Sun | May 28, 2023

JAFTA president welcomes billion-dollar screen fund

Published:Wednesday | March 22, 2023 | 12:58 AMAaliyah Cunningham/Gleaner Writer

President of the Jamaica Film and Television Association (JAFTA), Saeed Thomas, says Government’s proposal of a screen fund is not to be taken lightly as it would provide the much-needed support to an extremely viable Jamaican industry.

Minster of Finance and the Public Serve Nigel Clarke, in his recent 2023/24 Budget Presentation, announced the establishment of a billion-dollar Jamaica Screen Fund aimed at provide financing for the development and production of film and television shows in the country.

“This contributes to our culture in a big way because now we will be able to see ourselves more on screen. This is good for representation which is not something to be underestimated. It may arguably have a greater impact on how we see ourselves as a people and the current state the country is in too. But all of this is dependent on the stipulations made by the Government re the criteria and management of the fund,” he commented to The Gleaner.

The fund will be established in partnership with the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce and allocated across two years with $500 million in 2023/2024.

According to Clarke, the fund will enable creatives to devote time and sweat equity to developing their projects to the point where they can receive financing. This includes writing a feature script or a TV series pilot script, producing a short film as proof of concept, or producing a teaser video as proof of concept for animation. He also explained that the Jamaica Screen Fund will support production of films locally by providing a defined percentage of the production costs up to a maximum contribution for local productions, with other percentages and thresholds for foreign films being shot in Jamaica once certain criteria are met.

For Thomas, the screen fund could have several potential impacts, among them the creation of opportunity for development of scripts before production and the creation of films where the stories are diverse and reflect Jamaican culture.

“There is [also] the opportunity for co-production deals as filmmakers can enter with more than just an idea but at least 20% of funding, for example, a co-production deal with Britain; opportunity for collaboration with more international production, hopefully with even our Caribbean brothers and sisters; films being made means people are hired and creatives get to produce their work and (it) also implies that more incentive for overseas films to be made here as they, too, may be able to benefit from the fund,” Thomas added.

JAFTA is a government-endorsed, not-for-profit association comprising local film and television practitioners and geared at cultivating a local audiovisual community. It facilitates and supports cultural exchange, capacity building and developmental initiatives, skills-sharing and community outreach.

The organisation recently concluded the cast and crew screening of their 2022 Propella Films at the Cove Theatre in St Ann.

According to Thomas, JAFTA still has much work in the pipelines.

“We have our sound training where international Oscar winner Chris Munro. We will be conducting JAFTA general meeting where we will be speaking with Sossesia Nixon who has an Oscar-qualified short film; Alethea Forgie who worked at world cup, and from filmcott, film organisation out of Trini and the shot list, event on March 26, Hope Gardens, where we will be playing films from Trini and England in partnership with filmcott, the British council and Weareparable out of England,” he shared.