Is It Time For Local TV?
What happens when 19 movie channels get dropped from our local cable packages and 79 other stations are waiting in the queue, to prevent their programming from being aired by these cable companies for failure to pay their license fees?
One thing is for certain, there will be a huge void in entertainment and value for money. Is this the opportunity local animators and filmmakers have been waiting for? An article in the Gleaner examines the situation. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/commentary/20150428/time-local-tv. For some time, the draw back for local film producers has been the Return On Investment. How do you raise funds to realize your TV series or movie if there is no way to establish a definite ROI that will appeal to investors?
1. In one scenario you have to pay to play on local TV, meaning you create content, say a 13 episode 30 minute series, and you pay a local station to put it on air. This is the complete opposite of what happens else where in the world. You are then given limited advertising space to attempt to make back your money. In most cases, this will not cover the cost to be on air.
2. In scenario two, you have a great product everyone wants, but the local stations won’t pay more than US$250-500 per episode because that’s what they pay for an international series.
3. In scenario three, the TV studio would act as a studio and become the production company funding the content, but this puts the station at extreme risk. Not knowing if a series will do well, can inevitably drain their revenue and tank the station.
It seems like a cache 22, the content creator needs money to create their content and the content distributor needs money to keep his station running. Ironically, the station also needs content. So really and truly, the blade should theoretically be in the cable provider or TV stations hands while the handle is in the creators hand, but some how it seems this blade is bare on both ends.
How do we move forward? There have constantly been complaints that local content leaves a lot to be desired compared to what is accessible for free on the internet or in international cable offerings. In other words, the content on local TV sucks. Not our words, the audiences’ words.
There are plenty of filmmakers both good and bad making content on just passion. Some incomplete because when attempting to maintain quality, cost just is a must. There are few exceptions like the wonderful work done by the collaborative effort that produced “Ring Di Alarm”. 7 short films directed by 6 directors. Each shot in a day. This is proof that high quality productions can be done in a Jamaican setting. The same can be said for animation like “Ol Dutty Boy”, “Kina Sky”, “Star Boy” and “Cabbie Chronicles” showing potential but what most don’t know, even in the case of “Ring Di Alarm” though each short was shot in a day, the entire collection was not done over 7 days. It was actually done over the course of a year.
The fact is, even a production that lasts a day, requires time availability, equipment availability, location availability, actor availability, pre-production and more. Animation is no different. Without the funds, any of the animations mentioned above took between 7 months and a year to produce. Characters have to be designed and developed from scratch, backgrounds, storyboards, animatics, animations, sound effects, music, voice recording, acting. Compound all that again with time availability.
Will we be able to produce full fledged series with no capital to play with? What kind of time frame can we produce these animations or films in? What will the quality be like? How will the creator recoup? These are questions the cable providers and local stations housed within need to think about. There is a grand opportunity, but it requires risk and forward thinking to capitalize on it. Perhaps there needs to be conversation between the two parties in some central way.
This is definitely a situation the Jamaica Animation Nation Network (J.A.N.N.) plans to tackle, because it is our mission to see locally animated content on local TV and in the hands of content providers across the region and diaspora whether online or otherwise and this must be done in a way that makes animation a viable way of life, not just a hobby. It won’t be easy, because we are tackling a problem that has been going on for generations, but there is no moving forward otherwise.