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Action! - New film commissioner outlines plans to improve sector

Published:Sunday | March 13, 2016 | 3:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Renee Robinson

She may have only taken over the role as film commissioner just over a month ago, but Renée Robinson has already begun the work needed to move the country's film industry forward.

Tasked with the responsibility of promoting the export of content and services from Jamaica's film industry by identifying opportunities in the sector, Robinson is well aware of the hard work and dedication her new job requires and wants to assure Jamaicans that she is up to the challenge.

In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Robinson said that since taking office on February 1, she has been busy working on a few new projects, initiatives she hopes will have long-term benefits for the local industry.

"I have been very busy. The role was vacant for a few months before I took office, so there was quite a bit of catching up to do, but there is a need to hit the ground running and start moving forward," she explained.

"My responsibilities include facilitating the development of business skills in the creative-industry cluster, conducting marketing and promotion strategies to attract investment and target export leads, and most important, to maintain alliances with potential business partners in local, regional, and international markets."

 

EYED POST FOR A WHILE

 

When quizzed about her passion for the job, Robinson revealed that she wanted to be film commissioner for Jamaica since completing her first degree.

"I have actually wanted to be the film commissioner of Jamaica since my first encounter with the commission after completing my first degree (BA, Art History and Art Studio at Williams College in Massachusetts, USA)," she said.

"At the time, I had developed a plan to host the first Jamaica International Film Festival and had prepared a project proposal for the then film commissioner, Del Crooks. We weren't able to move forward at the time, but it was certainly a pleasure to hear that my project documents were still on file during my recruitment process. I had been feeling ready to return home after being overseas for eight years, and I knew that the only position that I wanted to return home for would be this one."

The new film commissioner told The Sunday Gleaner that she came into the role with her own objectives in mind, as there is always a need to set goals and outline ways of achieving personal targets.

"My vision for this role and for the industry is lofty, but also, I like to think realistic. Since taking office, I've created my own 'manifesto' regarding the initiatives that I will pursue during my tenure," she said, outlining her intentions of establishing a national film fund, co-production treaties with other countries, as well as product incentives.

"As a nation, we have already lost over US$600 million in the value of film projects that were considering coming to Jamaica but ultimately chose another Caribbean island because of our lack of production incentives. We are losing work to Trinidad, to Puerto Rico, and more recently, to Colombia and Mexico. We need to fix this," she said. "There is no legitimate reason why Jamaica cannot have a prominent and productive industry with a functioning film fund, a cadre of co-production treaties, and a production-incentive scheme that is comparable to every other nation that is building its film industry. Jamaica is not just a place to play, it's a place to do business. And if we are going to be able to compete internationally, these are the three things that we must do, and we must do them now."

 

BUILDING ON SUCCESSES

 

Last year, the country launched its inaugural film festival, one that was touted as huge success by numerous participants both locally and internationally and Robinson already has plans on building on that success for 2016.

"I'll be launching the plans for this year's film festival very soon, and I'm looking forward to building on fulfilling a dream that I've had for the past decade," she expressed.

When quizzed about her plans, the new film commissioner said that all would be revealed in due time.

"I'll have to keep you in suspense on that for now," she said.

With extensive knowledge on the international market and experience working on successful projects for the Toronto International Film Festival, Robinson is hoping that whenever she leaves office, she is remembered for a job well done.

"My vast international experience, rootedness in the groundswell of home-grown initiatives, as well as niche pedagogy in the business of the creative industries are going to be integral to my success in this role," she said. "I'd like to be remembered as the film commissioner who brought production incentives to Jamaica."

entertainment@gleanerjm.com