One of the benefits of the United States normalizing relations with Cuba is that the country is now available for Hollywood to use as a filming location. As beautiful as the nation is to shoot in, it’s not without its problems. The Fate of the Furious was the first film to use Cuba as a location after the lifting of the embargo and while director F. Gary Gray says that everything the movie went through to film in Cuba was worth it, even the simplest things were difficult because they had never been done before. According to Gray…
It was massive undertaking to bring hundreds of people from the U.S. to Cuba, even something as simple as putting them up in a hotel. Or sending out emails — we had very limited to no internet service. It’s one thing to bring a movie to Cuba, but it’s another to bring a movie of this size, where you are racing vintage cars 100 miles per hour down streets where there are tens of thousands of people just watching. When you have actors and stuntmen driving at these speeds in these old cars, being chased by helicopters in a city that had never seen a helicopter like that before, it was really tough. But worth it.
Filming a movie on location always has major logistics requirements but so many places do this all the time that everybody knows how to handle it. Such was not the case in Cuba, where filming scenes like the opening of The Fate of the Furious were in violation of U.S. law previously. According to F. Gary Gay’s comments to The Hollywood Reporter, this meant hotels weren’t used to having that many guests and people weren’t used to having filming done down their street. Even in Los Angeles, where such things are more common, you’ll get fans on a film set trying to get a glimpse of their favorite stars, but one can only imagine how much worse the whole thing would have been in Cuba.
And of course, there’s the issue of internet access, one of those things that have become so ubiquitous in most of the world that you don’t even notice it anymore unless you don’t have it. This was apparently the case in Cuba as their infrastructure was not up to what the crew was used to, so simply sending an email back to the studio or to somebody on the crew became a chore. Slightly ironic, considering one of the sponsorship deals the movie put together was with an ISP.
Cuba appears to be undergoing a trial by fire when it comes to their new status as a major filming location. First, they had The Fate of the Furious arrive on their shores, then they had Transformers: The Last Knight show up next. So much for letting the island nation start small and learn how to handle bigger productions. On the plus side, at this rate, it shouldn’t take too long for Cubans to be experts at location filming.