A call has gone out to the business community to invest in the emerging Barbadian film and video industry.
Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, made this appeal during his feature address at the fifth anniversary celebrations and awards ceremony of the Barbados Film and Video Association, held last Saturday at Plae, formerly Ocean Park, Balls, Christ Church.
Stating that the global film market was estimated to be worth approximately US$60 billion annually, Lashley asserted that the cultural industries sector, of which film and video was a part, had been resilient during the ongoing global recession.
“This means that it (the Cultural Industries Sector) has to quickly assume a leading role in helping to reshape our economy and the way we do business… The business sector in my view needs to be encouraged to invest in the sector and to see it as a viable commodity,” he stressed.
Noting that feature films, shorts and documentaries were costly undertakings, the Minister told the filmmakers gathered: “I believe what is needed is a hybrid system of funding, which involves Government and private sector funding. Tonight, we can be justified in calling on the private sector to take the industry more seriously, for in spite of all the good intentions of the filmmakers, major enhancement from local businesses could provide the much needed boost that you, the practitioners, require.”
Lashley outlined that a vibrant film and video industry had many benefits for Barbados, adding that when international teams decided to stage their productions on the island, this was a form of direct foreign investment and enhancement of the tourism product. However, he admitted it was critical that adequate support mechanisms and infrastructure, such as a film commission, were in place.
“We look to our neighbour Trinidad [and Tobago]. We observe that in the past five years, more than 140 international productions have been filmed on that location, including the critically acclaimed Norwegian drama, Limbo; the Bollywood extravaganza, Dulha Mil Gaya, and major TV shows, such as House Hunters International and BBC Natural History Unit,” he said.
“These [productions] would have employed approximately 1,200 persons and generated in excess of $25 million.”
Lashley indicated that when he spoke about the film industry, he was referring to the entire process, which included script writing, production, distribution, exhibition and export.
“The possibilities for employment creation are endless, this is a point we cannot emphasise enough… There is employment generation for skilled and unskilled persons at all levels — carpenters, make-up artists, videographers, performers and everyone along the film making value chain,” he said.
He outlined the industry could contribute to the country’s gross domestic product, enhance foreign exchange earnings and provide practitioners and investors with economic empowerment.
The minister added that ongoing commitment from stakeholders was critical, especially if the industry was to obtain the “desired goals of job creation, national and social cohesion, and national growth”.
He also called on film makers to play their part in helping the business community to see the value in investing in Barbadian films and videos.
“All of us here this evening need to encourage investors not to be shy about investing, but to see an investment in the sector as an investment not only in the diversification of their own businesses but in the ability of Barbados to earn vital foreign exchange,” he emphasised.
Minister Lashley acknowledged the local film and video industry faced several challenges which included the lack of partnership and support from the private sector, lack of funding, shortage of skilled professionals in some areas, high production costs and the misunderstanding of Barbadian culture by some in society.
Stressing that his ministry was in support of the development of the audio visual sector on the island, he said: “Like the emerging cultural and creative industry generally, your area of film and audio is at an embryonic stage, and amidst such a reality, I am aware of the various challenges of getting films produced locally.”
He told the members of the BFVA: “Your efforts to develop a thriving film industry in Barbados have not gone unnoticed by the Ministry of Culture or by the Government of Barbados. We have listened to your submissions and we certainly welcomed the ideas that you have given to us with respect to the Cultural Industries Bill, much of what you have said to us has found its way into the bill.
“We have reached a point where there has been a good collision between the objectives of the association and the objectives of the government. When that happens, it is always a good thing, because issues such as funding, skilled development, both at the professional and at the level of creating employment, are usually very good connecting points,” Lashley said.