Collaborations work for CIIF-funded regional animators
Constrained by limited financial and human resources, two Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) creative industries grant recipients are touting a cooperative approach by practitioners to achieve more sustainable outcomes.
Their two projects targeting the burgeoning animation industry, seek to ensure Caribbean creatives operating in this lucrative sector are upskilled and better placed to compete internationally.
The projects in question are the Caribbean Animation and Film Training (CAFT) based in Saint Lucia and the Caribbean Cooperation Business Model for the Animation Industry, being led by the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO).
Milton Branford, the project lead of CAFT in Saint Lucia is a director of the Malfinis Film and Animation Studios Inc, and has joined forces with Leo Francis, a leading Jamaican digital animator of Castle Production Studios, and Saïdou Bernabé of Parallel 14 in Martinique.
Offering some background to the programme which received USD25,000 in funding from CDB’s Cultural and Creative Industries Innovation Fund (CIIF), Branford hailed the level of talent and excitement among regional animators but lamented the absence of scale required to compete globally.
“We knew how powerful the building of a cluster and working together would be, though we did not achieve it on our first attempt. The three studios, however, used the lessons from that effort to go on and develop CAFT.
“Thanks to the CDB, we are at the stage where we have tested our pilot and our next steps are to formalise the brand of the cluster, establish the legal requirements, and develop a solid international marketing campaign,” Branford outlined.
His Jamaican counterpart found the important takeaway from the project’s training component was its practical application, noting participants’ ability to immediately use their newly acquired skills.
Francis stated: “Some of the participants were already trained in the major animation software but the sessions really sharpened the skills of the animators from the three studios, particularly the 3D training.”
Describing the project as a model that should be replicated or used as a blue print for other studios and entities in the region, Francis praised CDB for its financial support through CIIF and the technical support of the Bank’s MSME Unit.
As a result of the CAFT project, over 20 animators from Jamaica, St Lucia and Martinique gained from upskilling.
Another regional animation project benefiting from CIIF grant support is the Caribbean Cooperation Business Model for the Animation Industry coordinated by JAMPRO.
Renee Robinson, the Film Commissioner of Jamaica, explained that the project emerged from the need for a pipeline business model that equipped groups of creatives to collaborate on large scale projects.
CDB put USD100 000 behind the programme which is expected to conclude in March 2023.
Working with partners from Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Antigua, and Saint Lucia, Robinson said the project was confronted with some setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they quickly regrouped and demonstrated the resilience for which Caribbean creatives are known.
“We identified companies across the region that had the skill set and the capacity to be able work together. We worked on this cloud-based platform identified by an initial partner but in the midst of the pandemic, that company went under, and we had to pivot in the middle of the project to identify different tools and resources,” Robinson recalled.
The establishment of a web portal was a critical objective of the project as well as the creation of the short film Ego Sum, which was screened at the 2022 Animae Caribe Film Festival, receiving very positive reviews. The short film was also screened at the Jamaica Investment Forum held in late November 2022 in Montego Bay.
Robinson, however, regards one of the most significant outcomes from the project was the establishment of the web portal caribbeananimation.com designed as a resource for animation freelancers and companies across the Caribbean to host their portfolios and engage on possible joint ventures.
The Caribbean Cooperation Business Model for the Animation Industry is expected to develop a model for Caribbean animators to use on joint projects, including an outline of incentive regimes across the region, a listing of studios and their capacity.
“We are at the stage of wrapping up the project completely. We used the remaining grant to finance the travel of the Jamaican Animation Studio representatives to the Animae Caribe Festival 2022 and to promote the film and the services being offered.
“We are also utilising the funds to pay for three years of hosting the portal through the company based in Barbados,” Robinson shared.