FilmTT Stakeholder Meeting – Q&A | Part 2

Photo caption: Jonathan Olsberg, Chairman of Olsberg SPI. 

FilmTT thanks all persons who attended the Stakeholder Meeting on Monday 10th July, 2017 and also thanks those who could not make it but submitted their questions online. Unfortunately, time did not allow us to address all questions and concerns on the day, so here are our responses to those queries.

In Part 2 of this article, we address questions pertaining to INDUSTRY DEVELOPMENT.

  • Why do we need a new strategic plan?
    • The last strategic plan, which was developed in 2012 for the period 2012-2016, was not activated. The plan had also acknowledged gaps and weaknesses.
    • Changes happen quickly in this sector; even in the last 4 years in Trinidad and Tobago, there has been a lot of activity, growth, positive potential shown for our films, etc. There is also a gap in accurate data for the sector, and the plan we are working on is going to address that (not addressed in previous plan).
    • The strategic plan is being developed with a London-based consultant called Olsberg SPI (selected through a Government tender process) that has direct experience in working with countries, as well as public and private sector companies all over the world, in the creative sector, especially film. The plan is currently in the research phase, and we are aiming for completion in December 2017, and launch in January 2018.
    • The 2012 plan, as well as many other documents, have been provided to the consultant in this research phase to ensure that there is a full learning and awareness of the work that has been done to develop the sector in the last ten years, using what is relevant in the current context.
    • The goal here is for FilmTT to work in a collaborative manner with the consultant to develop a plan for 5-10 years, that is informed by international best practice and strategy, combined with the unique selling points and specificities of the Trinidad and Tobago market.

  • What is the marketing strategy for T&T as a location for foreign film projects?
    • The overall marketing strategy is still to be determined; it will be informed directly by the strategic plan. There is also some work to do to ensure the systems to service international productions are fully functional, so we have to manage how aggressively we market the country in the next year.
    • For 2016-2017, as a transitional position, with the re-instatement of the rebate programme in early 2017, we have done some specific and targeted advertising in international trade publications (Screen International, The Locations Guide, Cinando, World of Locations); we have profiles on a few online resource sites (AFCI, OLFFI, EP, World of Locations).
    • We have also been promoting at specific festivals and markets in a targeted way:
      • Los Angeles in April 2017, at a conference and trade show hosted by the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI), as well as through targeted presentations to finance and incentive executives at some top studios.
      • Cannes Film Festival and Market in May 2017.
      • Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017.
    • In this transition year, the goal has been to get back on the international radar of production companies and location managers. At the beginning of 2018, armed with the strategic plan, and a more complete understanding of our sector, we will create a comprehensive plan to reach more specific targets, and therefore yield more specific returns on investment.

  • How does FilmTT plan on making a return on the investment in film?
    • Part of the work of the strategic planning process will be to determine where T&T should focus growth of our sector. For example, one of Puerto Rico’s main selling points is world-class post-production facilities; the Dominican Republic has Pinewood Studios water tanks and sound stages; Jamaica has a brand built mainly on the back of tourism and selling experience, and they have well-trained production teams and equipment. We have to determine what our strengths are (some addressed in the presentation), and build the strategy out to leverage them, as well as new identified opportunities.

  • Would FilmTT be interested in partnering with private sector and local producers to help distribute and monetise/license their content via online platforms?
    • At this point, FilmTT’s role would not include direct distribution; our role would be to work to fill the gaps in distribution in the value chain, by opening up more distribution channels and options for producers to potentially access. We are happy to hear about companies that are focused on distribution, because it gives us a better sense of what we have as selling points. So please share your plans with us.

  • Will this be a platform to bring forward ideas to make the film industry active?
    • Yes of course, we welcome and will take note of all feedback.

  • Greetings, is the television and film industry in Trinidad & Tobago ever going to be standardized? I am speaking about the quality of work, inexperience vs the working professional, the rates for a documentary in comparison to a commercial, etc. Are they going to set standards to industry levels?
    • Setting standards in all the areas defined above is critical. Through the strategic planning process, the goal is to determine the best ways to go about doing that.

  • Will there be any attempt to invest in content creation like so many other successful modules (HBO, Netflix, Hulu, BBC Films, Screen Australia, etc.)
    • FilmTT and its predecessor TTFC have invested in T&T content creation since its inception; for various reasons, the percentage of productions that have made it to audiences has been small, the percentage to recoup funds even smaller.
    • We believe it is important, especially in a developing phase, for there to be some level of investment in productions, as it demonstrates to other potential funders and investors that the country sees the value and potential for success in the film. Funding and investment in productions are tools of development. In the near future, we will be aiming to reintroduce investment programmes that are developed according to international best practice.
    • Because it is not sustainable for FilmTT to be the only or primary source of investment in film/audio-visual/animation projects, and also because the existence of multiple sources of financing are part of a healthy and fully developed creative sector, we will also be working to encourage and facilitate the development of other avenues for investment in T&T projects.

  • What initiatives are in place to introduce secondary school students to the film industry, given that the Secondary Schools’ Short Film Festival is no longer active?
    • The Secondary Schools Short Film Festival was a valuable project that created interest in film production at the high school level, and we saw some success from that; for financial reasons, the project has not been held since 2015. We will take the opportunity of the strategic planning process to explore sustainable ways to target this group to not only develop their interest in the field, but also to ensure that the ones who would like to pursue it as a career have viable options to do so.

  • What is being done to foster parity between the local Visual Communication Industry and the foreign Internet based stock images?
    • Good question, and not one that has yet been considered by us. This is perhaps a private sector opportunity for graphic design or production companies to establish banks of such content.

  • What is being done to improve story content, production values and marketability of our local productions?
    • Establishing regular capacity building programmes, for both above and below the line talent, in the near future.
    • Establishing operating standards to inform how the sector functions.
    • Encouraging and facilitating more content producers going to regional and international labs, workshops, festivals and markets, to learn their crafts and the international industry, build their international networks, and connect with international producers, sales agents and distributors to potentially get their work in front of international audiences.

  • What are some of FilmTT’s plans to strengthen its relationship/ involvement with the industry/market in Los Angeles?
    • We have already made one trip in April 2017 which served to start that process. LA can be a very lucrative market for T&T for smaller productions; the tax incentives in California generally favour big budget productions as they are working to bring that business back to the state. We are already fielding regular calls from producers in LA who are learning about us. We will further develop our strategy through the strategic plan.

  • How are you creating further investment and job expansion in the motion graphic and animation fields?
    • Options will be explored through the strategic plan.

  • How do Documentary Films stand within the framework of FilmTT?
    • These types of films are very important; they qualify for the rebate programme, and capacity building will include some focus on documentary production and marketing.

Part 3 of this article will be published on 24th July, 2017. 

Click here to read Part 1.

Photo courtesy: Bain Photography