In part 1 of this article, we examined JAMPRO’s role in the local motion picture industry as well as the goals and challenges of Ms. Renee Robinson, Jamaica’s new Film Commissioner. Today we discuss the Jamaica Film Festival portion of the meeting. When this hot topic arose, Ms. Robinson ‘ducked for cover’ in jest in her acknowledgement that the festival has long been a sore point for the filmmaking community.
Diplomatically she shared the positives of the festival and tipped her hat to her predecessor former commissioner Carole Beckford for pulling off such an ambitious event. However she emphasized that it was ambitious and she believes it needs to be trimmed then grown in a more controlled fashion for more manageability and success.
The audience was in agreement but further drove home the point that the event should not happen this year as a clear year of planning is required for any festival to be anywhere near a real success for the industry. It was clear the majority of the gathering were in agreement. While this feedback was acknowledged, it seemed pretty clear that planning may be too far advanced to turn back. With that said she went to the next hot subtopic; that of the script to screen program.
For those unaware, the programme was a precursor to the inaugural Jamaica Film Festival in 2015 which was to unearth emerging talent. 53 persons submitted scripts to undergo a pitching process which would narrow the field down to a set of filmmakers who were believed to be the industry’s next big stars. They were to be put into a series of training sessions that would prepare them for each level of the production pipeline to raise their standards to an internationally accepted level. This did not go as planned and was unavoidably short changed due to its ambitious intentions. As a result 4 filmmakers were featured at the Film Festival but not in a prominent way and there was no continuity after the festival to ensure the ambitions stayed on track.
Ms. Robinson’s solution to this is to transition the concept from a competition leading up to the festival into an emerging talent development program set to debut them at the festival and run them through a series of training afterwards and send them to international events where they can network, pitch their content and strike their own deals. After all, that is what the business of filmmaking is about, a long term development plan. Each year a different 5 would be selected which would over time expose more and more filmmakers and provide them all with the same opportunities.
Even with her solid plans members of the Jamaican Film and TV community re-emphasized their concerns about planning a festival on such short notice before the close of the meeting. Wrapping up, the new faces in the room were introduced; an announcement was made for the next meeting which will be a working meeting to kick start JAFTA’s projects followed by announcements of the Francophone Film Festival which was currently underway and the GATTFEST, Lignum Vitae and Trinidad and Tobago Film Festivals, all of which are currently open for submissions. Last but not least, on April 20 join the Film Natives group for their inaugural Film Catalyst event with guest speakers Renee Robinson, Chris Browne, Deborah Hickling, Lilyclaire Bellamy and Jeremy Whittaker where they will talk about challenges, successes, strategies and the legal infrastructure for film in Jamaica.