Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Daniel Loria
April 23, 2013 9:00 AM
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How James Bond Helped Build Panama’s Growing Film Industry -- And Where It's Heading Next

That hustle isn't limited to fundraising, either. Arianne Benedetti, a filmmaker and the current head of the Panama Film Commission, describes a bohemian approach to production on her films, with friends and neighbors helping out in every role. "We can prepare directors but it won't get us anywhere unless the more technical roles are also developed," she states. "We need proficient sound technicians, gaffers, and camera operators as well. The task is to train people so we can create the technical jobs that make the creative aspect possible."
 
Attracting foreign productions to shoot in Panama is part of that strategy. A recently implemented 15% cash back program is in effect, with the hope of bringing in projects where locals can work alongside industry veterans to get hands-on experience. The revenue will help finance the $3 million fund established to give local filmmakers funding for their projects. The first round of these awards was given at this year's festival to 12 filmmakers. Workshops are also being implemented across the country and there is talk of partnering with a university to open a 12 month post-graduate program."Our goal is to ramp up production from one to seven films each year," explained Benedetti.
 
Miroslav couldn’t rely on any of these new initiatives for "Reinas." The first big break in her career came when she received funding for "Curundú" from Cinergia, a production fund based in Costa Rica since 2004 that helps finance projects from Central America and the Caribbean. "My generation owes a lot to that organization," she added. "Cinergia had the vision to open itself up to the region and help us get our films made."
 
Miroslav decided to go a different route when raising money for "Reinas," becoming one of the first Central American filmmakers to start a Kickstarter campaign. "No one knew what that was here," she said. "I had to introduce the whole crowdfunding culture to everyone I met. People weren't familiar with the concept, so it became a challenge to convince them that it’s a legitimate and common way to finance films." "Reinas" was featured in Indiewire’s Project of the Day in August of 2011 and successfully reached her fundraising goal of $19,000.
 
Despite these advancements, the major Hollywood studios still dominate the distribution and exhibition landscape in Central America. Panama is only a recent example of a country that invests in cinema as a source of economic growth. It's ironic that a blockbuster film, free of all the challenges mentioned above, helped pave the road for the filmmakers following in Ana and Anayansi's footsteps. "Quantum of Solace" indirectly showed Panama's government the economic benefit of supporting film production, both on a foreign and domestic level.
 
The byproducts of globalization aren’t always this positive (there are too many counter-examples and adverse effects to list), but James Bond might just be the hero that Panama's independent filmmakers never expected.


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