Caribbean Films Facing Challenge

By ARC Magazine Wednesday, December 26th, 2012 Categories: Film, Updates

One of the local newspapers of Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, reports on the troubling future of filmmaking in the Caribbean.

The middle of the last decade saw the beginning of an international shift towards the use of digital means of distribution of movies. For Caribbean filmmakers, it represented an opportunity to distribute their movies at a reduced cost—digital cinema eliminates the need to pay for expensive film prints. New avenues were created to get movies to consumers, via such content aggregators as and iTunes, to viewers directly via video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo, and through video on demand (VOD) and Internet TV. However, with those new opportunities come new challenges, particularly for Caribbean filmmakers, who tend to be independent and poorly funded.

“(Using) new methods of distribution definitely helps to get your film seen by the audience,” said Ian Harnarine, the director of the TT/Canadian hit short Doubles with Slight Pepper.

“It’s become much easier for people to see your film and to share it with the world. However, this system has allowed a massive glut of content and it’s very hard for ‘random’ audiences to come upon your film. As a result, it takes a lot of work to get promotion and to build an awareness of your film with an audience.”

Niegeme Glasgow, whose distribution company, Studio 3210, works in the UK with Caribbean films, said, “The new paradigm, if you will, is the Internet and the possibility to self distribute, which doesn’t really make monetising your film any much easier, and the coming of the smart TV, which will really bring the Internet into the living room. And while it offers the audience much more choice, it could make it harder for independent filmmakers to get their films seen if you don’t have the funds to finance a marketing campaign. The thing about the Internet is that despite the amount of information and ‘how to’ out there, they are all just theories; no one really knows what’s going to happen.”

Some Caribbean filmmakers who contributed to this feature agreed that film festivals are still one of the best ways to get attention for a film. But that comes with costs—festivals will not always pay for filmmakers to attend them, and festivals may also charge a small fee for submissions, Harnarine said.

Elizabeth Topp, who co-produced the feature documentary Jab! The Blue Devils of Paramin, said the film was well received at festivals in Canada, the UK and the US, but added that “the interest generated had no clear results in terms of sales generated”. She said, “If TT filmmakers had a consistent and reliable way in which to contact and market their films to the Diaspora, through broadcast networks in the UK, Canada, the US, this would be a great help. Assistance in letting these networks know about our films is needed. Few of us have the budget and contacts and savvy necessary to get the word out and to generate a buzz.”

Some regional filmmakers have gotten films out to the international market. One of the most successful in this regard is Frances-Anne Solomon, through her company CaribbeanTales Worldwide Distribution, which distributes over 500 films from all around the region (French, Spanish, Dutch and English).

Still from Ian Hanarine's Doubles With Slight Pepper

“Sales are pretty constant, and in fact growing all the time, and we are doing quite well!” Solomon said.

“A lot of our films are TT films. We distribute the Banyan catalogue, and many films by younger filmmakers. We have begun working with a number of third party entities to distribute films digitally. In 2013, we will be launching CaribbeanTales-TV, a proprietary Netflix-style platform that integrates video on demand with Internet television.”

Topp, Harnarine and Glasgow share the belief that creating a bloc of regional films with a Caribbean brand is the way forward for the region.

Harnarine pointed out, “The world is definitely interested in seeing things/people/places that they haven’t seen before. For most of the world, the Caribbean is very much uncharted territory …. I also believe that international audiences want good stories that appeal to the human condition.”

Christopher Laird, chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company (TTFC), saluted Solomon’s work.

“There’s no doubt that in the past five to six years, the Caribbean film brand has become established mainly due to the work of the CaribbeanTales Worldwide Distribution Company. There’s also no doubt that within the Caribbean film industry, the TTFC has a high and enviable profile as the most progressive and proactive national film company.

“With the digital revolution media, consumption habits and distribution and merchandising strategies are incredibly dynamic and require experience, creativity and up-to-the-minute knowledge to navigate and exploit. It is part of the TTFC’s strategy to create partnerships and networks with agencies and distributors on the frontline to better advise and guide our stakeholders to the most appropriate marketing opportunities.” Courtesy TT Film Company Limited.

Original post courtesy of Newsday

ARC Magazine
ARC Magazine

ARC Inc. is a non-profit print and online publication and social platform launched in 2011. It seeks to fill a certain void by offering a critical space for contemporary artists to present their work while fostering and developing critical dialogues and opportunities for crucial points of exchange. ARC is an online and social space of interaction with a developed methodology of sharing information about contemporary practices, exhibitions, partnerships, and opportunities occurring in the Caribbean region and throughout its diasporas.