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USVI Film Office Is Open For Business: Some of The Movies Shot In The Territory Might Surprise You!

ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU: This 1977 film starring Burt Lancaster, Barbara Carrera and Michael York was made at St. Croix’s Davis Bay and the movie was released as a major motion picture.

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CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The USVI Film Office’s slogan is: “Imagine the unimaginable.”

It seems like St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix already did that with Hurricanes Irma and Maria in September.

The film industry of the territory slowly is struggling to get back on its feet, the office’s director told Deadline.

“We got hit by Hurricane Irma and then two weeks later by Maria,” said Luana Wheatley, director of the USVI Film Office. “That set us back, but we’re open for business. The goal of this office is to put people to work and have an economic impact.”

Our stunning locations have long been a draw to Hollywood filmmakers – The Proud and the Profane, starring William Holden and Deborah Kerr, filmed there in the 1950s, as did Open Water, the 2003 movie about two divers abandoned in shark-infested waters. The Island of Dr. Moreau was shot at St. Croix’s Davis Bay in 1977.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button shot there, and so did Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part I. Late last year, The Bachelor filmed an episode on St. Thomas and St. John.

But there hasn’t been any filming activity there since the hurricanes struck, leaving five dead and the islands’ infrastructure in tatters. “Two Category 5 storms in two weeks – that’s the really unprecedented part of it,” Wheatley told Deadline. “Prior to the hurricanes, I was having discussions with a couple of folks, but there’s not been much discussion since the hurricanes.”

In March, the islands’ first film incentives were approved, offering up to $2.5 million a year in tax credits and rebates, but so far not a single production has applied.

“Nobody’s applied,” Wheatley said. “All $2.5 million is available. I just need somebody to take advantage of it.”

Wheatley remains optimistic, however.

“Assistance from FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers really helped us ramp up our recovery,” Wheatley said, “and 700 linemen from all over the country came to help us rebuild our electrical grid.”

Electricity has returned to 80 percent to 90 percent of the islands, she said, but cell phone and Internet reception is still “spotty” more than three months after the storms. “I have no phone or Internet service at my house. Those services are spotty right now still.

Many schools were damaged – some so badly that they’ll never reopen – and many roads were washed out, but that’s no longer a major problem, she said. And tourism, the islands economic engine, “is coming back,” she said. “Cruise ships are back up to their pre-hurricane schedules, and although 70% of the hotel rooms are down, some hotels, villas and Airbnb are back. Housing is not a problem, and units for visiting crews are available.”

English-speaking local crews also are available, she said. “We’ve got assistant director, camera operators, art and marine departments and production assistants. The dollar is our currency, and we have custom waivers for importing and exporting equipment, which is a significant savings. There’s not a lot of equipment on the islands, so you will have to bring in some kind of equipment package. But we’re open for business, and that’s the bottom line.”

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

1 Comment

  1. Heather Sewell
    April 23, 2019 at 8:18 PM — Reply

    I just did the wardrobe for a movie called Dead Water with Judd Nelson as the star. We wrapped up filming g in September 2018. Filmed in St. Croix

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