J’can film pro­duc­tion costs lim­it­ing dis­tri­bu­tion ca­pac­ity

As PROPELLA looks To Take Off

Jamaica Gleaner - - ENTERTAINMENT - Kim­ber­ley Small Gleaner Writer en­ter­tain­ment@glean­erjm.com

IN THE up­ward climb to es­tab­lish a Ja­maican film in­dus­try, there arises the peren­nial ques­tion of who the tar­get mar­ket truly is. With the pro­posed in­tro­duc­tion of is­land­wide tour­ing by film and tele­vi­sion se­ries pro­ducer Len­nie Lit­tle-White arose the fol­low-up query of pro­duc­tion cost: Who are we pro­duc­ing sto­ries for? Who sup­ports the pro­duc­tion cost? and If pro­vided with suf­fi­cient fi­nan­cial sup­port, how does that in­creased film pro­duc­tion af­fect sto­ry­telling in Ja­maica?

“That is the mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion. It should be eas­ier for us now to pro­duce what we want to pro­duce and choose our own mar­kets,” said Franklyn ‘Chappy’ St Juste dur­ing the Film­ing: Kingston As A City panel dis­cus­sion, held re­cently at the National Gallery, down­town, Kingston. “Films should cost less. We need to know how to make the half-mil­lion dol­lar (US) nar­ra­tive film,” said fel­low pan­el­list Natalie Thomp­son. In Thomp­son’s opin­ion, if a film pro­duc­tion bud­get ex­ceeds a cost of US$250,000, dis­tri­bu­tion should be di­rected to­wards an in­ter­na­tional mar­ket “be­cause the lo­cal mar­ket won’t pay for it. We do not go to the cin­ema. We do not buy mu­sic.”

St Juste be­lieves that the de­vel­op­ment of a thriv­ing film in­dus­try in Ja­maica is pos­si­ble, through the at­tempts of the in­no­va­tive and en­tre­pre­neur­ial. Re­fer­ring to the planned is­land­wide tour for Len­nie Lit­tle White’s lat­est film, It’s a Fam­ily

Af­fair, St Juste is of the view that the dis­tri­bu­tion model copied from the Nige­rian film dis­tri­bu­tion model, mak­ing low­bud­get films pri­mar­ily for lo­cal con­sump­tion, can help bol­ster ex­cite­ment within Ja­maica’s own in­dus­try and give re­newed en­ergy to those who have be­come en­ter­tained only from the com­fort of their liv­ing rooms.

“This new tem­plate that has just come out — there is noth­ing wrong with a new tem­plate that makes a film for less than US$100,000,” — “but we can­not com­pro­mise our cre­ativ­ity. We are a very, very tal­ented peo­ple and we can­not be lazy and com­pro­mise the cre­ativ­ity we have just so we can put some­thing on the screen,” he said.

“The film is go­ing to reach au­di­ences, so we can sit in our so­phis­ti­cated chairs and say it’s not go­ing to work. Cuba did it by them­selves,” he con­tin­ued.

Ac­cord­ing to St Juste, Cubans taught them­selves how to make film af­ter sev­er­ing ties with the United States and be­ing re­lieved of all the re­sources that could have sup­ported a film in­dus­try. He said that Cuba be­gan mak­ing films to suit them­selves based on their cul­tural affini­ties and their history. “It’s made for peo­ple to un­der­stand,” he said.

Last April, the Ja­maica Film and Tele­vi­sion As­so­ci­a­tion sent out a sub­mis­sion re­quest for writ­ers to send their scripts and film treat­ments in for con­sid­er­a­tion of devel­op­men­tal sup­port, called the PROPELLA Ini­tia­tive. PROPELLA, a script-to-screen pro­gramme, nur­tures Ja­maican con­tent cre­ators, en­abling them to tell their sto­ries cin­e­mat­i­cally by pro­vid­ing fund­ing and ‘in kind’ sup­port. Through a blind se­lec­tion process, five film­mak­ers re­ceived a fi­nan­cial grant of $500,000 each to pro­duce a short film. Twenty-two scripts were sub­mit­ted, and five fi­nal­ists were given the op­por­tu­nity to lift their sto­ries from page to screen.

De­signed by the Ja­maica Film and Tele­vi­sion As­so­ci­a­tion and sup­ported by JAMPRO and The Chase Fund, the PROPELLA films had their Ja­maican pre­miere at a pri­vate screen­ing held at the Red Bones Café on Novem­ber 4, fol­low­ing their world pre­miere at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Fes­ti­val last Septem­ber.

“The PROPELLA idea, I be­lieve, should be able to take off and fly very high. The only way we can de­velop our cin­e­matic abil­ity is by mak­ing films of that sort — var­i­ous char­ac­ters, sit­u­a­tions, and sto­ries that re­ally work,” Thomp­son said.

Thomp­son is in­cluded in the first five PROPELLA film­mak­ers, as di­rec­tor of Shoot The

Girl, which was writ­ten by Tony ‘Pale­face’ Hen­dricks. The film fol­lows a 10-year-old Trench Town girl (played by Re­galla El­lis, grand­daugh­ter of Blakka El­lis), who must use ‘brains’ to beat ‘brawn’, while evad­ing her fa­ther’s mur­derer.

Adrian Lopez, the sec­ond film­maker, wrote and di­rected

Shock Value, a story of a suc­cess­ful writer caught up in black­mail, who learns the true cost of mis­placed trust and du­plic­ity when di­a­bol­i­cal forces threaten ev­ery­thing she holds dear.

An­other PROPELLA par­tic­i­pant, Janet Mor­ri­son, wrote and di­rected Silent Hearts, the story of a ru­ral school­girl who is ab­ducted in a taxi — to the ig­no­rance of her peers.

Sugar, writ­ten by Sharon Leach and di­rected by Michelle Serieux, fol­lows a young girl, on the brink of wom­an­hood, who works at a Ja­maican tourist re­sort and is wit­ness to af­flu­ence on a daily ba­sis. As the de facto bread­win­ner of her fam­ily, the ti­tle char­ac­ter faces a cri­sis of con­science when a tourist cou­ple seems to be the an­swer to her fi­nan­cial predica­ment.

Fi­nally, the fifth PROPELLA film­maker, Kurt Wright, tells the story of a hero from Ja­maica’s history who is pulled from his own story to re­trieve an ar­ti­fact stolen by an an­cient witch in­tent on chang­ing her des­tiny. It’s a story driven by su­per­nat­u­ral fan­tasy, steeped in Ja­maican folk­lore and trans­ported into mod­ern times.

While con­sid­er­ing the success of these films, as they make their way around the in­ter­na­tional film fes­ti­val, Thomp­son made sure to it­er­ate dur­ing the re­cent panel dis­cus­sion that the crews of all the PROPELLA films worked free of cost.


Pan­el­list Franklyn ‘Chappy’ St Juste (left) and JAMPRO Film Com­mis­sioner Re­nee Robin­son.

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