Filmmaker Jeremy Whittaker establishes Jamaica Film Council
When Destiny hit the local silver screen in 2014, it enjoyed an unprecedented run. Written, directed and executive produced by Jeremy Whittaker, the film's local success promoted the idea that the industry is ready to expand. Fours years later, Whittaker is back in Jamaica on a mission - to encourage more expansion through the establishment of the Jamaica Film Council.
According to Whittaker, the council's mandate is to contribute to the development of a lucrative and sustainable indigenous film industry that showcases Jamaica in a positive light. "This is not a PR campaign for Jamaica," he assured.
Funding is often highlighted as one of the main obstacles for local production. However, Whittaker argues that the issue goes deeper. The greatest hindrance he sees in the local film industry is an infantile infrastructure. "We're not lacking talent. We're lacking structure," he told The Gleaner.
Such development will be the focus of the Jamaica Film Council, an executive committee consisting of industry captains and business leaders. To start, the council will launch two initiatives - a banquet-style fundraiser, and an educational workshop.
The inaugural Jamaican Film Council Conference is scheduled to take place on February 24, 2019. The conference will, among other things, highlight three key contributors to the film-making process- the director, the producer and the assistant director. For each category, international guest speakers are invited to discuss industry issues, moderated by a Jamaican film practitioner.
All funds raised will be put towards the council's initiative, such as the conference. "We have invited an Oscar-nominated international guest speaker, and we will have to make arrangements for his trip to Jamaica and pay for the venue and other expenses," Whittaker explained.
The council will work with agencies such as JAMPRO to provide ongoing data on the development of the indigenous film industry.
In addition to developing the Jamaica Film Council, Whittaker is tackling his next feature film project - Garvey. The film will focus specifically on Marcus Garvey's life in America from 1916-1927. The aim is to develop the script in 2019, begin production in 2020, for the film to be released in 2021. Whittaker is currently working with Professor Robert Hill from the University of California, who will be a consultant on the project. "We want it to be accurate," he states.
Garvey will be produced by Whittaker's Grasshopper Productions Ltd, along with a North American production company.