Jamaica’s Film Industry and Incentives

Los Angeles, March 14 – What I learnt from being in Hollywood the last few days is…Jamaica has the best location for filming and also some of the most talented folks in the business in the Caribbean, but what it lacks is incentives to lure filmmakers and production houses. “There are a ton of stories/films to be made,” one filmmaker said, but “the location has to be attractive in every aspect of the business.”

In the United States for example, production incentives are tax benefits which differ from state to state. USA realized that they were losing productions to Canada in the 1990s and was a way to attract films they developed suitable incentive schemes. The states compete with each other offering various types of incentives ranging from cash grants, fee-free locations and other perks.

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Jamaica’s opportunity with the increased attention to the location has to compete and I was told frankly that the Film Commission has to have structure, types, size and varying incentives based on where filming has to take place.

Jamaica’s size is sometimes misunderstood, but the diversity is obvious and can be an advantage to what is still a fledgling film industry; historically with the island being a backdrop for filming, the time has come for content creators to join forces with its technical teams and make films of varying lengths to satisfy the demands of what has now become a content-dominated market. YouTube, Netfilx, Amazon, Google and now AfroStream have changed the way content can be seen and Jamaica’s industry is best served if it can participate and represent.

JAMPRO’s Role

JAMPRO has continued to work with the Ministries of Finance and Tourism & Entertainment to refine the incentives regime so that the critical inputs into the creative process are imported on a duty-free basis. It is therefore obvious that more has to be done. JAMPRO continues to listen to the voice of the industry at home and abroad to ensure its actions are what the industry requires to be sustainable. Partnerships have been forged with other key stakeholders that will see the establishment of a pool of resources dedicated to support the film industry, so the template for a Film Fund has been developed and will go through the requisite process for approval.

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What exists now for Entertainment companies in Jamaica (Film, TV, Fashion, Music) is, there were four separate pieces of legislation which were passed and took effect January 1, 2014. These are used to guide the Omnibus Tax Incentives (replacing the Motion Picture Recognition Status (MPRS) regime:
– The Customs Act: The Customs Tariff (Revision)(Amendment) Resolution 2013
– Fiscal Incentives Act
– Income Tax Relief (Large-scale Projects and Pioneers Industries Act, 2013)
– Stamp Duty Act (2013)

A similar system existed for incoming projects, but has been removed due to economic challenges. The plan to make the destination attractive for international filmmakers is a priority and there are efforts on now to make it happen.

There are pros and cons to any recommendation and I will start with the pros. Job creation is key to any incentive program and with colleges like the Edna Manley College, University of Technology, University of the West Indies, Northern Caribbean University producing students with skills set for the industry there should be a commitment and a need for jobs. There are at least four production houses with over four decades of experience and continuity is key. There is also an opportunity for small business and infrastructure development. There are business experts which suggest that emerging economies are best served with successful small businesses and with a tremendous amount of investment in equipment and supplies to support the work, that opportunity also exists.

Employment (temporary) figures for the Film Industry now as collected by JAMPRO range from 1,456 to 2,246 within the last five years. There is an example of a state in the US which after activating its incentive program, jobs tripled and productions it attracted increased by 14 per cent in the same period. The only negative is if the country is not able to attract a steady stream of productions.

Jamaica Film Festival 

The Jamaica Film Festival, scheduled for Kingston, July 7 – 11, is shaping up to be a very exciting one showcasing the talents of the best and brightest in the Jamaican film industry. The festival promises to be a dynamic cinematic and cultural event featuring both local and international films. There will also be a music day with workshops and a live reggae concert at the Tuff Gong International Recording Studios. What the Festival hopes to also do is create an opportunity for the filmmakers who have been shortlisted to premier their events, get an up close and personal chance to meet with TV executives in pitching, production, marketing and packaging, distribution and music officials.

Ja Film Festival front

The festival seeks to promote Jamaica as more than just a backdrop location. Jamaica is currently experiencing a creative revolution where it has positioned itself as the cultural powerhouse of the Caribbean, producing outstanding creative products, services and talent. This has led to a deeper focus on developing the island’s creative industries in particular film, with the goal of becoming one of the thought leaders in the industry. The idea is for Jamaica to evolve into being the regional hub for creative talent and services, and having a national film festival will help solidify the growth that has to take place.

Recommendation is therefore a plan to have an incentive program for three years with a caveat for adjustments based on the results.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. bertitude says:

    This is great news. I’d love for it to be highlighted to the powers that be and local investors the difference in film versus any other industry. Unlike Bauxite/Tourism/Name your cash crop, film is not an industry built on a single good. The success of any film isn’t reliant on the success of a prior film to succeed.

    It’s great to see the elements necessary for the film industry to happen falling into place. Many fronts to deal with but I have faith it will happen.

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