Location! Location! Location!

It was a full house inside the Courtleigh Auditorium last Tuesday night for the inaugural Jamaica Film Festival.

Master of ceremonies Fae Ellington (second left) with Nicole Bernard (left), vice-president, audience strategy at 21st Century Fox Group; BET’s Being Mary Jane cast member Stephen Bishop, and former NBC Universal executive Paula Williams Madison.

Rock-loving cinephiles have yet another reason to make boombastic drumrolls heralding the signature talent pool of the Land of Wood and Water. To a film festival calendar, timelessly dominated by influential staples such as Cannes, Toronto, Tribeca, and Venice -- Kingston, may now hold its own with the industry big dogs as it were with an inaugural effort courtesy of the ambitious visions of trade and investment agency Jamaica Promotions Company (JAMPRO). Screening venues dotted throughout the Kingston cityscape, from the Courtleigh Auditorium, and Usain Bolt's Tracks and Records to Triple Century Sports Bar, JAMPRO Business Auditorium, and Red Stripe Corporate HQ to present immortalised interpretations of the cultural experience to discriminating audiences out to see the black, green and gold in updated hues. SO takes one...

'The Time For A Film Festival Is Now!'


In the past few weeks I've heard the questions over and over again: "Why do we need a film festival right now?" "Is Jamaica prepared for a film festival?" I've also seen the vox pops on TV and seen the social media discussions, both for and against the hosting of a national film festival. I would respond by asking just one question: Are our local filmmakers creating?

If the answer to that question is no, then my response would be, no, we do not need a film festival. If the response is not just yes, but a resounding yes, then I would say well WHY NOT have a film festival NOW?! In fact, the Jamaica Film Festival would not be Jamaica's first attempt at hosting a film festival. Film festivals have been a part of our culture from as early as the 1970s. In the past there has been the Jamaica International Reggae Film Festival, there was the Jamerican Film Festival led by Sheryl Lee Ralph in Montego Bay. There was the Reggae Film Festival and, just recently, there was the staging of the Greater August Town Film Festival (GATFFEST) and others.

And I can understand why; Jamaica is bursting with talent! We have our own cadre of actors and actresses, film producers, cameramen, sound engineers, programmers, editors, artistes, set designers, animators, script writers, directors, producers, musicians, arrangers, composers, talent and a range of other skilled professionals, actively working in the field today.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a country full of talented and creative people who are always developing, creating and making up new things every...single...day! Just walk on our streets and you will see life acted out before your very eyes. So if we are creating stories and content every day, how do we express ourselves? Where do we exhibit this work? I will leave you to ponder on that...for just a moment.

The objectives of the Jamaica Film Festival


Is the time right for a film festival? Of course it is! And we have given parameters and set timelines for when and how we execute. So, ladies and gentlemen, the Inaugural Jamaica Film Festival is therefore charged with five key objectives:

1. Developing the capacity of film and content creators; providing the necessary skills and training to build an indigenous industry for small and big screen films.

2. Developing the film product in line with international standards;

3. Providing a platform to showcase the work of our own film-makers;

4. Connecting with the experts who are here for collaboration at several levels;

5. And; most importantly, training our local film experts about the business side of the industry.

From this premise then, we have a full journey ahead of us and I would like to pause just for a moment to commend JAMPRO and specifically the film commissioner and the Film Commission for taking the lead in pulling this together. But this is not about JAMPRO or the Film Commission, this is about You! The film-makers, producers, actors and actresses, artistes, make-up artists, video editors...this creative group of people, some essential, others tangential, to the creative process of film-making! We are merely facilitators of your success! We facilitate you in the same way that we would any investor in another industry.

o Eventually we would like to see all the film festivals coming together into this national initiative, because only when we unite do we create a bigger impact. Only when we unite do we leverage the opportunities available globally. Only when we unite do we surprise the world! In the same way we say: "Wi likkle but wi tallawah", we must prepare our film industry to take its place in and stake its claim for its share of the international film industry!

