From 2012 to 2015, the local film industry saw several developments aimed at stimulating growth in the sector. These were the years when a Cultural Industries Bill and the position and office of a Film Commissioner were developed and became law, in consultation with several experts in government and the film industry, both local and foreign.
The Barbados Film and Video Association (BFVA) was formed in 2008 as a professional body for those in the film and video industry: television, film, video production and animation. The development of this industry had been hampered for years by unfavourable conditions: a lack of access to technical and artistic training, a lack of opportunity, the private sector’s fear of investing in a fledgling industry, and a lack of focus on marketing Barbados under “film tourism” as a location for making movies.
With this new initiative, the BFVA was able to utilise the expertise and experience of its members, some with extensive overseas experience. The objective was the development of the film and video industry into a money-making sector, as it is in so many other countries, including some in the Caribbean. The BFVA and its Advocacy Committee worked closely with the Minister and the Ministry of Culture in the creation of the Cultural Industries Act, which came into force in 2013, with some amendments added in 2015.
The Act is over 40 pages long, and is concerned with all of our cultural industries and the benefits available to them. One crucial part of the Act that concerns film making is the income tax concessions for investors under section 31. The idea was borrowed from the Canadian Governments decision in the 1970’s to boost the film industry in Canada by creating extremely favourable taxation laws for those investing in the production of films. To bare it down to its simplest form, investors who invested in film productions were offered a 150% tax write off not just in the year of the production but in subsequent years. Local small budget productions across Canada suddenly multiplied at a great rate, with training crews, writers, directors, producers and all the ancillary crafts and skills necessary in film making. This encouraged many large production companies to make their films in Canada and helped to make it one of the major film producing countries in the world, with billions of dollars earned in what has become Hollywood North.
Aiming to replicate that success, section 31 states “Where an investor makes an investment in a cultural practitioner or approved cultural project, in calculating the assessable income of the investor there shall be deducted an amount equal 100 percent from their assessable income for the first five years from the commencement of this Act.” (Originally it was 150% until its amendment in 2015).
There are many requirements in the Act that the originating cultural practitioner – in the case of film, the producer/originator of the film – is asked to provide. This includes four pages of requirements, which may be why so few local producers have taken advantage so far. But these are required by the producer and not the investor, so should not be a deterrent to a funder.
Surprisingly, few local businesses have taken advantage of this investment opportunity, but just in the last year two companies have successfully fulfilled the requirements of the Act and invested in local productions. Our industry can be helped to grow if more entrepreneurs in our business community take advantage of these incentives.
Written by: Penelope Hynam, Producer/Director, founding President of the BFVA and Kashka Mottley, Lawyer and second Vice-President of the BFVA.