OPENING ADDRESS BY
PHILIP A.W. WILLIAMS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Caribbean Export Development Agency
THE FIRST EVER CARIBBEAN FILM MARKETPLACE
The Best Of Caribbean Tales 2010
The Savannah Hotel, Barbados
Thursday, 25 February 2010
WHY AUDIO-VISUAL SECTOR IS IMPORTANT TO THE CARIBBEAN
Ms Frances-Anne Solomon, Festival Director of The Best of Caribbean Tales 2010; Dr Keith Nurse, Director, Shridath Ramphal Centre; Mr. Terrence Farrell, Group Chief Executive Officer, One Caribbean Media; Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
I am indeed honoured to have been invited by the organizers and sponsors of the Caribbean Tales Film Festival, Symposium and Marketplace to address you on the occasion of the opening of the first ever Caribbean Film Marketplace.
Caribbean Export Development Agency, as the regional trade and investment promotion agency for the 15 States of CARIFORUM is committed to the development of the Audio Visual Sector. We are therefore very pleased to be part of this Festival and in particular this trail-blazing effort to bring buyers and sellers together, in this important new sector of exports for the Region. This Region is sadly lacking in specialized trade fairs. The annual Caribbean Gift and Craft Show, organised by Caribbean Export during the last 15 years is a notable exception. In so far as most international buyers tend now only to attend specialized trade fairs, it is appropriate that Caribbean Tales should decide to host this first ever Caribbean Film Marketplace. We must hope that once started this will become an annual event to which regional film producers and both regional and international buyers can look forward. In this way we shall be able to add one more specialized trade fair to our Calendar.
Enduring Cultural Expression & Caribbean Brand Definition
Apart from Caribbean Exports legitimate commercial interest in this event, as Caribbean nationals, we must also have a broader interest and pride in this festival, symposium and marketplace.The oral tradition of story telling and the written world of printed books and other printed material, in both of which the Region excels, is fast giving way to electronic forms of communicating stories and ideas. Audio visual tools are now the preferred means of communication, especially for the young. If we are not to be left behind, we must quickly adapt to these new and rapidly evolving forms of communication. Electronic books, videos and the social networks You Tube, Facebook, Twitter etcetera are expanding and developing rapidly.
These are the tools which will help the region to disseminate its culture to the World. But these tools require content and it is by producing our stories and ideas in the new electronic formats that we can help to determine and define Caribbeanness and promote it to the World
We hear much talk of national brands Brand Jamaica or Brand Barbados, but the World sees us as Caribbean, as we know too well from the impact of regional disasters. A hurricane, or a flood, or an earthquake in the region impacts all of the Caribbean negatively, regardless of the particular country which is directly affected. As we have done with our literature, through our music and films, let us seek to further define and enhance our own image of the Caribbean a truly rich, positive Brand Caribbean from which the entire region can benefit a rising tide lifts all boats.
Important Link to the Regional Diaspora
Caribbean audiovisual products also play an important role in harnessing our links to the Diaspora. As Rosina Wiltshire, the Former UNDP Representative in Barbados, said in a recent lecture on Migration, our families are for the most part transnational: we all have relatives in other countries near or far. It is wonderful for these relatives to visit us and reacquaint themselves with Caribbean culture, but we must also carry something of importance to them. Our Diaspora can relate to and welcomes the opportunity to hear and see our music videos and films in their own communities abroad and to be able to share these with their new neighbours.
An important link with the Diaspora has traditionally been cricket, but this game although still very important in many Commonwealth countries is not ubiquitous and has little appeal in the major markets of North America, where many of our relatives reside. Besides, dare I say that recent performance of our West Indies cricket team suggests continuing deficiencies, which hardly make us proud Perhaps the new medium of Caribbean audiovisual outputs can be a powerful force to help fill that void.
Major Opportunity for Foreign Exchange Earnings and Quality Employment Generation. This sector offers a major opportunity for both foreign exchange earnings and quality employment generation. It is well known that this form of entertainment has been for years a major revenue stream for developed countries, like the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and more recently New Zealand. The entry costs have been prohibitively high, but new technologies have reduced costs and many developing countries are quickly joining the trend, notably India and South Africa. However, even the Caribbean has over the years had some modest success, with limited effort and limited official support.
