoing relief efforts and assisting visiting news networks in their coverage of the disaster.
“Carpenters and painters and everybody in the film industry are using our skills to help Puerto Rico recover,” director Luis Enrique Rodriguez told Deadline in a phone interview from San Juan. “Local cinematographers and technicians are helping CNN to assemble material for the news to put out the word that Puerto Rico is fighting to come back.”
Once an economic powerhouse on the island, the local film industry now is in shambles. Cigarette, starring John Travolta, finished shooting there just a few weeks before the storm hit, but other projects weren’t so lucky. Production on The Oath, a 10-episode crime series for Crackle that started filming there in July, has been interrupted by the storm and its aftermath and currently is scouting for locations on the island that haven’t been too ravaged by the storm.
Production on Driven, a political thriller shooting in Puerto Rico starring Jason Sudeikis with director Nick Hamm at the helm, was stalled by the storm, but is now back in production. “Very happy to report Driven is back in production and we have just wrapped our second day back,” producers Piers Tempest and Luillo Ruiz told Deadline. “They’re soldiering on,” said a source close to the film.
“We felt there was no option but to remount the production and come back,” said Hamm, who flew off the island with his American crew just before the hurricane hit. “There was no choice, really. You can’t desert people. You can’t walk away. You have to keep the industry alive. We all believe in the people here, who are so good at what they do. It’s important to be part of what they’re doing, which we were very proud to be a part of.”
The widespread destruction of the landscape forced him to make some script changes, he told Deadline. “I had to rewrite scenes for certain locations, but our main location is fine. And we’re going to make a bloody cool picture, too.” Production, he said, will wrap at the end of November.
Pre-production on Rodriguez’s own film, The Journey, which was to begin shooting next month, also has been delayed. “We’re making assessments and looking for ways to make this happen before the end of the year,” he said. “Right now communications are very fragile, and there’s no electricity on 95% of island. Most of landscapes are good, but some areas and the coastline are severely damaged, but we think we can modify the script so the landscapes can work for us. This is a humanitarian crisis, and we’re trying to keep the industry afloat so that when the island recovers, we can get more films and international projects to come back and get the industry flowing again.”
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