Funding for Caribbean filmmakers

By Jasminee Sahoye

Frances-Anne  Solomon CaribbeanTales CEO and founder and John Reid FLOW CEO
Frances-Anne Solomon CaribbeanTales CEO and founder and John Reid FLOW CEO

A telecommunications company in the Caribbean is injecting some $1M over a five-year period into an incubator programme to help filmmakers from the Caribbean and the Caribbean diaspora in North America further develop their skills.

Canadian-born, John Reid, CEO of Flow, a broadcasting company, whose parent company is Cable and Wireless Communications, told The Caribbean Camera that his company has partnered with Caribbean Tales Incubator Programme.

Three winning projects will receive pilot funding from Flow.

“We’re also producing what we call ‘a fly in the wall series’ to basically film the workshops taking place and create a TV show based on the participants.  I now sit on an advisory board that they have created.  It’s everything from content on a new linear Caribbean channel that we will be launching ourselves, Flow, working with Caribbean Tales and others.”

He was tight lipped on the name of the channel saying it has not yet been launched internally.

He announced, however, that  Flow will launch this year ” our own Pan Caribbean 100 per cent Caribbean lifestyle content network, and Caribbean Tales will have a spot on the dial with their content.

“They will also have a spot on our video on demand platform, we will continue to support the incubation program, producing some of own content, and support other producers in the Region and the Diaspora, who are producing quality content for the Caribbean.”

Reid said they have done research that shows that people are interested in seeing Caribbean content. But he explained that “it needs to be relevant and importantly, it needs to be of high quality.”

” We know there’s an opportunity to fill a void and our customers demand it. We know there’s a million stories to be told, so for us, I guess it’s bit of labour of love, ” he added.

Now in its 7th year, the Incubator is a development and production hub for Caribbean and Caribbean diaspora producers, whose aim is to increase the volume of compelling world class content from the Caribbean region. Flow is the lead sponsor of the CTI, as part of its commitment to developing the regional industry.

At the media launch of Caribbean Tales International Film Festival (CTFF) in Toronto last Wednesday Reid said, “We are 100 per cent  in on this project. FLOW will be a very active partner to help continue in this drive to developing a beautiful industry, in a beautiful part of the world. I believe the Caribbean industry needs not only an investor but also a strategic partner, providing not only funding, but also time, passion, and love. It’s all about relationships.”

Frances-Anne-Solomon,  CEO of  Caribbean Tales, said: “This promising partnership with Flow provides, for the first time, a consistent mechanism through which the most compelling regional projects from the most talented producers can get funded and be seen by wide audiences region-wide. I am looking forward to working with producers to build on this important milestone in the establishment of a sustainable indigenous industry in the Caribbean.”

After receiving a record breaking number of applications, projects were assessed by a team of industry professionals and 10 filmmakers have been chosen to participate in the incubator program.

From Trinidad and Tobago: Bitter Fruit, a gripping telenovela full of intrigue and betrayal, from actress, director and producer Juliette McCawley; Big Man Dan, an off-beat animation series by Kafi Kareem Farrell, screenwriter and multi-platform media producer; and Sean Hodgkinson’s new risque melodrama, The Weekend. Hodgkinson’s award winning feature film Trafficked will have its Canadian Premiere at the Caribbean Tales Film Festival.

From Jamaica:Yolande Clarke’s Lil’ Island Kidz, a fun educational animation for children; and Rachel Osbourne’s hard-hitting drama series West Bay, exploring corporate corruption and environmentalism on Jamaica’s North Coast.

From Barbados: Menelik Shabazz’s dark soap opera HEAT, delves into murder, class, and deceit behind closed doors;

From Martinique : Battledream Chronicles by Alain Bidard is an animated science fiction fantasy series adapted from his feature film of the same name. Battledream — the first feature-length animation from the Francophone Caribbean — will be have its North American Premiere at CTFF2016.

The three remaining projects are from the Caribbean diaspora.

            Brooklynites, by Esosa Edosomwa of New York features the aspirations and dreams of a pan-Caribbean group of twenty-something friends; Mo’ Love by Canada’s Glace Lawrence is a strong female-driven sitcom set in Toronto’s East End; and,Money Money Money is a madcap comedy series, from Holland-based producer Monique Dikmoet.