Fri | Jul 19, 2019

Letter of the Day | Film industry must discover its soul

Published:Wednesday | December 26, 2018 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Lennie Little-White's succinct article on Jamaica's film industry simply speaks the truth for whomever wishes to get an understanding as to why, since the promise of The Harder They Come decades ago, despite the several attempts by some brave, if not 'stupid', filmmakers, this industry remains a notion, if not a figment of people's imagination.

The fact is, there are serious structural barriers to be overcome. These must be addressed seriously with a concerted determination by a multimodal approach by the leadership in the society, which includes more so the private sector and strongly supported by the public sector to create the elements for the solid foundation for the structured development of an industry. If not, Jamaica's film industry will continue, at best, to provide the occasional backdrop for location shoots to the ad-hoc film makers from 'foreign'.

The question is, do enough of us in this country have a belief that we can develop an industry that is viable and be eventually profitable? Frankly, I do not think we do. And I do not think that responsibility resides exclusively in the halls of governmental deliberations. Yes, Government has a very important enabling role to play, and successive administrations have a history of enabling what they wish to - look at the sugar cane and tourism industries.

But the initiatives and a blueprint must come from the studied approach and commitment of the leadership in the private sector.

We do not have to reinvent the wheel, but we can be guided to minimise our errors by incorporating best practices of those countries who are determined to develop a viable industry that benefits their local populations rather than being facilitators for outside 'film production' outfits.

I am not knocking outside crews, because I am aware that there can be knowledge and technology transfers and sharing that will enrich and inspire the local well-intentioned, but the principal driver has to be us - all of us.

Jamaica has a problem that manifests in the development of the film industry other than the myriad of others like sourcing venture capital, production and post-production costs, lack of incentives, facilities, etc., but significant in my view is the absence of critical mass.

 

Who is our market?

 

We have to answer a very important question: Who will we write and produce our stories for? Who is our market? If and when we answer that, the follow-up consideration is, what stories will we tell and in whose voice will we speak?

I think we should go for our authentic self with an awareness of casting the widest possible net and be mindful that it is still a communication business and that most times our communication must be done without the assistance of our pulsating drum and bass. I leave that right there.

The technological parameters have changed, making viability of a genuine local industry much more attainable over a shorter time horizon.

Who will come up with the blueprint of best practices with the flexibility to adapt to the local conditions and address the avoidance or minimisation of obstacles from financing preproduction production, post-production, through to marketing and distribution.

This is all doable with vision, focus and commitment from our leaders.

BASIL DAWKINS

Playwright