Marked increase in number, quality of locally produced films - Open House to reveal plans for next two years
The JAMPRO Film Commission has committed to answering the call to action given by the Economic Growth Council for five per cent growth in four years (5-in-4).
In January 2017, approximately one year after acquiring the position of film commissioner, RenÈe Robinson offered a plan of action, which sectored the industry's approach to notable development.
"We've seen a marked increase in the number and quality of locally produced content this year and last, and we are putting plans in place to monitor this growth in 2018. Planning is well under way, and we cannot wait to unveil what is coming down the pipeline," she told The Sunday Gleaner.
The start of next year will see the launch of the JAMPRO Film Commission Open House, scheduled for two dates to be announced - in Kingston and in Montego Bay - where plans for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 periods will be outlined.
"The open house also serves as an opportunity for local practitioners to connect with us about our strategic plans and learn more about the services that are available from JAMPRO and also the work of our partner public agencies," said Robinson, outlining that the Film Commission would also be aligning operations to create more jobs for Jamaicans working in the screen-based industries, to stimulate financing and routes to market for commercially viable creative content, and to advance formalisation of the local film industry's ecosystem.
Upon request, the JAMPRO Film Commission provided unaudited, approximate year-to-date figures to highlight activity in the local ecosystem from April 1, 2017 - October 31, 2017. During the period, there were 70 international film productions registered and shot on location in Jamaica, a total of 2,162 jobs created by film productions for Jamaicans, and a total value of $871,315,030.60 of film-production expenditure.
Robinson said that their previously launched sector-development initiatives like the JAFTA Propella programme (open call for submission is usually available by February/March each year) will also continue as a partnership among the Jamaica Film and Television Association (JAFTA), JAMPRO, and the CHASE Fund. The filmmakers of the second JAFTA PROPELLA include Code - directed by Sarah Manley; Fever Dream - directed by Nile Saulter; Mango Wars - directed by Kyle Chin; Patty Shop - directed by Gay Magnus and Eugene Williams; and This City of Mine - directed by Danielle Russell.
"Our second sector-development initiative that will continue is Making Development Work, in partnership with the British Council, also opening in the spring."
In a past interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Gabrielle Blackwood, president of JAFTA, shared: "The script-development workshop is designed to facilitate the relationship among screenwriters, producers, and script editors and how to navigate the fragile relationships between producers and writers."
The British Council has also teamed up with the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival for the same initiative, featuring international film professional Ludo Swolski.
The JAFTA and Film Commission also collaborated to promote the Calabash Literary Festival in partnership with ScreenCraft Media, Screenwriter's Residency Programme. Fifteen screenwriting aspirants spent five days at Jake's in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, under the tutelage of Hollywood industry professionals. They included Jamaican-born Vanessa Ford (The Weinstein Company) and Steven de Souza, whose films have grossed over US$2 billion; Eric Fineman, vice-president of production at Sony Pictures (Spider-Man: Homecoming); as well as literary manager Hannah Ozer from Kaplan/Perrone Management. Other participants in the programme were Peter Craig (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay); Aaron Covington (Creed); and Steven de Souza (Die Hard, Commando).
Beyond figures and workshop reports, the local ecosystem has bore some fruit. Web series Losing Patience, directed by Teeqs and starring local songbird Sevana, is now in production for Season Two. Savannah, which premiered on TVJ starring Donisha Prendergast and directed by Kush Asher, is in the works to continue as a web series. Short films also rolled out, including Unbound, written by Aliceia Dawkins and directed by David Johnson, which was recently deposited to the National Archives at the National Library.
For the year to come, Robinson highlighted local feature film Sprinter directed by local Storm Saulter, which is currently in post-production, as well as the production, Yardie, based partly on location in Jamaica. Yardie comes especially highly anticipated as it is the directorial debut of famous actor Idris Elba and will have its premiere event at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in January 2018.
While in Jamaica, the production employed over 500 locals.
The Film Commission also attended the following trade markets/festivals this year to promote the local industry and generate global business opportunities: Cartagena International Film Festival (February 2017); South by Southwest (April 2017); Toronto International Film Festival (September 2017); Trinidad and Tobago International Film Festival (September 2017); and Cineposium Los Angeles (October 2017).
"We have to also take special note of Honey Bun, which, this year, launched a corporate initiative to discover talent in the local film industry by issuing J$2 million for the production of a local TV project, again through an open call for submissions. This was an excellent initiative, and we really hope to cultivate other corporate partners who are willing to invest in local filmmaking," Robinson said.
"Finally, we are in the development stages now with our partners at the World Bank and the Youth Employment in the Digital and Animation Industries (YEDAI) for an executive management programme for creative entrepreneurs working in the animation sector," Robinson added.