THE next big Hollywood-produced “Asian” movie might just be located in the Philippines.
Kevin Kwan, best-selling author of Crazy Rich Asians, and Lawrence Bender, award-winning producer of such hits as Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, Inglorious Basterds, etc., recently visited Amanpulo and El Nido, scouting for possible locations for their next film. Prior to their visit to Palawan, they attended the 21st World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit in Manila as panelists in “Through the Lens,” a discussion on how a destination benefits from being featured in films and novels.
“One of the reasons why we are here is we want to make a movie here,” said Bender. “Kevin wrote a script, and it’s like a love letter to the Philippines.”
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, who accompanied Kwan and Bender to Palawan, told the BusinessMirror, “[Kwan] really wants to shoot in Palawan.” She added the novelist also wanted to visit Coron and was “interested in Bucas Grande in Surigao del Norte. I told him about the stingless jellyfish in the Tojoman Lagoon.”
The Department of Tourism (DOT) usually helps the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) in recommending locations for international film and TV productions. (See, “Foreign film crews love shooting in the PHL—DOT,” in the BusinessMirror, June 7, 2021.)
Spotlight on the destination, culture
At the panel discussion, Kwan also talked about his particular love for the Philippines, which he said was one of the best trips he has taken. “It’s a country with so many amazing locations, cultures, flavors, and of course, the people are amazing…. This is my fourth trip. So it’s always a pleasure to be back and it’s always surprising what happens. I never know what will happen when I get to the Philippines, but it’s always a grand adventure,” he added.
When planning a film or writing a novel, Kwan said he purposely puts a spotlight on particular destinations, as he did in Crazy Rich Asians. “It’s about showcasing cultures for me. It’s telling stories that are authentic to the place and to really celebrate these places. And, you know, we did that in Singapore for Crazy Rich Asians quite effectively. It boosted tourism exponentially for the country.”
Bender, however, underscored the need for destinations like the Philippines to offer “either a tax rebate and film incentive” to encourage filmmakers to come here. “When we come into an area to shoot, we hire local people, we bring in people, we go to hotels, we rent cars…you know, it’s a local economy that we all of a sudden just create. Obviously, we have 150, 250 people who we’re employing; they pay taxes, they buy food, they employ other people, they pay taxes. So it’s a net positive for the economy, and the government ultimately, who pays out these incentives ends up getting the money back.”
Gov’t earns from hosting film productions
He added, “Movie stars also talk about the great shooting location, which is a really great way to promote your local [destinations]. And we’re hoping that happens here, because we really want to come and shoot this movie here.”
The FDCP offers a variety of fiscal incentives for foreign film and TV producers, especially when local crew and talents are hired.
Meanwhile, Romulo Puyat expressed optimism on the Philippines’s role in future Hollywood projects. “Film and literary works hold great potential to reach more people and show them how rich the Philippines is in terms of breathtaking destinations and diverse cultures. We hope these will in turn encourage more travelers around the world to visit and experience our country,” she said.
“Given our expansive tourism portfolio, we look forward to having more film and TV projects shot here in the Philippines. Rest assured we have the guidelines in place to ensure their health and safety while filming in our destinations,” she added.
Image credits: BRP