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Jamaican Film Industry Poised for Growth Says Veteran Producer Natalie Thompson

l-r Filmmakes St. Juste, Saulter, Thompson, & Randall and moderator Cresser

The Jamaican film industry has been trying to come to maturity but according to filmmaker Natalie Thompson, the time for reaping a robust film industry has finally arrived. Thompson was one of four filmmakers at the National Gallery in Downtown Kingston on the panel ‘Kingston: Filming in the City’. Franklyn ‘Chappy’ St. Juste, Nile Saulter and Randall Richards were the other panelists who joined by lecturer Julian Cresser (moderator) for the Thursday afternoon discussion.

“Our generation of filmmakers, and the ones that came after me, missed out on telling our stories,” Thompson said. “I think we’ve had 20 years or so of doing nothing as filmmakers,” Thompson continued. She explained that rather than committing to raising the funds required to make films, but instead focused on the lucrative prospects found in the advertising industry.

As owner and director of Cinecom Productions, and with over 40 years working in the sector, Thompson has been at the epicentre of that advertising industry, while also working as line producer and production manager on several feature films shot on the island. 

As she spoke, she embraced the self-indictment, noting the industry was on the verge of change as the current generation of filmmakers was behaving differently.

“I think today’s generation of filmmakers will make films, will tell stories,” Thompson said.

Franklyn 'Chappy' St. Juste and Nile SaulterThompson’s fellow panelists, Saulter and Richards are potentially two of those game changers. Saulter is currently scripting his first feature length film but has a growing list of respectable shorts to his credit. Richards has largely worked as a videographer and photographer for several brands but is now expanding into cinematography.

St. Juste was not as positive in his outlook, noting that the current generation of filmmakers is too dependent post-production fixes rather than understanding technique.

Where St. Juste and Saulter agreed, however, was in the need to create a Jamaican cinematic language.

“We have to find a way to represent ourselves,” St. Juste said. He noted that there are simple things like the representation of seasons that we need to authentically represent in film.

“I feel like we’ve gone through the cycle of bombastic stories to a simpler style,” Saulter said. “I think we’re poised for creating our own cinematic language.”

The panel discussion complemented the exhibition ‘Kingston, Part 1: The City and Art’ currently on at the NGJ.