2 International films like Island in the Sun, Tamarind Seed and the James Bond Films have brought important revenue and recognition to the region as a location for making films. Other efforts like The Harder they Come, Cool Running, Pirates of the Caribbean and Hit for Six have had more regional input, either by being local productions, using regional actors, or in the case of Pirates of the Caribbean 2, by very proactive approaches to attracting filming to the region. I am sure that it is now well known that Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was a major revenue earner for Dominica, as a result largely of an individual initiative, with Government support, to encourage Disney to shoot part of the film in Dominica.
Film production of course provides opportunities for authors and playwrites, script writers, directors, actors, photographers, editors, engineers and other technicians all of whom are potentially well paid.
Caribbean Exports Role in Helping to Develop the Sector
Caribbean Export can play a significant role in helping to develop this sector. We have identified a number of requirements for a successful Caribbean Audio visual sector:
the need for a regional database of key players in the sector,
Development of national and regional sector associations/networks, which allow these key players to meet and know each other,
Development of a regional strategic planning process and strategy for the sector and its sub-sectors;
Clear definition of sub-sectors and the commercial opportunities for each of these sub-sectors
Advocacy for necessary official support: for example, with the establishment of national film commissions and necessary incentive measures to facilitate film production.
Fortunately, a number of regional governments have set up film commissions and are making positive statements of support for the sector.
Research to identify areas for development how have other countries achieved success in this field What policy measures were needed What worked for them and what did not work
Help with production training, money. Already the need has been identified for the training of script writers and photographers and money for film production is a major constraint. This is a challenge which Caribbean Export shares with film producers and for which we will strive with them to find solutions.
Distribution channels and help with Promotion (at home and abroad)
This is a tall agenda. We cannot solve all of these problems in the short term, especially in times of economic crisis. Some may see it as frivolous to place importance on an entertainment sector at this time. What I do know is that we need to have a strategy for this important sector, make a start on its implementation and pursue it rigorously. The sooner we start, the better off the Region will be.
This week Caribbean Export has facilitated a strategic planning session in Barbados by the executive members of the newly established Caribbean Audiovisual Network, or
3. C.A.N. Under the guidance of Dr Keith Nurse, it is hoped that a preliminary strategy for the sector will emerge by the end of this week. This can form the basis for a plan of action and indeed be the basis of approaches to our development partners for assistance to help develop the sector. On a positive note, our development partners and CARIFORUM States have shown an increasing interest in the work of Caribbean Export. This should result in a four-fold increase in the resources available to the Agency during the next 12 months. This should enable Caribbean Export to deliver at a much higher level than at any time in its recent history. I am confident that development assistance can be identified to help move the Regions Audio-visual sector forward.
A word about the importance of this Festival, the Marketplace and congratulations to the organisers.
This brings me back to the importance of this Festival, Symposium and Marketplace. These three events are all critical parts of the development process for the Audiovisual sector in the region. The Festival brings to our attention the range and depth of audiovisual content already available to and from the region. This was reinforced at the Gala Launch of the Festival on Tuesday evening, when we were treated to the screening of 2 excellent films, Trapped In An Elevator by Barbadian Filmmaker Rommel Hall, and A Winter Tale by our accomplished Trinidadian/Canadian filmmaker and Festival Director, Frances-Anne Solomon.
The Seminar yesterday, provided an opportunity for professionals to meet and exchange information and experiences and to discuss possibilities for collaboration. It was part of the important training/learning process.
Todays Marketplace is about sustainability, if we cannot raise money to produce our films and if we cannot profitably market our output, then the industry will not survive. This demands the support of our financiers people willing to examine a script, the project proposal and take a calculated risk on financing a film and its promotion. Maybe governments could offer tax incentives for such investment. I am advised by the experts that regional producers must also look seriously at Co-production working with filmmakers from developed countries on joint projects. Developed countries provide incentives to their Audiovisual sector, which can often be used to assist with coproduction with filmmakers from another country. Caribbean producers must forge alliances with producers from Germany, from France perhaps through Martinique, Guadeloupe or French Guyana-, with producers from Canada and from Britain. Film Festivals like this provide opportunities for making these important alliances.
I must once again congratulate Ms Frances-Anne Solomon and her team of organizers Mary Wells, Keith Nurse and others – and the many sponsors of this event on their initiative. I assure you that Caribbean Export will do everything in its power to support and promote the sector and activities such as this Festival which are so critical to the development and success of the sector and the Region. We have great expectations of the Caribbean Audiovisual sector and see this Marketplace as an important beginning. It gives me great pleasure to declare this first ever Caribbean Film Marketplace open and to wish participants every success with your business.