Exhibition spotlights local creative talent

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Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Cineffx Film and Photo expo, Jason October (centre) with models at the expo being held at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (Adrian Narine photo)

— identifies need for support 

— UG announces master’s programme for creatives

 

THE Cineffx Photography and Film Expo, which opened on Friday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, has spotlighted the support needed for the local creative sector as creatives came together to showcase their work and learn more.

The expo was crafted by local creative mind, Jason October, who said he got the idea about three years ago, but had faced numerous challenges along the way in bringing it to fruition.

“For any entrepreneur, it’s always a challenge when you’re now starting — where to get financing [and] where to go,” he explained. “I was on the road for one year running about looking for sponsorship; no one bought into the idea.”

And as such, he had to spend nearly three years ensuring that this conference could become a reality and be par excellence.

The expo has been organised from March 8 to 10. It features about 15 workshops on a host of topics, ranging from photography, cinematography, directing, storytelling done by local creatives such as Saajid Husani, Fidal Bassier, Michael Lam, Kojo McPherson and Denise Harris, alongside a few foreign creatives.

Chairman of the Institute of Private Enterprise Development (IPED), Ramesh Persaud, in fact, gave credence to October’s statements by sharing that he was approached by the young man quite a few times and, unfortunately, had to turn him down most of the times. Persaud said that October showed perseverance and came back each time, having improved his business plan, which eventually garnered IPED’s support.

Around the same time, October began approaching IPED for assistance, that is, about three years ago; then, the institute had announced that it would set aside $50M for the local creative industry, which would provide financing to any person or business wanting to venture into this field.

“To date, we’ve only managed to lend $10M of that, or support, because we’ve been having a lot of requests, but not a lot of requests that are bankable,” Persaud highlighted.

The issue, he indicated, is that many persons like film or photography as a hobby, but do not possess lucrative business ideas in these fields; and as such, he called on persons within the industry to use the expo as an avenue where they can learn about combining their interests with potential business ventures.

Students from the St. Joseph High School visited the expo on Friday (Adrian Narine photo)

In advancing the industry also, he indicated that more focus needs to be placed on protecting the production of Guyanese.

“We need to get the right regulation and legislation to protect the intellectual property that is going to be generated within the industry,” he said. “I believe strong, robust legislation when it comes to copyright legislation and so forth [is] necessary.”

Cinematographer, Yaphet Jackman, noted that the creative industry could be one that would help to “open up doors, funding and borders,” but Guyanese must be wary.

“The rest of the Region… and world that have already fortified themselves through legislation, grants and programmes are going to want to come here and want to rob the country of its creative potential,” he related. As such, he too joined Persaud in the call for legislation that would safeguard persons in the industry.

COPYRIGHT LEGISLATION

Visiting the expo after its opening on Friday was Minister of Telecommunications Cathy Hughes, who shared her belief that this expo was a good avenue for persons within the industry to collaborate and work towards fortifying the creative sector.

Speaking to members of the media, she indicated that she is cognisant of the concerns of many within the industry vis-a-vis copyright. “I am happy to report that the new legislation is actually in the Attorney General’s Chamber, and so hopefully, as soon as we get back into the Parliament, I would say that that’s one of the pieces of legislation we want to be pushing,” she said. “I personally want to continue to do as much as we can to see that it’s there.”

The current government, since coming into office, has committed to modernising Guyana’s copyright laws with the view to protecting local creation and innovation. However, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo opined that Guyana is not prepared for the “revolution” that would come with the implementation of copyright laws and said, “We are a poor developing country; wait until such time in the future when people can afford to pay for the copyrighted stuff.”

At a forum organised by the University of Guyana, researcher in Law and Public Policy at Walden University, USA, Abiola Inniss, highlighted that Guyana cannot continue to use this excuse at the expense of leaving its “innovative class” without protection. Since then, the government has indicated that modernising copyright laws remains a priority.

Jackman also highlighted that creatives need to be paid and acknowledged for their works.

“We live off of this…I just don’t go and shoot to hear ‘Thanks, it looks nice’ or ‘Burn me a copy’,” he stressed.

Weighing in also was UG’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Planning & International Engagement, Dr. Paloma Mohamed. Dr Mohammed shared that she was very happy to see the mixture of young folk and more experienced persons in the audience, which speaks volumes for the future of the industry.

“One of the things that is always saddening in Guyana is that when you see beautiful sparks like this happen, you wonder what next,” Dr. Mohamed related. “One of the things we should seriously consider is what is the supporting structure and what are the mechanisms in place to support this and other ventures to ensure that they grow from strength to strength.”

Dr. Mohamed highlighted that UG, too, has a role to play in augmenting efforts geared at providing support for persons in the industry,

As such, she highlighted: “The very long-awaited Masters in Film, Visual Communication which has a strand in film and photography, is actually going to start in September, 2019.”

According to her, the university has been working on this programme for a very long time, but there was the need to find very “robust and strong” people to be able to “push the programme forward.” As such, the university has sourced personnel from Europe, the United States, Canada and local alumni to provide support.

She also acknowledged the work being done by Minister Hughes, particularly with respect to the creation of a film commission which will serve as part of the regulatory framework for films coming into the country and how locals can get involved.