A twist unfolded when Joshua Paul, an aspiring local director, debuted his martial arts inspired TV pilot Enhanced to patrons in October 2016.
The film’s modest hero, Kayo (Lamardo Christopher) saves Shari (Melissa Gooden) from two thugs Crackerz (Fitzroy Walters) and Triple T (Kevin Jackson). In reality, however, the series itself needs a hero: A group of investors or sponsors to fund his project into a TV series. The lack of funding remains a major challenge across the creative industries within the country.
“I am working on a kit to discuss with potential sponsors and investors, who see the potential of Enhanced. People who are willing to help it grow,” stated Paul in his response to patrons following the screening within the grounds of the University of the West Indies. Paul, while understanding the shortcoming of funding remains undaunted. He has decided to explore global opportunities initially with film festivals.
“This pilot made it into a red carpet affair in mid-November last year and was shown at an international film festival in New York,” he said later explaining that it’s the Urban Action Showcase–International Action Film Festival of which HBO and Cinemax are the main sponsors. The festival offers prizes valued at over US$100,000 including access to distribution deals.
While many are yet to know the work of Paul (who studied film at the UWI campus in Trinidad), his story resonates throughout the entertainment, art, music, film sector otherwise termed the creative industries.
Despite the challenge of funding, the Jamaican creative industries continue to remain within the focus of Government and in particular JAMPRO. In the 2015 calendar year, the creative industries generated roughly $745 million of capital investments or 12 per cent less than the $843.8 million in 2014 from projects facilitated through JAMPRO. What’s more, the sector provided short-term employment to 1,615 persons in the review period (1,787 in 2014).
For instance, the Enhanced pilot involved a cast and crew which surpassed 15 persons. “It was not a production with a big truck with a bunch of camera men and what not. At one point, it was me, the camera man and the audio man. It was a three man team at one point,” he said adding that he even had to put on make-up at one point for cast.
Paul wanted to create a film that avoided the Jamaica film stereotypes of gangsters, guns and girls. His compromise was that of creating a ninja inspired hero seeking to rid the island of crime.
Now that the pilot’s finished and he quickly realises that his role has morphed from director to producer seeking funding from investors. The avenues for showcasing his series include national TV and online viewing. “There are many places it could go from here,” he said.
At the same time, Film Commissioner Renee Robinson lauds the team for their professionalism but appealed to Paul and other filmmakers to explore crowd-funding in an effort to expand local funding options.
“This is the type of initiative that the film industry needs,” she said. “Look into crowd-funding as well. People ask how do you actually fund things from a short to a feature. There are a lot of opportunities out there so keep your eye on that. Make sure that you are not only producing the films from a technical craft perspective but that you are also thinking about the business of your industry.”