After scouring a handful of locations, U.K.-based MSR Media producer Philippe Martinez has landed on the Caribbean island of Nevis to shoot six films back-to-back. With the pandemic still wreaking havoc in many countries, Nevis Island ticked all the boxes where stringent protocols have rendered few cases and no deaths. “One has to think outside the box when you’re a producer; we decided to shoot in the Caribbean when we saw that the pandemic was not abating,” said Martinez, who despite COVID restrictions, shot two films in the U.K.: “Father Christmas Is Back,” which he directed and produced, starring Liz Hurley, Kelsey Grammer and John Cleese, and “Miss Willoughby and the Haunted Bookshop,” with Nathalie Cox and Grammer.
“We closed the country down on March 25 and opened our borders on Oct. 31, but with some restrictions still in place,” noted Jadine Yarde, CEO, Nevis Tourism Authority. Indoor dining is now allowed but masks are still compulsory.
“The island still imposes a 14-day quarantine upon entry but more often than not, you’re in a private beach hotel, which makes it more than tolerable,” said Martinez.
First out the gate is comedy “One Year Off” under the production deal that MSR inked with the Nevis Island Administration (NIA), which has signaled its commitment to building a film industry. The Nevis government is offering access to multiple locations across the island and preferential hotel rates. Every little bit helps as Martinez has observed a nearly 20% uptick in budgetary expenses because of health protocols.
Romantic comedy “One Year Off” is directed by Brad Weston and co-written by Kate Wood, Martinez and Stewart Thomson. Pic follows Claire whose old friend James crashes her post-breakup pity party in London. James has inherited a stunning house and beach club on the island of Nevis so he invites her and the old gang to spend a week. Once there, they are so smitten by the island that they decide to stay for a year. Life in paradise soon devolves into a comical disaster.
A cast and crew of about 50 people arrived in Nevis amid strict protective measures for the Feb. 25 start date. Local talent and crew have also been hired. “We’re hiring at least 30 local actors who will be given acting classes by a Shakespearean actor who’s been living in Nevis for the past 20 years,” said Martinez. MSR Media has also announced the creation of an education program to train local people in a variety of on-set roles in an effort to boost the island’s production infrastructure.
The production could not come at a better time for the island that has seen tourism, which accounts for 60% of its GDP, halved because of the pandemic.
“The timing is perfect, we’re excited to have this production underway,” said Yarde who estimates that it will generate at least 150 jobs and inject a $1 million into the local economy at the onset.
“Most importantly, it has raised everyone’s morale as many people are learning a new trade, new skills,” she added.
In a statement, Nevis Premier Hon. Mark Brantley, said: “Nevis is uniquely placed to develop a world-class film industry. My government is agile, responsive and aggressively seeking to partner with filmmakers to develop this industry on Nevis. The island is warm and welcoming with stunning mountains and beaches and a people who epitomize hospitality.”
“One Year Off” is produced by Martinez and Alan Latham from Highfield Grange Studios. The film’s financial partner is Kirsty Bell from Goldfinch Entertainment, who serves as executive producer alongside Lee Beasley and Karinne Behr from MSR Media.
MSR Media Intl., an MSR Media company, is handling worldwide rights for the film.
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