Big boost coming for Jamaica’s film industry with soon to be launched screen fund

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A report by Durrant Pate for Jamaica’s Observer.

Jamaica is set to launch its Screen Fund Initiative in which film makers and producers can get financing of up to 45 per cent of a project and eligible budget for both local and international film productions.

This is a huge boost for Jamaica, which doesn’t have a tax credit, but has hosted some major projects in recent years, including the new Bond film, No Time to Die, part of which was filmed in Port Antonio and Kingston. The fund, which has been actively under development for the past five years by Jampro, is now in the final approval stages by the Government.

Jampro has engaged the international screen industry consultants, Nordicity, to deliver the Screen Fund’s operational guidelines. The aim of the public-private fund is to stimulate Jamaican film productions.

However, it will also be available to co-productions and even international productions, as long as these productions demonstrate a significant level of contribution or economic impact to the country. For example, a percentage of the crew must be locally sourced as well as a number of shoot days in Jamaica.

Once officially launched, there will be an open call for screen projects, which can apply at the development and pre-production stage, in production, or at the marketing and festival attendance stage. Eligible film projects will need to meet eligibility criteria through a points-based system.

Applications will be overseen by an external third-party assessment body made up of industry professionals both local and international. While applicants will be eligible for a maximum of up to 45 per cent of their eligible budget from the fund, they will need to demonstrate that the remaining budget percentage has been secured from other financial sources before money from the fund can be released.

To help applicants achieve this, Film Commissioner and Head of the Film, Animation and Music Unit of Jampro, Renee Robinson, reports that her organisation is now pursuing a roster of partner companies, both locally and internationally, consisting of debt, equity, angel and distribution partners. She explains that these entities would see that the producers have qualified for the Government grant, and can then consider financing the rest of the budget from an equity, debt, or gap position.

The funds aim to launch with US$2.5 million in its first disbursal and will pursue further capital calls after establishment. The Development Bank of Jamaica has been involved in the fund development and its future management to ensure fiduciary and audit controls.

Robinson is planning to start operationalising the fund in the coming months by engaging the project team to oversee the application process, set up time frames, convene the selection committees, and develop the terms of reference for governance of the fund.  Phase two of the fund, which Robinson is most excited about, could see the creation of an incentive structure for private capital.

Speaking with KFTV out of London, England Robinson explains, “If you are a private investor and willing to capitalise the fund that amount could essentially go into escrow within the fund and be held in an incentive vehicle for the 3-5 years that the funding is being used for to support the screen industry.”

Dispersal of the Jamaica Screen Fund Initiative is set to begin next year.

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