Just when the territory could really use some bright economic news, it got a welcome jolt Thursday with the announcement that St. Thomas is the site for the 27th season of MTV’s "The Real World.”
The show is likely the granddaddy of reality television shows, the longest running, and most successful.
MTV’s "The Real World: St. Thomas," is being filmed in its entirety in the U.S. Virgin Islands with St. Thomas’s Hassel Island as its base. The show is currently set to premier this summer, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Rumors of the project have been flying around the community, especially in Frenchtown where folks have been aware of the activity on Hassell Island, but were not officially confirmed until Thursday by Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson Doty and MTV, which announced the production in The Hollywood Reporter.
The story is also headlined in the New York Daily News Online with a spectacular photo of the St. Thomas harbor. The story says, "MTV is taking ‘The Real World’ off shore. The series, which started in New York, will begin production this month on the island of St. Thomas. Now heading into its 27th cycle, ‘Real World’ assembles a group of folks to live and work together in a new city.”
In briefing business leaders on her department’s marketing efforts in a Government House meeting earlier this year, Doty said nine film projects are already slated for the territory. One was a $3.5 million dollar project, which was finalized by Tourism in late December 2011.
Though she didn’t confirm the MTV show as that project, Doty was excited about the rewards the show would bring to the territory.
Speaking Thursday, after the Hollywood Reporter announcement, Doty was obviously delighted to talk about the show. "It’s really escalating, the work we are doing in the film area," she said.
"The exposure we get is invaluable. And as it pertains to work, local individuals are hired, businesses benefit, the restaurant and hotel industries, and others. It will have an immediate economic effect on the territory."
The Hollywood Reporter quoted ‘Real World’ creator and executive producer, Jonathan Murray, saying, "The U.S. Virgin Islands – long a spring vacation spot for young people – has beautiful weather and a laid back Caribbean culture.”
Murray continued, "The Virgin Islands is the perfect environment for this year’s seven strangers to get to know each other and figure out their lives. Seven new roommates will take residence in a house custom-decorated for them when production starts."
Since the series’ 1992 debut, MTV has brought it to other beach locales including Miami, Hawaii, Key West and Cancun. The cast members are taped at all times via both manned and automatic cameras in the residence, Murray said.
The publication quoted Commissioner Doty: "Viewers of the show will get an opportunity not only to see the roommates settle into their new lives on St. Thomas, but also to follow their cultural experiences across the other islands that comprise the USVI – St. Croix, St. John and ‘the fourth Virgin’ – Water Island."
V.I. Film Office development manager Steven Bornn, who had been bound by confidentiality concerns until the announcement, was more than happy to speak about the production on Thursday.
"One of the great things about this show is its spontaneity,” he said. “It’s an honest to goodness travel documentary where they travel all over, enjoying what we have to offer – the culture, the food, the rhythms, the music. They will be walking all over town, enjoying the history. They will see the heart of all the islands."