It all started with an adrenaline-pumping zip line over the turquoise waters of Macqueripe Bay back in 2018. Now two years later, the world is getting another chance to see T&T’s cultural and environmental splendour on CBS’s reality game show, The Amazing Race.
Season 32 of the long-running show will premiere on October 14. Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon announced that episode 1 which was shot in T&T, will feature the cultural aspects such as steel pan, carnival costumes and goat racing in locations that include Exodus Pan Yard, Nylon Pool, Pigeon Point Heritage Park, Castara and the Buccoo Goat Racing Facility.
In a virtual media conference on Tuesday, Gopee-Scoon said the production crew shot the scenes in November 2018, employing approximately 310 locals and spent $1,915,000 filming on location.
According to entertainment magazine, E-Online, The Amazing Race averages about 10 million viewers per season.
Gopee-Scoon said this means the beauty and culture that T&T has to offer will be seen by this large audience. “In this vein, I am extending an invitation to everyone at home and abroad to view this episode, which will undoubtedly have a profound impact on our national pride. I would like to emphasize that this international film production is not a one-off or isolated event. In fact, The Amazing Race was among thirty-five (35) film productions of varying genres, sizes and budgets shot in Trinidad & Tobago in the fiscal years, 2019 and 2020, spending approximately $18,900,000 and employing 629 locals.”
“Some of the more prominent productions filmed during this period include Ainsley’s Kitchen, which aired on January 2019 and Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, which aired in May 2019,” Gopee Scoon said.
She also announced that five major productions commenced discussions with FilmTT and signalled their interest to film here in 2021, with an overall estimated projected spend of over $78,000,000.
If you are not familiar with The Amazing Race, Lorraine O’Connor, director of Riddum Productions, who partnered with the CBS production team, explained that 12 couples depart the US to travel to unknown destinations. They must complete challenges thrown at them along the way. Each couple has their camera operator and an audio person who does not leave their side. After each destination, a couple is eliminated and the winning couple wins US$1 million.
It was O’Connor and her locations manager Princess Donelan who sold T&T’s magic to CBS. She recalled it was 3.30 in the afternoon, and after exploring cocoa estates, panyards, Moko Jumbies in San Fernando, doubles in Debe and the Gasparee Caves, she and Donelan were about to zipline for the very first time. They were both terrified but chin up as the CBS producer was keen about trying the zipline to consider including the challenge in The Amazing Race.
“We were not going to give him even the slightest reason not to consider Trinidad & Tobago as the perfect destination to start this very anticipated season,” O’Connor said.
From there, it led to an exploration of Tobago and a week after the adventure ended, the show’s producers called with news that executive producer Bertram Van Munster wanted to include Trinidad & Tobago in the premiere episode. With Riddums Production as the local facilitation company partnering with Leslie Ann Wills Caton, managing director of FixerFilms, the crew shot Episode One on November 11, 2018. Riddums Productions employed over 300 local suppliers in areas of transportation, decoration, accommodation, catering, printing, musicians and performers. O’Connor said this gave the industry a much-needed boost.
FilmTT Chairman Dionne Mc Nicols Stephenson said successes like this contributes to attracting more international productions to film in T&T. Mc Nicols Stephenson said FilmTT is improving the relevant regulatory conditions that help to ensure sustained levels of production and foreign exchange generation.
“And this is typical of film production. It has the potential to add to the economy in almost every sector, revenue that would not have otherwise existed. It is for this reason that we continue to work towards sustained levels of film production of both local and international, even in this COVID-19 reality. We are liaising with and learning from our international counterparts as we develop systems through which we can continue production in light of the present realities,” Mc Nicols Stephenson said.
As the government’s National Development Strategy/Vision 2030 identifies the creative industries as one of the new and emerging economic sectors that can provide numerous opportunities, Gopee Scoon said FilmTT, an agency under the aegis of her Ministry, is spearheading efforts to undertake film destination marketing to attract international film production companies. She said the ultimate objective is to showcase T&T as a premier location for international productions.