Religious filmmakers pray for support
With the performing arts, music and theatre being the main medium for messages to be delivered, in recent times the Christian community has been crying out for the support of faith-based films.
Christian playwrights and filmmakers like Cleveland O. McLeish and Judith Falloon-Reid have received awards for plays, some of which have evolved into movies. However, the recognition that matters most is lacking within the local space.
"Some persons are of the perception that faith-based materials should be free," Falloon-Reid said to the audience present at the recent premiere of Just Another Friday 2, a film created by Jamaica Youth for Christ (JYC) and BarriVision Films, owned by the writer and her husband, Michael Brown.
The filmmaker was trying to enlighten, and highlight the fact that the work and creative energy that goes into making full-length productions is pricey and time consuming. Despite this, the inspiration and drive to continue is still strong.
"I believe there is both a strong need and market for faith based films and plays, but free or low costs prevent the market from being viable," Falloon-Reid told The Sunday Gleaner.
Acts 12 Ministry, the performing arts group under the umbrella of JYC, has found that youths are actively involved, motivated to learn, stay out of trouble, and receive a chance to hone their talent. Sixty per cent of the earnings goes back to assist the JYC with the programmes and the remainder is used to fund present and future productions. Most of the cast and crew have also voluntarily participated in the contemporary theatric projects.
Lack of funding
The challenge of making any film is usually funding. Quite a few productions have been done independently, as getting monetary support from churches and sponsors, Falloon-Reid said, "was almost impossible" and resulted in soliciting donations from family and friends.
She continued, "Film and theatre have high production value and although individuals see the worth, it's hard to get local organisations and churches to buy into drama as a practical ministry tool. Even films of benefit to our church received no financial support from the businesses owned by members."
Most of the support comes from churches and Caribbean organisations that host screenings overseas.
For this reason, McLeish is focused on the international market - putting scripts online for purchase. The buyers, he says, "Churches, community groups, schools and theatre groups, will pay for the scripts to be used as part of their ministry without wanting exclusive rights."
"Here [in Jamaica], money is required upfront for set development, actors and actresses and renting the theatre, because persons are usually scared that the product will not make a profit or meet the target," McLeish said.
Some will argue that any film preaching the gospel or carrying spiritual significance, should be fostered regardless of cost. Producers, cast and even musicians, have expressed that if funding to create faith-based content was readily available, then the industry would willingly share the content for free in order for the true impact to be seen.
'Just Another Friday 2' delivers
Last Wednesday, the official premiere of Just Another Friday 2 received more than a full house, leaving some members of the audience standing at the back of Carter Hall at the Holy Cross Catholic Church during the viewing.
The film sequel, which started out as a play, received support from the CHASE Fund to complete the production. One of the cast members, Vanessa Silvera whose character is Sonia, told The Sunday Gleaner, "We did not know we were going to do another part to the film, but there were stories left to tell at the end of the first production."
Though the cinematography of Just Another Friday 2 could use a lot of improvement in terms of camera filters and lighting, as well as the mastering of the audio to make scene changes unnoticeable, the story held the attention of most persons in the audience.
The screenplay is relatable to both believers and non-believers, as it speaks to family life, finding purpose while simultaneously spreading positivity using the garrisons of Jamaica as a backdrop.
"It has the potential to reach a wider audience, but we do a lot of talk as the Christian community and there is a need for us to rally behind our own. If every church supported faith-based initiatives, the success would be automatic, but we really have to find a way to do that," Silvera said.
Just Another Friday 2 does not preach the books of the Bible or force the viewer to turn to Christianity, but delivered an interesting message to press forward no matter the 'demons' that may arise.
Part one won Best Jamaican Feature Film at the International Reggae Film Festival in the same year of its release, then in 2014 received the award for Best Music Score and Most Inspirational Film at the Central Florida Christian Film Festival.