Lennie Little-White | Too animated by animation
There was a time when the easiest staircase for upward social mobility was to become a policeman, a nurse, or a teacher. Those were the days before the proliferation of high schools and government scholarships for the brightest among us. The birth of our own university spurred the growth of many other tertiary institutions that now offer a plethora of disciplines and professions.
The study of communications has spawned a range of courses, many leading to full university degrees. Thankfully, this has helped to improve our talent pool in journalism, advertising, video and television production, and marketing to a lesser extent.
In recent times, some tertiary institutions have convinced themselves that animation is the next academic frontier that students should conquer. Today, there are at least four tertiary institutions offering courses in animation - one is even offering a full degree.
If the first concern of a student is to 'learn to earn', where are the jobs for all these animators we are now training? To make matters worse, our primary trade promotion agency has announced that very soon South Korea will also be offering more training to scores of Jamaicans to become animators.
Don't fool ourselves into thinking that Disney and Pixar will soon come calling. Our local television stations are stifling independent production of standard programmes, much less the more expensive discipline of animation. There is a growing need in local advertising, but this is minuscule to satisfy the next graduating class.
Our universities must remain crucibles for ongoing research and academic discovery, but they must also provide students with formal disciplines that will equip graduates to earn a decent living at home and abroad. We are now producing a slew of attorneys and architects who cannot readily find decent employment to maximise their skills. Is this the same plight that will face the glut of wannabe Disney animators?
Most world-class animators are more than computer manipulators. Being an artist or graphic designer is a very important advantage that will help to produce great animators who can move seamlessly between the computer hard-drive and artistic visual compositions that make their work 'tek' life on the screen.
This requires a quantitative assessment of the needs of media and the creative industries before we start offering courses that lead only to a 'cerfiticate' - as Bob Marley once sang about. Let our students do animation as an elective in a broad holistic communications programme.
GAP IN MUSIC
If our universities want to broaden education opportunities that will prepare students to learn to earn, they need to look no further than the music industry. Our reggae performers have become international superstars, but after 60 years of recording music tracks in Jamaica, our producers must travel overseas to master the locally recorded music to meet international standards. Yes, we produce the raw material in the studios here, but we have to go to 'farrin' to finish the job. Does this sound familiar?
Our tertiary institutions should be addressing this gaping hole in music production rather than placing so much emphasis on animation. Couple this with the newest madness of giving a degree in film - a medium where celluloid is being cremated with the advent of video and digital media.
If we can produce a Usain Bolt and a Shelly-Ann Fraser-Price and now an Elaine Thompson at home, we can train Jamaicans to become world-beaters in all aspects of music production - from start to finish. Only then can we truly say we have a full-fledged indigenous music industry. Sean Paul, Shaggy, Chronixx and company need to be able to complete their music here in the home of reggae.
- Lennie Little-White is a Jamaican filmmaker and television producer with a master's degree in film and television production. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.