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Film industry stakeholders talk turkey

Published: 
Saturday, July 15, 2017
From left, Leon Forde, associate director Olsberg SPI; Jason Radix, consulting partner Olsberg SPI; Nneka Luke, general manager FilmTT; and Jonathan Olsberg, chairman Olsberg SPI at the July 10 meeting hosted by FilmTT to introduce stakeholders to the Olsberg SPI team that would be creating the next FilmTT strategic plan. PHOTO COURTESY FILM/TT BAIN PHOTOGRAPHY

Tension filled the air during the FilmTT stakeholder meeting at the auditorium of the Government Campus Plaza, Port-of-Spain, as the memory of past disputes threatened to disrupt the proceedings. However, many in the considerable audience agreed with FilmTT general manager Nneka Luke as she acknowledged the past turmoil and urged stakeholders to view collaboration as a way of moving the sector forward.

The July 10 meeting introduced stakeholders to Jonathan Olsberg and Leon Forde of Olsberg SPI, the UK-based consultancy firm that will be developing a new strategic plan for the sector. Jonathan Olsberg won the approval of the audience as he described the methodology to be used to collect information for the strategic plan and carry it to implementation. Audience members also volunteered expertise gained from compiling previous strategic plans and implored stakeholders to comply with the methodology so the new plan could truly reflect their needs.

An appeal was also made to FilmTT and Olsberg SPI to continuously share their findings during the data gathering process, as this had not previously been done.

Olsberg said his firm will make suggestions for implementation and Government interaction based on information gathered.

Luke went through the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for the film and audio-visual industry in T&T. She said incentives were being given to both local and international productions through the company's development and film commission sections. She said FilmTT was aware of a previous lack of substantial, reliable and ongoing government support but that now there is a commitment from the relevant ministries to move the industry forward.

Luke said the industry suffers from “strategic plan fatigue” as each new government calls for a new strategic plan, but plans have not been implemented. FilmTT wants to move towards implementation, including establishment of a film law so the industry will not be affected by changes in government.

Luke said FilmTT was looking into distribution channels to make up for the current lack of local opportunities for broadcast of local material. She acknowledged there was a lack of transparency in the rebate system and the flow of information between FilmTT and stakeholders, and said the organisation was not currently able to gather information about box-office figures for local films. (A FilmTT board member said producers would have to provide this information in the absence of government statistics.)

Luke said local and international advocacy for local productions will be increased. She said FilmTT has been operating on a skeleton staff and budget, and acknowledged stakeholder dissatisfaction.

Following stakeholders comments, Luke said she will look into the fate of the film archives from the Government Information Service Ltd (GISL), which recently announced it would close, and what role State-owned TV station CNMG could play in capturing and playing more local content. In addition, she said she will look into the difficulty in importing film equipment being faced by local and international productions.

Luke said FilmTT was looking at the development of the under-15 market, both as viewers and participants, and would be exploring the development of community filming, which stakeholders said has been successful so far.

She said the development of a film policy to drive legislation for the industry was a priority for the organisation and there is a need for more local guilds and associations to provide a lobbying voice.

Stakeholders said the Filmmakers Collaborative of T&T (FilmCo) was recently formed for this purpose. She said the strategic plan would bear out the best approach to distribution, and she was interested in hearing what private sector companies have been doing. In response to a query about systems being put into place for local cast and crew to work abroad with international crews, she said she has begun discussions with at least one international entity about internship opportunities.

UTT lecturer and animation pioneer Camille Selvon-Abrahams told filmmakers that students coming out of UTT can assist in productions as they are trained in storyboarding, scriptwriting and other aspects of filmmaking. She said UTT will be introducing a degree in digital media in 2018 and building a Green Screen Lab filmmakers could use.

Luke rejected claims that T&T's name in the film industry was muddied internationally and said she and her team were committed to doing the work to making T&T's film industry sustainable. She said the draft strategic plan will be released to stakeholders and the next stakeholder meeting would be held in October 2017.

FilmTT promised to post video clips of the proceedings on its website and Facebook pages in the coming week.

STAKEHOLDERS WANT:
• Airtime incentives for local content
• A focus group for the development of a revenue model
• Consideration to be given to the recommendations made in the 2012 strategic report
• A fund of $10 million (TT) each for production of local films, TV series and animated series, possibly drawn from National Lotteries Control Board funds
• Opportunities to be put into place for creatives to release work locally rather than having to go abroad to entities like Hulu and Amazon

FILMTT SAYS:
• It is aware of a lack of government support
• There is now a government commitment to move the industry forward
• It wants to establish a film law
• It will investigate increasing local distribution channels
• It will increase local and international advocacy for local productions
• It will investigate what role CNMG could play in capturing and playing more local content
• It wants to develop a national film policy to drive legislation for the industry