Saint Kitts and Nevis became the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union’s (ECCU) first sovereign state to lower its debt-to-GDP ratio to the minimum 60% benchmark in 2018. The dual-island nation also adopted the Poverty Alleviation Program. Through this initiative, the government provided a monthly stipend to 4,000 families making less than EC $3,000 (USD $1,100) each month. However, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are jeopardizing the country’s economic growth. The tourism industry contributes 60% of Saint Kitts and Nevis’s GDP. Because of the pandemic’s disruption to the tourism sector, predictions have determined that the country will experience -2% GDP growth in 2021. Fortunately, an unexpected economic opportunity has arisen that will assist the nation in generating additional revenue: the new film industry in Saint Kitts and Nevis.
The MSR Media Deal
The entertainment industry suffered a significant economic collapse due to the shutdown of movie theaters and film production studios during lockdown regulations. In 2020, estimates determined that the international theatrical and home entertainment industry was worth $80.8 billion. This is a drop of 18% from the previous year. The most substantial decrease was in theater revenue, which fell from $42.3 billion in 2019 to $12 billion in 2020. Moreover, theater companies generated just 15% of the world’s total entertainment revenues compared to 43% in 2019.
COVID-19 safety regulations cost film companies like Universal an extra $8 million due to the overall production costs in the U.K. Due to the strict safety precautions and rising production costs in the U.K., film companies like MSR Media sought after COVID-19 safe havens to continue filming. The company found Nevis Island to be the ideal solution.
Saint Kitts and Nevis had only 44 reported coronavirus cases by March 2021. All but two of the patients had recovered completely, and there had been no fatalities. Since the end of August 2020, there have been no curfew or shelter-in-place restrictions throughout the country. Additionally, the CDC has also given Saint Kitts and Nevis a Level 1: Low Covid Risk rating. In contrast, the State Department has given the nation a Level 2 travel advisory. MSR Media has invested a multi-million dollar film industry investment in Saint Kitts and Nevis as a result of the country’s efficient control of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the film industry in Saint Kitts and Nevis underwent formal establishment.
New Employment Opportunities
According to data from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB), Saint Kitts and Nevis’ economy had a GDP of $927.4 million (2.5 billion Eastern Caribbean dollars) in 2020, down 11.2% due to the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on the tourism industry. In 2019, the tourism industry in Saint Kitts and Nevis employed 4,800 people. However, a World Food Programme survey found 51% of the population reported job losses or lower income as a result of the pandemic in 2020. Winston Crooke, a former actor and native Nevis Islander, detailed the tourist industry’s dire state. “I haven’t seen a tourist in a year and a half,” he told The Borgen Project in an interview.
Film creators will shoot six films on the island of Nevis as part of the MSR Media deal. MSR Media has recruited a total of 32 locals to work full-time with the film crew. Eight locals have landed speaking roles. Additionally, the crew cast 160 locals as extras. Nevis Premier Mark Brantley expressed gratitude to MSR Media for bringing employment and development opportunities to the island.
Boosting the Economy
The debut of the film industry in Saint Kitts and Nevis is also proving to be profitable. As a result of the MSR Media deal, opportunities for economic diversification have developed. It has created new prospects for employment, education and increased the exposure of Nevis across the world. Every four months, $1 million will go to the national economy per terms of the MSR Media deal.
The arrival of the film industry in Saint Kitts and Nevis has also ushered in the possibility of a new tourism category known as film tourism. Several distinct characteristics contribute to Saint Kitts and Nevis’ appeal as a filming location, setting the twin islands apart from others in the Caribbean. The country’s breathtaking scenery includes green hills that meet at Mt. Liamuiga’s volcanic peak, a rainforest, a harbor with several hidden coves and inlets and many beautiful beaches. Several tourist sites, including the Saint Kitts Scenic Railway and the Brimstone Hill Fortress, are located there. The Hamilton Museum is located on Nevis, as the island is the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States
Saint Kitts and Nevis is developing new hotels in anticipation of more tourists. Prime Minister Timothy Harris of Saint Kitts has outlined a varied hotel complex that is nearing construction. The Trinity Sunset Shores, Seaview Hotel and Hillsborough Suites Hotel are among these buildings, all of which will open in 2021.
Saint Kitts and Nevis’ Citizen by Investment Program (CBI), which began in 1984, is the world’s longest-running investment migration program. In exchange for contributing to the Sustainable Growth Fund, the program provides a haven for U.S. families. The income that the fund creates goes toward assisting many aspects of society, such as tourism and healthcare. Winston Crooke feels the film industry will aid in increasing interest in the CBI program. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity, and [filming movies in Nevis] is great publicity. I think what [MSR Media has] done is showcase not only [the island] but also what Saint Kitts and Nevis can offer to small companies,” he said.
The Acting Academy
One of the MSR Media team’s goals is to teach individuals from Saint Kitts and Nevis the skill of creating films. On February 22, 2021, the Acting Academy opened its doors. Phillipe Martinez, MSR Media’s Chief Producer and Director, and Winston Crooke, now an acting coach, lead the academy. The Nevis Performing Arts Center hosts the Acting Academy. Aspiring performers will take evening lessons twice a week, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. “The Acting Academy is about developing whatever skill sets [locals] have, nurturing [those skills] and owning them,” said Winston Crooke. All classes at the academy are free.
Future of the Film Industry
The film industry in Saint Kitts and Nevis has a bright future. MSR Media is currently working on projects including A Week in Paradise, Assailant and One Year Off in Saint Kitts and Nevis. “The most important thing is to help develop these other people [or] youngsters and so on in the film industry so they will carry on and develop the market. And I also want to thank MSR Media, Philippe Martinez and the production company for being bold enough to look at Nevis Island in the way that they have and give us this fabulous opportunity,” expressed Winston Crooke.
– Tiara Tyson