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 The Jamaican delegation poses with Piers Handling (center), director and CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival. According to Jampro Film Commissioner Renee Robinson, Handling visited the Jampro booth.—

The creative industries is a term often used to encapsulate the vast cultural output for which our small island nation is known. But compared to our music, dance and food, film is yet to develop as an internationally significant force for Brand Jamaica.

Formerly a prime target for filmmakers in search of diverse location opportunities, a skilled technical support workforce and a source of vibrant original content supported by a global love of reggae, roots and yardie culture, Jamaica over time, has slipped on the international film scale. In terms of our own content, acknowledging recent efforts made by a largely younger cohort of filmmakers to produce content that competes in the Caribbean and international marketplace, there has been a decline over time in the number of films produced with a distinctively Jamaican narrative. However, the tide is turning.

Jamaica fielded an historic 20-member delegation at the recently concluded Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Toronto, Canada last week. Renee Robinson, Jampro’s recently appointed film commissioner, led the delegation, which included Jampro board member and CEO of Hyperion Equity Zachary Harding, along with 18 filmmakers, writers, producers and directors.

“With the lack of film incentives in place, Jamaica has become increasingly uncompetitive over the years, literally losing hundreds of millions of US dollars in film investment to Trinidad, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic,” noted Harding. “The Jamaican Government must fix this immediately if we are to have a fighting chance of being a force in film. We have taken reggae and dancehall and made them into international genres, and the same can be done for Jamaican film.”


According to internal documents surrendered to the new board for analysis, over the past 10 years Jamaica has attracted more than 1,000 international film projects, generating approximately US$60 million in capital expenditure and creating more than 20,000 temporary jobs to service the industry.

According to the Planning Institute of Jamaica, the film industry has an economic multiplier effect of 1.89, and since 2010 Jampro has recorded over US$16 million in linkages. However, during the period 2010-2013 Jamaica lost over US$800 million in film projects due to the Government’s lack of implementation of competitive incentives in the film industry.

Between 2010 and 2013 alone, the estimated value of production budgets that Jamaica lost to other Caribbean islands was US$824 million. Included in these were two feature films from the

Pirates of the Caribbean series (US$250m lost to Puerto Rico, and US$300m lost to Hawaii, Bahamas and Dominica), and James Bond – Die Another Day ($142m lost to Cuba). The primary reasons for these investments going to other countries were the lack of cash rebates in Jamaica, as well as free use of public locations, lower taxes and lower production costs in these other countries.


Caricom now boasts eight Film Commissions. Of these, five already operate tax incentive/cash rebate schemes – Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cayman and The Bahamas – anywhere between 20 to 40 per cent.

Both local and international industry practitioners have limited options for financing due to the reluctance of the traditional commercial banks to use non-tangible assets, such as intellectual property, to collaterise loans. This issue continues despite the Security Interest in Personal Property (SIPP) Act and the creation of the National Collateral Registry, which should provide medium and small enterprises access to credit by utilising intellectual and movable property as a form of collateral.


The new board at Jampro, chaired by GraceKennedy CEO Don Wehby and co-chaired by president of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association Metry Seaga are reportedly working with the senior executive team at Jampro on a proposal to establish Jamaica’s first film fund. The film fund is to support both local and foreign film producers.

Strong Jamaican

The delegation to TIFF was a bold move by Jampro to provide key figures within the local industry, ranging from filmmakers to production personnel, an opportunity to liaise with their international peers and build relationships to further the industry. North American recording artist, actor, and producer Nick Cannon premiered his much-hyped feature film celebration of Jamaican dancehall culture

King of the Dancehall on Sunday at TIFF; the festival’s official opening night gala featured Jamaican beef patties on the menu.

Kamal Bankay, director of Dream Entertainment, member of the Tourism Linkages Council, Sports and Entertainment Network and director of the Ministry of Culture’s Entertainment Advisory Board, was also at TIFF to explore opportunities to help grow Brand Jamaica. Already, a significant amount of positive international public relations has been generated from Jamaica’s presence at this year’s festival and several working meetings were set up with distributors, film commissioners from other countries and investors.

“I went for two very specific reasons, as somebody who is actively involved in developing the entertainment industry in Jamaica, I have stated openly that film everywhere in the world is a [prime] form of entertainment and we need to utilise film as an outlet for our creative processes and to showcase Brand Jamaica,” Bankay said.

Also, in 2017 [Dream Entertainment] will be doing a festival in Jamaica. The plan is to lead with music in year one and then expand the different disciplines in the years to come, with areas of focus, such as film and art, hopefully growing into what could be Jamaica and the Caribbean’s version of the SXSW festival,” Bankay told the Jamaica Observer.

Kamal Bankay

Kamal Bankay

“[I was] at TIFF to understand how this sort of cultural festival works within a creative city; the logistics required, how the city gets involved and supports it, and what it does for the city that hosts a festival like this… the economic impact and the tourism benefits that come out of it,” he added.

A standout feature on which TIFF built its international reputation and increased its standing among the international film community is the festival’s penchant for featuring independent film.

“I see our culture as a way to drive significant growth and help unrecognised artistes,” Bankay said. “At TIFF a lot of films are shown that are from indie filmmakers, they don’t have a [promotional] budget etc, but they are screened. In Jamaica, if we [showcase] artists who don’t have [that kind of access] but their talent is undeniable [we can] bring the global marketplace right to their doorstep.”

Bankay confirmed that the festival is being planned with the Ministry of Tourism, the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Tourism Enhancement Fund with further details to be announced within the next three months.

“…to me, it’s a no brainer with the music,“ said Bankay. “There is no plausible reason why Jamaica, having birthed so many indigenous forms of music, does not have a music conference to showcase them in an academic way… stylistic way… creative sessions, etc. I think if we do it properly we can become the Mecca of sorts for music creatives around the world.”

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