- The ‘Propella’ initiative could be described as the Jamaica film industry‘s springboard to greatness, as it has been supporting the talent of local film-makers and garner international exposure for the native culture.
- Propella is a four-year-old script-to-screen project initiative spearheaded by Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) and Jamaica Film and Television Association (JAFTA), which is designed to nurture Jamaican content creators and enable them to tell their stories cinematically through the provision of funding and technical support.
- Film Commissioner at JAMPRO, Renée Robinson, tells JIS News that the programme has produced excellent content, and continues to open the door for film-makers in international markets, which is a crucial element of the investment promotions agency’s development strategy for the sector.
The ‘Propella’ initiative could be described as the Jamaica film industry‘s springboard to greatness, as it has been supporting the talent of local film-makers and garner international exposure for the native culture.
Propella is a four-year-old script-to-screen project initiative spearheaded by Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) and Jamaica Film and Television Association (JAFTA), which is designed to nurture Jamaican content creators and enable them to tell their stories cinematically through the provision of funding and technical support.
Film Commissioner at JAMPRO, Renée Robinson, tells JIS News that the programme has produced excellent content, and continues to open the door for film-makers in international markets, which is a crucial element of the investment promotions agency’s development strategy for the sector.
She explains that Propella identifies up to five local film-making projects and assists them throughout the year with script development, production funding and engagement with various markets.
“The programme has seen many significant wins. We now have a catalogue of short films ready to represent the potential of talent in the sector. Over the years, several of the shorts have secured financial interest for further development into features or television episodics; and key on-screen talent has been discovered internationally through this platform,” the Commissioner further informs.
Ms. Robinson points out that each year, projects are chosen through a blind process and produced with financial support of $500,000 each from the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund.
“We do not know who we were selecting. It is based on the merit of the project and after that process is completed, we have a series of interviews to ensure that the finalists are at the production stage where they can deliver the project; that is how we come up with the top-four or five projects,” she adds.
The film-makers undergo capacity-building boot camps on script development, directing, producing, pitching, festival strategy, deal-making and distribution, to prepare them to participate in film festivals and other activities to promote their work.
Ms. Robinson adds that through Propella, JAMPRO and JAFTA discover and cultivate the cohort of top local talent and work at ensuring they have a stronger presence at international film festivals.
She notes that participants’ involvement at these festivals will help to “propel the Jamaican film industry into the global landscape”.
This, Ms. Robinson adds, as while at the festival, the film-makers are able to market their work for distribution, create collaboration opportunities and widen their networks on the international circuit, with the aim of expanding the reach of Jamaican content globally.
“We are very proud of Propella, as it demonstrates the potential of what Jamaican cinema and the Caribbean screen-based industry can be, and through the initiative, we are able to track the paths of individual projects and film-makers,” the Film Commissioner says.
She adds that “we can show how a project that was a part of the 2016 cohort, four years down the road… where they have gone, how many film festivals they have been accepted to, the awards they have received, the meetings they have had with potential business partners and other developments that have taken place”.
Ms. Robinson informs that since the implementation of Propella, there have been an increase in applications from interested film-makers; improvement in the quality of the product; increase in the global reach of the different types of projects; and also an increase in collaboration, as more persons are feeling comfortable working with each other and talking about their work.
“We have seen people who are not traditionally in the screen-based industries coming through these programmes and succeeding. I think that JAFTA Propella is a catalyst for a lot of the changes that have been happening in the screen-based industries over the past couple of years, as it is one of the programmes that are changing the local landscape,” she highlights.
Ms. Robinson points out that “when we go to markets and we talk about JAFTA Propella, particularly in the region, all of the other Film Commissioners across the Caribbean want their own JAFTA Propella, as they are looking at what we are doing in Jamaica and seeing it as a template for what to do”.
“So we really are on the cutting edge, and some of the initiatives, interventions and the collaborations that have happened over the past couple of years are a result of the programme,” she adds.
JAFTA President, Analisa Chapman, notes that among Propella’s accomplishments between 2016 and 2018, are 14 new short films covering various genres, including fantasies, drama and comedy.
She further tells JIS News that JAFTA recently facilitated the production of its first animated film, ‘Agwe’.
“Over the years, all the films have screened or gotten official selections at film festivals in Europe, throughout the Caribbean and North America. One of our highlights for 2018 is a film called ‘Flight’, which is co-directed by Kia Moses and Adrian McDonald, in keeping with the theme for International Women’s Day,” Ms. Chapman outlines.
She further notes that the film was screened at the Black Women Film Network Film Festival in March and won the award for Best Screen Play, Audience Award and Best Short Film and, in the process, garnered a meeting with HBO Films.
Another film, ‘Origin’, which was shortlisted from 2016, is currently being developed into a series, while ‘Agwe’, from the 2018 programme, has been an official selection at the Toronto Black Film Festival and was accepted in the Anime Caribe Animation Festival.
Local director, Storm Saulter and his team attended the American Black Film Festival and won three of the top awards for the film, ‘Sprinter’, and continue to do very promising things on the film circuit.
Ms. Chapman points out that “there have been various stages of development for these films, and with screenings in more of the Caribbean film festivals”.
“St. Vincent recently had its first film festival and ‘Flight’, ‘This City of Mine’, and several other Jamaican films were well received. So the programme is really helping film-makers and young and experienced talents to take off,” she adds.