US production company receives license to operate in Cuba

 US production company receives license to operate in Cuba

In this Jan. 15, 2016 photo, “House of Lies” camera assistant Michael Endler prepares for a shoot outside the Bodeguita Del Medio bar, in Havana, Cuba. Desmond Boylan AP

HAVANA, Abril 4th

The license granted to Cuba International Network (CIN)by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) allows the companyto contract with Cuban government-operated radio and television enterprise known by the Spanish acronym RTV and authorizes all transactions to provide U.S. and international customers with recording equipment and trained Cuban staff.

“As a broadcaster, we have been closely watching current changes in Cuba and if there is going to be a market. The companies we work with, all wanted to go to Cuba to produce products,” founder and CEO of CIN, Barry H. Pasternak, told el Nuevo Herald. Currently, the company offers “from a one camera commercial shoot up to virtually any event,” through collaborations with major producers such as Gearhouse Broadcast and PRG.

The company, with offices in Miami, obtained the license on March 20, after waiting more than a year in a process that began in December 2015 under the administration of former President Barack Obama. The company is authorized to shoot on the island but is still waiting for Cuban government permits to have its own facility on the island.

Pasternak said he did not know why the process had taken so long but he was “happy to see that the government feels that we are trying to benefit the United States. We are Americans. We want to support an industry that has never filmed in Cuba, an untouched country and many people want to see the country.”

He also stressed that his company has no political motivations.

Barry Pasternak, Cuba International Network

“We did not put up the wall, the embargo is out of our area. Our job is to make movies, to produce quality content. We are not a political company,” said Pasternak, with more than 35 years of experience in broadcasting in the Caribbean region. CIN is a project dating back to 1992.

“It was hard but we love what we do and we want to do it in a beautiful location,” said the producer, who was previously involved in a telemedicine project involving an American university, the government of Cuba and other Caribbean countries.

According to John Kavulich, the president of the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council and who first reported on CIN’s license, this was not the first license issued by OFAC since President Donald Trump took office in January. OFAC did not immediately respond to questions sent by el Nuevo Herald.

Kavulich also said that there are companies that received licenses in the final months of the Obama administration and have not yet gone public for fear of “becoming target for the Trump aministration and/or becoming the catalyst for policy and regulatory changes by the Trump administration.”

During his campaign, Trump promised to renegotiate Obama’s opening to Cuba or cancel the agreements if the Cuban government does not offer concessions. The White House then announced a full policy review that has not yet ended, according to a spokeswoman.

During the so-called “thaw” under the Obama administration, several Hollywood and U.S. television networks flew to Cuba to film for the first time in nearly half a century. Among the shoots were Fast and Furious 8, House of Lies and Conan. But the shortage of technology on the island has increased the costs of these productions. The Rolling Stones — who staged a massive concert in Havana — and the team of Fast and Furious had to transport all audio and film equipment they needed to the island.

CIN said it would fill that gap.

The company plans to shoot a classic car rally and broadcast a live jazz concert to American audiences later this year. Pasternak said he has not seen changes in the interest of U.S. companies for filming on the island, a virtually untapped market, although, he said, “I see people being concerned about the [current] administration.”