Caribbean failing to capitalise on billion dollar film industry
From as early as the 1960s, it became obvious the Caribbean would be an amazing location for visually stimulating films and not just a place where tourists enjoyed hanging out. Hollywood film crews found their way here too. Whether it's James Bond, Jack Sparrow or Red and Andy from The Shawshank Redemption, many of our favourite movie characters have set foot in the West Indies.
However, according to Dr Bernard Frampton, filmmaker and communications specialist, islands in the Caribbean region have failed to capitalise on the direct and indirect economic and other benefits from their association with local and international film interests. "Film policy in the Caribbean is more focused on enticing and accommodating foreign film production and does very little to encourage and support indigenous film making," Frampton said in an interview with The Gleaner.
He is currently in the island at the invitation of the Centre for Tourism and Policy Research (CTPR), chaired by Professor Ian Boxhill, who is the S. Carlton Alexander chair in management studies sponsored by the GraceKennedy Foundation.
The CTPR has an ongoing community film project which started in August Town in 2012 that falls under Boxhill's portfolio. The programme began with 20 students two years ago and, to date, has trained more than 100 young people across the island in film. CTPR's project is referred to as a great prototype for the community film industry in Jamaica, which is considered as a catalyst for a vibrant model for the Jamaican film product within the next few years.
Frampton said filming in the Caribbean can have many benefits, however the average person does not benefit.
"There is a temporary increase in economic benefits and there is major revenue for the hospitality sector. There is also a sense of pride from participating in a global economic activity, but there is no overall benefit from the production for the average person," Frampton said.
Dr Frampton, who has held various positions in the communications field in the United States and the Caribbean, said most persons who negotiate on behalf of the Caribbean islands regarding the filming and distribution process are unaware of the technicalities involved and at the end of the negotiations, these countries rarely benefit from the investments.
"There is no official Caribbean film industry, therefore the elements that would ensure smooth production, distribution and promotion are fragmented. Some of the systems that should be in place include: finance, production, distribution, marketing and promotion, regulation and policy and code of practice. However there is no systematic way of financing these projects, and no standards for how these productions are made," Frampton said.
Most productions he said are financed and promoted in an ad hoc manner that does not feature well in a mature film industry. "We have a weak network for distributing national films throughout the Caribbean. Films seldom embark on regional tours, and licensing them on regional or national broadcasting stations is rare," Frampton said.
He also stated that many of the persons involved in the film industry within the region are also unaware of the necessary processes to promote and market their productions. "There are many documents that have to be signed, including the chain of title documents that clear all intellectual property in the production. Most Caribbean filmmakers do not know about this and run into problems trying to get their productions out of the region," Frampton said.
"No distributor or sales agent will touch a film for which they do not see a clear chain of title documents, even if the film is very good. Most people in the Caribbean who participate in film projects within the region are not paid well, and it is important that these documents are signed before distributorship is acquired because it would make it less likely for those who will work on the production to arbitrarily increase their fees," Frampton said.
He is advocating that islands in the Caribbean should move into the global markets and partner with developed countries in film production. Currently, he said there are no co-production arrangements in the Caribbean and as such Caribbean films are yet to seriously breakthrough non-Caribbean markets. The global film industry will be worth US$100 billion by 2016.