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Jul 12, 2013

Film Symposium discusses movie making and industry

The Film Festival opened on Thursday night with a red carpet event. The stars and stakeholders in the industry posed for photos at the opening at the Bliss Center for the performing Arts. Fifty-four films will be showcased in five days and ends on Monday with an award ceremony. But today was about a symposium held by the Belize Audio Visual Industry Association. There are many hurdles to cross in the industry but according to its president, there are also attractive opportunities to grow film production. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.


Jose Sanchez, Reporting

The annual Belize Audio Visual Industry Association’s industry symposium brought local and visiting producers who have an interest in filmmaking at the House of Culture. Policy change may help to grow the industry, and BAVIA’s President is enthusiastic about potential growth.


Brent Toombs, President, BAVIA

Brent Toombs

“This is the third year that we’ve had this symposium and it is in conjunction with the Belize International Film Festival. What happens is that when you have a festival like this, it brings a lot of people who are interested in film, interested in production, together. And a certain energy starts to develop; people get excited. This is the one sort of annual event that really gets us motivated and excited with what we are doing. We see films from around the region and films done here in Belize and even music videos that are produced here. It inspires us and it is a good opportunity to do more. To say that we want to make more films. Now you talk about the business of it and how do we do that and what are the realities and what do we need to do on the business side to be able to make more films and tell more Belizean stories.”


The film commissioner for the British Virgin Islands, Rhodni Skelton, was one of the main presenters. Skelton told the audience about the type of successful work available for small industries.


Rhodni Skelton

Rhodni Skelton, Film Commissioner, British Virgin Islands

“Knowing your market, knowing what you are going after. Are you going after the big fish? Do you want the silver screen films? Do you want made for TV movies or the smallest subset: commercials, stills, advertisements, music videos. These are areas that come with higher spend and they don’t ask for discounts and you don’t have to worry about tax incentives and things like that. We function for the most part as a location. We don’t do much post production type stuff. We do have a limited amount of experience crew and equipment and things of that nation. So we’re still a little young as well—maybe not as Belize is at this stage. But Belize does have a good market. This is the second time that I am coming here now. It has a lot of offer in terms of stories and the camera crew and the willingness of Suzette and BAVIA to get the industry going. I think you just need to get the policy makers on board. Show them where it is a benefit to the country financially. You can open lots of doors. You have a lot of young people who don’t want to become doctors and lawyers, but they are very creative minded. What are you doing to facilitate this? And the film industry is a perfect avenue to kind of expose them and get them careers and get them thinking outside the box.”


Brent Toombs

“Today we’re looking at two aspects of sort of the finance, the money matters behind making film. So this morning session was about film incentive and what different countries and different territories do to try to attract film production.”


The co-writer/director of Home Again had a multimillion dollar hurdle to overcome. Thinking outside of his main location provided opportunity to make the film.


Sudz Sutherland

Sudz Sutherland, Co-writer/Director, Home Again

“Home Again” is a low budget independent film. Our budget was somewhere in the middle of three and a half million U.S.; we had a budget shortfall. And so we wanted to shoot in Jamaica. The film is set in Jamaica about Jamaican deportees. But we needed to close our budget, close a gap in the budget. We went to Jamaica, try to talk with the ministries there, but we weren’t getting anywhere. But we needed someone to look like Kingston Jamaica. And the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company said hey come down…check out Trinidad. We looked and lots of parts looked like Jamaica, look like Kingston; however we also had a thirty-five percent tax incentive. So that would have plugged our budget because we were gonna spend a million dollars and we got three hundred and fifty thousand dollars back. And so that is one of the things we talking about this morning…a film incentive program which is one of the things that the film industry has to do in order to needs to boost it and grow it. Education, infrastructure that’s one thing—all those things. Everything else has to take place, even a kind of a creative census to say who does what, who’s got skills, who’s got skills, equipment, etcetera. The other things we have to do.


The filmmakers also saw opportunities for Belize.


Jose Sanchez

“I saw the trailer for one of the movies I am excited about seeing. But what do you see or what have you heard about Belize that we could also pull and push to the world like Trinidad did for you?”


Sudz Sutherland

“Well you got a lot of diversity here. Demographically speaking, you got a different mix here. You got stuff that looks like a Caribbean island, you also got stuff that looks like Central America and you kinda have a foot in both places—you are part of the Caribbean, but you are also part Central American and that is amazing. You are also an English speaking state. So that is one of the other things that coming from North America as huge bonus. And there is also an ease of working here too. There is an easy of working here too. It is easy to work here. So like those things are really great.”


Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

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