In recent years, performers, producers and others with a stake in the creative industries have been clamouring for the Government to provide more support. In his highly anticipated budget statement, Finance Minister Larry Howai proposed initiatives aimed at expanding and developing the creative industries, specifically the local filmmaking industry. In his budget statement, Howai said, developing the film industry by making Trinidad and Tobago a premier film and television production centre is one of the government’s key public policy initiatives for the creation of employment and national wealth. “We’ve now put in place the infrastructure for expanding and developing the arts and creative industries. The performing and visual arts, the literary and fashion industries, architectural design and software industries are all being encouraged to become world-class. The culture shift to arts and creativity would mean not only having world-class artistes but also mean that such artistes would have sustainable livelihoods,” Howai said.
Multimedia artist and activist Rubadiri Victor said the statements with regard to the creative industries were rather short and the minister “repeated things that were already in train.” Victor said the budget failed to mention a number of comprehensive programmes and initiatives which were approved two years ago by the Government but never implemented. He added that these initiatives could significantly elevate the earnings of the sector, but said he was awaiting the public sector investment programme documents to view the elements dealing with the entertainment industry in greater detail. Victor is the president of the Artists Coalition of T&T (ACTT), which is lobbying the Government to initiate 50 per cent local content in all local broadcast media. The organisation called for local artistes and patriots to take a united stand in calling for local-content quotas on both radio and television stations. Bruce Paddington, co-ordinator of the film programme in UWI as well as the founder and director of the T&T Film Festival, said although he had not heard all the elements in the budget regarding the local film industry, he was pleased with the proposed incentives of which he was aware.
Paddington said, “The sector is pleased with anything that can help to build the film industry in T&T.” Paddington was particularly impressed by the proposed duty-free importation of filming equipment and goods. He said this would be of “great benefit” to T&T’s industry. Emilie Upczak, creative director of the T&T Film Festival, concurred, describing the duty-free import of film equipment as “fantastic,” and added that with the growing interest and enthusiasm in local films and filmmaking, such a proposal was sensible. At the 2012 film festival, which ended yesterday, there were up to 50 local films including 30 short films. When asked the possible reasons for this recent upsurge in interest, Upczak said the T&T Film Company and the T&T Film Festival both began in 2006 and in their seventh year were beginning to “take root.” She added that film is allowing for new insight and portrayal of local concepts.
Managing director of the film company Advance Dynamics Timmy Mora said although he was not fully informed of all the elements of the budget, it included “good initiatives on the part of the Government.” Among hopes he had was that the T&T Film Company receives an increased allocation, as it is “they who administer the whole process.” He also hoped measures would be put in place for companies to access the proposed rebates. Television producer Barbara Ann Look Loy described the promised incentives as a “win-win” which could significantly increase the number of local writers, producers and directors in the film industry. “I can see this going a long way to increase the local content and to give corporate T&T incentives to sponsor local productions,” said Look Loy. She said that in the case of freelance photographers and aspiring filmmakers, the size and portability of cameras make it possible for individuals to purchase equipment abroad and travel back with it quite easily. She said the proposed duty-free importation of film equipment would be of greater benefit to large production houses, film companies and schools which offer filmmaking courses.