Get to know 7 Seas Productions, who carry Latin America in their heart and were the first to shoot in Cuba commercially
7 Seas Productions is a photo and video production services company with an unparalleled locations’ database ensuring the return of loyal clients even after so many years. Their otherwise unreachable and breath-taking locations across Argentina, South of France, Cuba, and Colombia have proven to be the key assets to their success in world-class advertising stills, film and fashion shoots since 1999. Chris, the founder of the 7 Seas Productions, recently took the time to discuss the evolution of the company and what the future holds for him and his team as they set sail on the seven seas.
Production Paradise: As one of the first production companies to shoot commercially in Cuba exactly twenty years ago, what are certain things that you have seen change over time with regards to the location itself and the industry?
Chris: Cuba is a phenomenon. It’s a stalwart in the Caribbean, torn between East and West, between socialism and openness. Over the last 20 years it has become more of a free country, with more possibilities for the citizens. They can travel and work independently in various service sector branches. The good thing about the cities is that there was never a construction nor a demolition boom as in other socialist countries (look at the GDR). Fidel was not into architecture. So many of the buildings that made Havana “grand” still stand or have even been restored. The old part of town is stunning but so are many neighborhoods that have never seen a foreigner. It’s fun and safe to take walks and hikes. The audiovisual industry was always Cuba’s claim to fame, it held the Latin American Film Festival uninterrupted since the early 50’s, with a lot of own productions and sometimes dissident views. You need a work visa for everything film and photo related, which we provide.
Production Paradise: What was the idea behind 7 Seas and shooting in Cuba?
Chris: The idea is not so much about shooting in Cuba but offering different locations at interesting places in the world. We occupy niche locations, none of our production sites are as big or established as Miami or Cape Town but that’s what our clients like. 7 Seas is an on-site production services company, we produce far away from the big metropoles, our clients come to the location and we manage all elements of that process. You are either in New York or in the Caribbean, you can´t be close to your client and close to the location. We are the people on the ground that know the sites like the back of our hands. In Cuba, there are maybe 5 serious production companies. The reason is the difficult relationship that you have with the Government and only companies that have an established history in Cuba can produce there.
In Colombia’s Cartagena we are the only real photo and video production company, with a location manager who lives there all year and who is like the greatest tour guide you could imagine, with all the contacts that to go with it. Cartagena combines the colonial with the modern, it´s a bit like Cuba and competes with Mexico for the great beaches. In Colombia we cover the Colombian Caribbean with its center Cartagena and the Rosary Islands, but also Santa Marta and the National Park Tayrona.
In Argentina we teamed up with Mondo Cine, an established Buenos Aires-based Production House and we combine local knowledge with international experience. It’s a very good combination in a country that you have to know thoroughly in order to produce there. Unions and customs, rentals and payment methods, all of these have to be skillfully managed. In Argentina we cover the entire 5000 km long country and some of the landscapes available are simply unrivaled.
And then there is France with its beautiful coasts on the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. It had its heydays in the 90’s, then fell into oblivion and has now recovered a position that one can describe as “secret tip”. Can Nice and Marseille compete with Barcelona? Can Corsica compete with Mallorca? The answer is: no, but why should they? That´s their strength.
Last and least there are the Alps where we cover several areas and cities but in the first place the roof of the Alps, the Mont Blanc with its “capital” Chamonix. Snow year around on a glacier, alpine meadows with the Mont Blanc in the background, a thriving city, makes this enchanting place a versatile production option. For everyone who needs snow or mountains it’s the ideal choice.
Production Paradise: Out of all the countries you provide services in, which is the most popular for clients and why so?
Chris: There is quite an even balance in the numbers of productions for each country. It depends on the years and the fashion trends. After all, we work 80% in fashion. Right now there is a run on Argentina and we experienced earlier this spring and summer a big interest in snow, in the Mont Blanc but also Patagonia. Brands with a penchant for colorful patterns gravitate inevitably to the Caribbean.
Production Paradise: With such an impressive roster of photographers, how do you select your team members? Is there a specific process?
Chris: No, it’s easy. You have to know the place and you have to know each production, of course. We assemble the best team for each production based on skills, requirements and experience. Communication at each stage is key, so we are transparent on all of the necessary elements so that everyone is on the same page throughout the process. And we can put together a ‘dream team’ with relatively short notice.
Production Paradise: What is it about the company culture that makes 7 Seas a great place to work?
Chris: We love our work and we embrace it. To work is a blessing and after earlier ups and downs in the establishing phase, we are blessed now with a constant flow of work. Keep your house tidy. Look after all the significant aspects that make a production house: social media, website(s), responsiveness, quick location output, cost estimates the same day. Using the right platforms and events to make you known.
Production Paradise: Are there any plans of expansion to other unique locations in new countries or continents?
Chris: We can grow in every country, just by us exploring it further. An example: Havana is the production site of the moment. But at some point people will turn to other places, like Santiago, the second largest Cuban city with stunning architecture as well, with a hilly cityscape (unlike Havana which is flat) and with daily flights. In Latin America we can cover almost every country thanks to long existing relationships with local production companies and fixers. We have proved it in the past but never put it on the foreground. We produced successfully in Uruguay, in Chile, in Brazil, in Peru, in Costa Rica, in Mexico. But that’s often upon clients request because our main countries offer the looks of all the others.
Production Paradise: Would you say working with Production Paradise has been a positive experience for 7 Seas Productions?
Chris: Yes, absolutely. Often new clients introduce themselves by citing Production Paradise as their source, which creates an immediate sense of confidence. I consider us one of the longest standing clients of Production Paradise (and still kicking)!