Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Challenges of Distributing Caribbean Content

In 2010, a new company was launched with the purpose of taking Caribbean audio visual content to the world.  The company, Caribbean Tales Worldwide Distribution was a hugely ambitious initiative that received some seed funding from the business sector in Barbados, and was headed by filmmaker, Frances-Anne Solomon.  I was at the launch in Toronto, along with a number of Caribbean filmmakers who were in the city attending an incubator session on pitching projects, organised by Caribbean Tales.  It all seemed very exciting.  But it was just the beginning of a road which I assumed, from my own experience, would be very hard to travel.

Although in recent years, there's been more and more film and television content being generated in the Caribbean, it's been incredibly hard to find an audience, either on a national scale or regionally, far less internationally.  This is so for many reasons.  Although I have been lucky with some of my own productions, regional broadcasters are circumspect and sometimes hostile to the notion of broadcasting films and television shows and series made locally.  Oftentimes they are convinced, by whom I don't know, and based on what, I've no idea, that local audiences don't want to see local shows.  Along with others, I've argued that this is not the case for years.  I've cited television series that defy this spurious "fact". And in the mean time, just like lots of other people, I've just got down to the business of making documentaries and television shows that are of interest to me, and which I believe and hope will be of interest to a general audience. 

So distribution in the Caribbean is pretty much an every-man-jack for himself affair.  In much the same way as production is, although, people are more amenable to the idea of sharing their time, expertise and equipment, than they are to divulging the names of possible broadcasters.  We're all out there in the big world, trying to get TV stations o broadcast our programmes and hustling some DVD sales.  Many of us, myself most definitely included, have been begging for someone to take up the challenge of distributing our content.  And it is a challenge.

Yet when, in 2010, a Caribbean distribution company was set up and launched, I was both optimistic and skeptical.  Yes, please, someone help me to get my content, which represents now thousands of hours of work and effort, out into the world.  But wait... how can I trust that anyone will want to do as well by my projects as I do?  How can I give my precious things to someone else to represent?  Do they have ANY idea how hard I've worked on this? (I must add, that we've all been forced, in a sense, to think this way; producers in the region face wall after wall on which we continually have to bang and knock and push with all our might.  The climate is generally hostile to our endeavours.)  And so, ever the agnostic, I optimistically and skeptically signed a contract that would give Caribbean Tales Worldwide Distribution the right to distribute two of my documentaries.  But I'm realising now, that I was cutting off my nose to spite my face.  If I'm prepared to go as far as signing over my content, then I must believe that the distributor will succeed.  I can't be half in, half out.  What's the point of that?  I'll only be hurting my company; my films.  So I have decided to believe - that my content can find a place in the world with help and representation.  I have decided to get behind my distributor and do what I can to help them succeed.  If I don't, if none of us producers do, then how can we expect success?

For more information about screening, broadcasting or buying either The Solitary Alchemist or The Insatiable Season, please contact Caribbean Tales Worldwide Distribution.  (For

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