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Support local film-making industry, Jamaica

Published:Monday | February 15, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Barbara Blake Hannah, Contributor


amaican film-makers, scriptwriters, actors, cinemato-graphers, editors, graphic artists, set designers, musicians and other members of the creative industries were disappointed to read that the minister in charge of the film industry held a press conference to announce that his Government is seeking 'to tap into the film industry' by promoting Jamaica as a film location. The minister was speaking to praise the expenditure of US$1.5 million on scenes for a film with United States actors Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz and said that " ... the creative industries have really lagged behind and there is so much scope ... so we're going to try and encourage those involved in it".

The minister's comments are laughable and show he is completely in the dark about the Jamaican creative industries of film, given the fact that the works of 10 Jamaican film-makers and 20 non-Jamaicans will be going on show at the Reggae Film Festival next week, without the assistance or involvement of the minister's agency for film promo-tion, Jamaica Trade and Invest(JTI). We, the members of the film industry, have been asking the minister's agency for six months to give financial support to the Reggae Film Festival to showcase and market internationally the works of Jamaican film-makers whose films will be shown, as well as the films made by non-Jamaicans about our music culture that are being screened in the event. Despite our efforts over six months, we have received no response from the minister's agency to our plea for involvement.

Ja's counterparties

For the minister's information, the film recently shot in Portland is part of the creative industries of the US and does not involve or benefit Jamaica's counterparties. A handful of Jamaican workers are employed for two weeks on a production like this, that requires no participation from our own film-makers, script-writers, actors, cinematographers, editors, graphic artists, set designers or musicians.

Meanwhile, members of our Jamaican film industry struggle to find funding and marketing assistance from JTI and the ministries of tourism and culture to finance Jamaican film production, similar to the assistance and promotion they give to foreign productions. Without this support, the Jamaican film industry is regarded like a 'bastard child' with no rich, white, American parents.

For the minister's information, expenditure of US$1.5 million is but a drop in the bucket of a production, and there are Jamaican film scripts awaiting funding that would spend US$4 million, and more ,on filming in Jamaica and return box office profits and taxes to Jamaica, not Hollywood.

The glory days of Jamaica being used as a scenic backdrop for US films are clearly over, except for a once-per-year miracle such as the return of Tom Cruise to the location where he made another US film 20 years ago. Jamaica's film industry cannot be built on the creative efforts of foreign film-makers, when there are so many able and willing Jamaicans who just need the recognition and support of the government agencies that claim to be supporting the creative industries.

We issue an open invitation to the ministers of industry, tourism and culture to attend the Reggae Film Festival from February 24-27, at the Hilton Kingston hotel, to see the immense potential of the Jamaican film industry in feature films, documentaries, music videos and animation. After that, I invite the minister of industry to hold another press conference announcing his interest in supporting the Jamaican film industry as heavily as he supports the Americans using Jamaica's beautiful scenery to make their films visually appealing over otherwise second-rate stories.

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For the minister's information, the film recently shot in Portland is part of the creative industries of the US and does not involve or benefit Jamaica's counterparties.