Who is JAFTA, anyway?

After an interactive ice breaker, JAFTA members and Gabrielle Blackwood (President) get down to business.

The world in which JAFTA (Jamaica Film & TV Association) was founded is not the world where JAFTA thrives today. There is a surge of collective energy in the film and TV community that wasn’t there before. Everyone who comes to a meeting and lingers long after it is finished, feels it; a growing, gelling sense of positivity. But why are more people getting involved and having meaningful conversations now? And why do they keep coming back more than 18 months after the first JAFTA meeting?

‘Association’ is a Dirty Word. But not for us.

It feels like the beginning of an engaged and vibrant community, and to me that’s more powerful than any definition of the word association. Now to be clear, ‘association’ is a collective noun I do not like. It feels stuffy, chatty and conjures images of an inactive board and unhappy members who meet, complain, then go home. I guess the word feels like ‘government’ and ‘politics’, which in Jamaica are things that the people I know do not want to get into.

The JAFTA Board

So it’s clear to me that JAFTA should not be that thing. But building a community means changing the culture of how our members organize, make decisions and mobilize. Our members are individuals (or companies) credited with working to bring creativity in film and TV to life, both on screen and off. We are a small country, but somehow we don’t have a history of working together collectively, or even communicating outside of our silos. But when I talk to people at JAFTA meetings, they believe there’s something different going on here. They see value in what we do, in sharing and being present. But why now?

What we believe in

I think the invisible threads holding us together are the things we believe in. If what you’re doing isn’t resting on your mind, pulling at your heart strings or tugging at your belly bottom, then it won’t last. And we want JAFTA to live in the hearts, minds and belly bottoms of all our members. Our vision is a world where Jamaica comes into its own as the regional heartbeat of storytelling and a thriving hub of world class film and TV production. This is something we can all sink our teeth into and try to be a part of. Maybe we’ve always wanted this, but needed a safe space where we belong and could sink our feet into it as well. And now that place is real.

Success in Creativity

JAFTA exists to enable its members to be successful at what they love. Success for us as creatives is living the life we are born to live, and making a good living while doing it. We love what we do and celebrate the little steps because they are actually the big steps we see when we marvel at how far we’ve come. We can’t take progress for granted because where we come from, it isn’t easy. And we coming from far.

Togetherness in Work

We believe in the power of working together. There is no ‘you guys should be doing this, or that.’ There is only ‘we’. As JAFTA board members, we are volunteers serving the best way we know how, and we are not getting paid. That’s not to say we want money for serving. That just means that there’s nothing separating us from any member who wants to activate a project, call a committee, or fix problems that affect them.

We believe that for us to first set up a film culture in Jamaica, we must set up a culture of working together in film and TV for ourselves. If any member sees a gap, she (or he) should feel empowered to simply jump in and fix it. Then in the monthly meetings she can share how she’s doing it so we can all learn from each other too. We don’t just throw complaints out into the air, that’s too easy, and frankly, complaining alone can be counterproductive when it’s the easy way out. We believe in taking responsibility for every problem we identify and saying how we could play a small, meaningful part in big change.

Transparency in Decision making

In JAFTA, decisions get made because members help make them. Our abiding principles guide why we choose one thing over the other. We want to, in everything we do, encourage a culture of excellence, inclusiveness, openness to critique or feedback, and positivity. We want to create an environment that inspires new stories. And we want to learn together.

Growth from the Ground

We believe in building, slow and steady. Not about scaling fast, but setting up a strong foundation. There is much work to be done in developing the film and TV industry in Jamaica and we can’t gloss over the hard parts of building trust and processes that produce long term results, just because we want to be seen in the press doing the easy things.

Being in the trenches is hard, but if that’s where the work is, we’re rolling up our sleeves and jumping in. Jamaica can’t afford for us or anyone else for that matter to not be serious about meaningful change any more. And sometimes we don’t have all the answers. But we believe in taking risks, getting it wrong and making mistakes. It’s from that place that we can create works of beauty and come out with a story of triumph.

In stepping off the cliff in faith, the bridge will appear. I know this, because it has already happened. This is the reason JAFTA is still stepping today. We are genuinely excited about what we do, because we are seeing the difference we are making in people’s lives. We have helped train professionals, connect creatives, make films people have only dreamed of, and are now helping them take them further than they thought they could.

Who’s ‘we’, anyway? That’s easy. JAFTA is not a board. It is not an affiliation of people with a personal agenda. JAFTA is ordinary people who want to see a booming TV and film industry in Jamaica, and who care enough to step up and do something about it, together.

Want to become a JAFTA member? Email info@jaftaonline.org and say you’d like a membership form. Meet ups are the last Thursday of every month at the UWI Mona Community Film Project office.

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