Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Cross-Border Film Production: The Neoliberal Recolonization of an Exotic Island by Hollywood Pirates

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Media and Communication

First Advisor

Oliver Boyd-Barrett

Second Advisor

Federico Chalupa (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Ewart Skinner (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Committee Member)


This qualitative study explores the relationship between Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Hollywood's cross-border film productions by examining the strategies that these islands use to facilitate the filming of big-budget foreign films within their borders. The dissertation also analyzes the inherent implications of transnational film production practices from the perspective of the host location and reviews extant theories of international film production to explore whether they adequately explain the peculiar dynamics and experiences of filmmaking in SIDS countries by heavily financed, non-resident film producers.

The study blends relevant strands of political economy of media and critical cultural studies to construct a customized theoretical backbone. From this critical standpoint, it engages theories of globalization, development, cultural industries, post-colonialism, and policymaking to analyze the interaction between SIDS nations and international satellite film productions. Adopting a grounded theory methodological framework, it uses interviewees, focus groups, participant observation and document analysis to collect data from the island of Dominica in the Caribbean, which hosted two films in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

The study found that these foreign film producers received unprecedented levels of concessions and amassed huge savings from their ability to manipulate governmental authorities and local elites and exploit the weak institutional capacity of the state and its poor systems of accountability. It also revealed the relative incapacity of the host location to extend the inherent benefits of accommodating these big-budget film products from temporary economic activities to more lasting and sustainable development projects.