FIGURES JUST released by Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) reveal that Jamaica last year earned $858 million from foreign films, videos and commercials shot on location here. This is double the earnings of the year before and augurs well for the future.
As Del Crooks, head of JAMPRO's film promotion unit, points out, the 'trickle down' effects of foreign exchange earned from film making in Jamaica benefits many sections of the local economy, including restaurants, location rentals, custom brokers, accountants and, of course, the airlines which transport the film crews and equipment here. In many instances, local actors are employed to play character parts and as 'stand-ins' for the stars.
So-called 'Reality' shows are becoming an increasingly popular genre on American television; for example, the Survivor series which takes place in different exotic locations. Jamaica last year benefited from the Fox series called Forever Eden which was filmed in Portland, a lush parish of which any Eden might be proud. This series earned $8 million for Jamaica. Two feature films were shot here last year as well as fashion commercials for international magazines like Glamour and Cosmopolitan. Product advertising is another important category, like the commercials for Puma sports equipment shot here in 2003.
More major feature films could be attracted to Jamaica if we had a professional movie studio like Pinewood in the UK, a local facility with sound stages, lighting and all the other equipment necessary for interior as well as exterior shots. This might entail some sizeable costs but the rewards in publicity and foreign exchange earnings might be well worth the investment. Perhaps the time is also right for a review of tax and other incentives offered to foreign film makers, incentives which must be competitive with other countries like Ireland which, over the years, has succeeded in attracting many great films.
We urge JAMPRO to redouble its efforts to get more of this type of business so that Jamaica's film industry will enjoy steady growth in the future.
THE OPINIONS ON THIS PAGE, EXCEPT FOR THE ABOVE, DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF THE GLEANER.