The development and role of the Film Commission


o Almost 30 years ago the Film Commission, operated by JAMPRO, was established in an attempt to drive investment, export, employment and foreign exchange to the film industry in Jamaica. This was formalised only after the Government of Jamaica saw the potential in attracting Hollywood film-makers to our location to shoot for the big screen. After many years of selling our sand and sea, we eventually saw an increase in the number of films being shot in Jamaica. Today, we can boast the facilitation of film projects valued at more than $300 million annually. In addition, an average of 2,000 persons benefit from employment opportunities each year.

o The Film Commission's role has subsequently been expanded to include lobbying for incentives to support sector development and building the capacity of our own film-makers and content creators. This is not just because we recognise that the film industry is a multimillion-dollar business globally, but because we have seen for ourselves that this sector has the potential to employ thousands of professionals in the creative industries.

o Think about all the ingredients of making a film?


o A story - a writer to write the story;

o Talent - people to role play the story;

o A director/film-maker to create these magical, specific worlds where emotional events of colossal importance happens!

o And then we need stylists;

o Fashion designers;

o Voice and speech coaches;

o Products to be used (Red Stripe, that's you!)

o And the list goes on and on and on!

Film is the only single project that I can think of that uses such wide and varied talent pool!

Looking forward

Friends, this tells me that we are at the start of a dynamic and monumental shift in Jamaica. Gone are the days when the only way to get your film seen is dependent on who you know.

o From the evolution of YouTube channels, web TV and smartphone dramas, new media is providing major opportunities for unknown directors to get their foot inside major doors. It is with this new shift that we move with urgency to prepare and equip our local film-makers for international reach.

o My hope is that you will all join us on this journey. Amid the scepticism and doubts, Brand Jamaica is on the rise! The important element is that we have fixity of purpose to ensure that sustained growth is achieved amidst an equitable distribution of resources.

As Chairman of JAMPRO, it is my goal to provide the framework for an evolving film industry; one that attracts local and foreign investments. It is also my goal to ensure sustainability and capacity development.

o I will end by saying this... the time for a film festival is now! Because this is not only the forum "Where Art meets Business". This is where Art and Business collide...with fantastic results!

'Building A Platform To Bring The World To Jamaica'


Film was on everybody's mind this week and close attention was paid to what Anthony Hylton, Minister of industry, investment & commerce, had to say at the opening of the Jamaica Film Festival. SO shares an edited version...

"The creative economy is the use of creative industries as an avenue to engender growth and employment in our economy. It relies on the ability of creatives to leverage their talents and ideas for wealth creation. However, this requires collaboration between the public and private sectors.

Simply stated, this means that as a Government, we believe that the development of the creative sector can only be achieved through a joined-up Government approach. We are aware of the critical issue of access to finance facing our creatives. In this regard, the establishment of the Secured Transactions Regime, underpinned by the enactment of the Security Interest in Personal Property (SIPP) Act and the implementation of the accompanying Collateral Registry, are measures geared to assisting with the facilitation of financing in the sector. This regime allows for the use of a wider range of assets - beyond the traditional real estate - to secure loan financing. Today, moveable collateral eg livestock, business equipment, crops and even intellectual property can be used to secure business loans.

The development of the creative economy has always been a major rationale for the creation of a modern intellectual property regime. Our efforts in this area include:

o The amendment of the Copyright Act which was passed in the House of Representatives and is being reviewed by the Senate. This will extend the Copyright term from 50 to 95 years, which is an unprecedented step in the region. By extending the copyright term, creatives, particularly musicians, and their families will be able to earn income from their works for longer periods. As part of the amendment to the copyright legislation, Jamaica will also become compliant with the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities.

o We are also seeking the formal recognition by UNESCO of Reggae as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. This would better enable Jamaica to maintain control over the definition, recognition and identification of this musical and related cultural form. It will also ensure that more of the economic wealth, moral rights and trademark benefits, which flow from use of the designation "Reggae", is retained in Jamaica and benefit Jamaicans.

o The Trademarks Act is also in the process of being amended to protect the country name "Jamaica" from use by foreign businesses, trademarks and domain names that do not originate in Jamaica. We are seeking protection against those who ride on the goodwill and international recognition of the Jamaican brand.

o Also, Amendment of the Trademarks Act will allow for the registration of trademarks in multiple countries, through one centralised application procedure. This is essential to Jamaica's accession to the Madrid Protocol.

'Where Business Meets Art'


I am pleased to announce here that we will be introducing a new Learning for Life curriculum in 2016 as part of our Project Entrepreneur -- the Business of Film. We will work closely with JAMPRO to develop this as a best practice, covering all areas relating to the film industry, from accessing funding to showcasing the contributions of the creative sector to the country's attractiveness and economic and social development.

Published Date: 
Sunday, July 12, 2015