Thu | Dec 8, 2016

JAMPRO to mount film festival in July 2015 - Siblings mount exhibition at UWI's Regional Headquarters

Published:Friday | December 19, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Art work by Atira Robinson. - Photos by Michael Reckord
Atira (left) and Kitwana Robinson.
Denise Francis Robinson (left) and daughter Atira in front of Atira's paintings on exhibition at the Regional Headquarters, University of the West Indies (UWI), on Mona Road, Kingston 7.
Film Commissioner Carole Beckford - File
1
2
3
4

Michael Reckord, Gleaner Writer

"We acknowledge receipt of your scripts and/or treatments for the consideration of having your work selected to be produced in time for premiering at the Jamaica Film Festival July 7-11, 2015, in Kingston."

That's the beginning of letters received recently by dozens of "emerging, aspiring and established" Jamaican film-makers and screenwriters. Coming from JAMPRO Film Commissioner, Carole Beckford, they were responses to the 54 scripts or treatments (outlines) for documentaries and short films (up to 40 minutes) sent to the agency after a call for submissions some months ago.

The second sentence of the letters, "we congratulate you on your efforts to participate", hints that not all efforts to participate will reap the success desired. Beckford expects only a handful of the scripts to actually be produced for the film festival.

"Ideally, we'd like to have five to six short films premiered at the festival. If we get enough funding, we'll try to do more, but I think for a first-time film festival of this calibre to premiere five or six films would be incredible," she told me.

Beckford said an announcement of the scripts selected will be made soon, "definitely before the end of December".

Beckford said a major difference between the upcoming film festival and others is that the scripts chosen to be premiered will be developed professionally. "A selected script will be tidied up by a professional and then a director or actor will help the production team to tighten up on that area," she explained.

Beckford
said that while the festival's final programme has not yet been
designed, it will include workshops, with a focus on music, and during
the Friday of the event. For example, there may be a workshop on the
role of music in films, in addition to other music features.

"A
live show will be on, for sure," she added.

JAMPRO has
partnered with Tuff Gong International. "We'll be celebrating Bob
Marley's 70th year of existence and an exciting competition will be
announced the week of his birth. The aim is to select a song, and a
video will illustrate the song. Details will be announced in February,"
Beckford said.

Beckford told me that the music shows
will be held at Emancipation Park, New Kingston. Workshops, a special
element of the festival, will be held on the Wednesday and Thursday of
festival week. Award winners will be announced on the final
day.

Earning potential

The festival
organisers are hoping to attract international independent film-makers
and distributors who are looking for work with good content, said
Beckford. She added that she sees lots of opportunities for screenings
of Jamaican material.

"The Caribbean is a big market.
Trinidad and Tobago has a film festival. So has the Bahamas, and
Jamaican talent is already being used across the region. In fact, we're a
cut above the rest in terms of experience, expertise and skill sets,"
Beckford said.

Another attraction that Jamaica
possesses is varied scenery. "For any film or commercial that can be
produced, Jamaica has a location. And we're in the middle of the world.
It's easy to get here," she said. However, she cautioned that Jamaica
must have something competitive to offer producers. She was referring to
financial incentives like cash rebates.

Staying on
money matters, Beckford said the Jamaican film industry can earn
millions. "China and India have big ones, so there's no reason Jamaica
can't carve out a little niche," she opined. "If we attract two good
documentaries every six months, that's about 14 persons for two weeks
each time, each spending on average US$400 a day.

"
Feature film people stay here three or four days. Commercials are better
for us; they bring their executives. Virgin just shot a commercial here
and they had 72 people on set every day for 10
days."

Selection of scripts for next year's film
festival has been taking place at 'pitching' sessions between
scriptwriters and a panel of judges, Beckford said. Matters related to
production of the selected scripts, including script doctoring, shooting
of the films and post-production work will begin in
January.

Siblings exhibit

Three days
before interviewing Beckford, I had been chatting with a family about
pictures of another kind, the ones you hang on walls. At least two of
the family members could easily get involved in the film
industry.

I was at the Regional Headquarters of the
University of the West Indies (UWI) on Mona Road, attending the opening
of an exhibition of paintings by siblings Kitwana and Atira Robinson. In
addition to them, I spoke to their mother, Denise Francis Robinson, a
choreographer, costume designer and artist - three skills she shares
with her daughter, Atira - and a former principal dancer with the
National Dance Theatre Company.

Like her mother, Atira
is a graduate of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing
Arts (one of the educational institutions Beckford mentioned that could
provide training to those interested in the film industry) and a dancer.
Atira has been with the Stella Maris Dance Ensemble for some 16 years,
she told me, and is now a principal dancer with the
company.

"At first, I didn't think of myself as an
artist," Atira said, "but now it is my life."

Her
brother has an oddly parallel story. With initially no interest in art,
Kitwana started his working career as a statistician. However, while
pursuing a second degree at the UWI, he developed a chest tumour which,
his mother said, almost killed him.

When Kitwana
recovered, she continued, all his ability to do statistics had
disappeared, so she started teaching him art. (Teaching art is one of
her professions.)

"It started out as therapy," she
said, "but by 2012, he had developed enough to exhibit." As Denise said
in her vote of thanks, she has a lot to be thankful
for.

Kitwana and Atira's art work - about 50 pieces in
all - is displayed in the Regional Headquarters' lobby. They are very
attractive and well worth a
visit.