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Jamaica triples earnings from creative industry

Published:Sunday | June 23, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Stilt walkers wait to perform during the Cultural and Creative Industry Expo in Beijing. -File

Steven Jackson, Business Reporter

Government marketing agency, Jamaica Promotions (Jampro) is aiming to attract overseas jobs for Jamaican animators within the context of the country tripling its year-on-year earnings from creative-industry projects beyond J$1.1 billion.

The agency will leverage the talent, language, and geographic proximity to main markets, in a bid to earn foreign exchange.

However, award-winning local animator, Kevin Jackson, suggests that it's a 'pie in the sky' unless it comes with funding support for animators to set up studios and train talent in order to attract projects.

"The opportunities are real. However, nobody is speaking of funding of intellectual property. Without money it will not take off because they are looking for studios that are already set up to do these projects," said Jackson, founder of Nivek Pro Animations, whose YouTube page boasts more than 250,000 views.

"We have studios here but we need a lot more," he said.

Jampro's Creative Industries Manager and Film Commissioner Kim Marie Spence argued in a press release that Jamaica has the "right attributes" to establish itself as a quality provider of animation services to big markets such as the United States and Canada.

She spoke ahead of the staging of the Kingstoon Animation Conference and Festival, held at the University of the West Indies last Thursday and Friday.

"The local animation industry is expanding and there are encouraging signs from existing 'pure play' studios, mixed companies, and independent animators who are seeking to formalise the industry. Once the country is able to demonstrate its growth potential in this area through the establishment of more professional firms with improved production capacity, we will be able to attract the attention of more global players," she said.

Animation, film, photography, music, and the sort, form the creative industry. Locally, total creative-industry expenditure facilitated by Jampro more than tripled year-over-year to $1.16 billion up from $313 million, according to data from the Economic and Social Survey 2013 published by the Planning Institute of Jamaica.

Spence would have been a key figure in overseeing the increased activity and aims to grow animation as a subcategory in the sector.

Jamaica's language, its talent pool, and its close geographical proximity to film and entertainment heavyweights in the US have "perfectly positioned" the country to develop a strong animation sector, said Spence.

basic skills

The talent pool includes skilled animators, designers and recent graduates. She referenced data from the Overseas Examination Council indicating that more than 2,500 students passed art & design with grades one or two between 2008 and 2012.

"These young people have the basic skills required to become world-class animators. When you consider older age groups or existing professionals in the field or allied industries, that number is easily tripled," she said.

"The animation industry can provide a clear avenue to develop raw local talent into highly skilled resources, which will generate many jobs for Jamaicans in the process," she added.

The global animation industry was valued at US$222.8 billion in 2012, with much of the animation-outsourcing jobs going to countries like India, South Korea, and the Philippines, according to the Jampro release.

Kingstoon, which was organised by the Government of Jamaica in partnership with the World Bank, Canadian High Commission, and JAMPRO, is geared towards raising local awareness of the emerging opportunities in animation, particularly among the youth.

The two-day event was designed to provide a platform for showcasing Jamaican and Caribbean talent and identifying key policy decisions needed to support the animation industry in Jamaica.

Jampro indicated that Kingstoon is the latest in a series of activities undertaken by the agency to catalyse the growth of the animation industry.

In November 2011, Jampro sponsored and hosted Animae Caribe Jamaica, which featured workshops by experienced Hollywood animators James Parris and Kristin Solid. In December 2012, Jampro provided support to the Japanese Embassy in hosting a lecture on manga - the printed cartoons that form the basis of many popular Japanese animated series.