The Rebirth of a Titanic Company
The Rebirth of a Titanic Company
Mexico's border region regains its position as the ideal destination for big budget productions. Baja Studios, one of the major drivers of that dynamism, is more active than ever.
By Omar Magaña / ProMéxico
While the bow of the Titanic, the legendary British liner, never resurfaced, Baja Studios, the locations off the coast of Baja California where director James Cameron filmed his blockbuster about the final hours of the ill-fated ship between 1996 and 1997, has once again fired up the engines after a few years at a relative standstill.
The films Little Boy, by Alejandro Monteverde (Mexico- US, 2013), All is Lost, by J.C. Chandor (US, 2013) and Ghosts of the Pacific, by Brian Falk (in filming), have given a new impulse to the studios on the international film market.
"We are working with ProMéxico to find ways to improve the program [Support for High Impact Film and Audiovisual Production, or ProAV, created in 2010] and increase our competitiveness compared to other countries," affirms Kurt Honold, one of the partners at the Baja California corporation which in 2007 acquired the 20th Century Fox studios built in 1996 for the filming of Titanic.
He explains that tightening the screws of the program with the help of Mexican authorities and top US producers, and also with film companies from Mexico and the rest of the world, is a priority for bringing big budget productions back to the Mexico-US border; productions that guarantee a significant economic spillover in the region with every shoot, especially in the service sector.
In an article published in the Los Angeles Times in January 2012, Richard Marosi, speaking about the rebirth of Baja Studios, recalled that period in the late 90s and early this century, when hotels and condos in Rosarito were fully occupied by the cast and crew of films such as Titanic (1997), Pearl Harbor (2001) and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003).
The numbers revealed since Titanic was filmed show that 20th Century Fox invested approximately 50 million usd to build the studios with some of the largest water tanks for filming in the world and various sets. "Titanic put the site and the studios in the center of big movie making and other productions followed. That brought in a lot of income from film for the area and created a series of new, well-paid jobs," says Honold.
The incentives sought by fine tuning ProAV –which initially refunded companies up to 17.5% of total shooting expenses if they amounted to at least 70 million pesos or 5.5 million usd, or post- production costs, if they reached 20 million pesos or 1.5 million usd, reduced in December 2012 from 70 to 40 million pesos or 3.1 million usd in production and from 20 to 10 million pesos or 785,000 usd in post-production– could put Baja Studios and Mexico in a good position compared to other countries like Australia, New Zealand, Hungary, Great Britain and Spain, which are currently the most attractive destinations for film investment.
"We have the potential to become the best but if the bottom line is not enough, it's not enough," states Honold, who insists that at the end of the day every film company will want to lower costs to a minimum and recover, as far as possible, the filming expenses. The location that guarantees that will be the winner. "We must be like the other countries to ensure that the deciding factor is only closeness," he adds.