4 Steps to grow the Caribbean Animation Industry.
How animation can pave the way forward for Caribbean creative industries.
The Caribbean Animation industry has been in nascent stages over the past couple of years, with small independent groups and companies existing throughout the Caribbean. Significant strides have been made through small investments into studios and state-funded subsided entrepreneurship hubs. But the industry can only be poised to be a major player in the worldwide industry in the years to come, only if we are able to leverage globalization on a micro-level and formalize inter-island relations on a macro-level.
This article will explore how we can do that, with input assisted from Coretta Singer, JAN(President of the Jamaican Animation Nation and Current President of ASIFA Caribbean) and Lance Hinds (CEO of Brainstreet Group, Guyana) and uses information of the state of animation between 2011–2016 to make recommendations for its potential growth for 2016–2022.
The exact long terms effects with regards to our access to funding from the EU in the Caribbean with Britain’s exit, may not show for several years to come as we are assured funding at least until 2020, but speculation is high. One thing we are sure about is the fact that we need to mobilize and strengthen the existing relationships we have as well as look towards building new relationships in the years to come, both inter-island and foreign. There are several factors that the Caribbean animation industry needs to take into consideration about how we can go about solidifying, consolidating and creating self-sufficient industries within the region.
The animation industry in the Caribbean has been identified by Governments and state enterprises as an industry for growth and contributor to potential diversification activities within the ICT sector. However, one must look at the rate of growth of the industry from inception to today, to assess the possibilities of future growth.
Using the Animae Caribe Animation Festival as a starting point for the animation industry in Trinidad and Tobago, and as a collaboration point for the wider Caribbean animation industry, then the region’s development for animation has been taking place for 15 years.
In those 15 years we have managed to accomplish a lot, but can we say we’ve been able to leverage all those milestones for the improvement of the industry at large? How do we learn from those missed opportunities to build a self-sustainable industry in the years to come?
Animae Caribe Festival celebrating 15 years (2001- 2016)
Kina Sky Animated Short Film (Coretta Singer, Jamaica) — One of Thirty Finalists in the Nickelodeon Animation festival in 2009
Several Animation Studios launched in and around the region (2010- 2016) ( Full Circle, Lab 206 and Second Floor Studios(Trinidad), CDMA (Barbados) , Reel Rock( Jamaica), SkyRes and Alcyone (Jamaica), Matrix Animation Studios (Guyana) are just some.
Kingstoon Animation Festival Existence celebrating 2 years(2014- 2016)
Asifa Caribbean Chapter is recognised as part of the international industry community, and electing a new chapter president (2016)
Battledream Chronicles Alain Bidard (First Animated Feature film out of the Caribbean) (2016)
Two papers about the animation industry written (which added context for this article)
Is Animation an option -Maritiza Bengochea and Designing new ideas for trade: The Creative Industries & Animation in the greater Caribbean , Cherise Trotman
Caribbean Animation Professionals included in cited in the book Animation: A World History: Volume III: Contemporary Times
UTT Animation Programme being the first animation programme to be taught at a diploma level in the Caribbean with approximately 50 Graduates between (2010–2016)
As we near animation industry “adulthood” and with many other sibling industries in and around the region, we believe that the animation industry can ONLY grow as a collective industry with a shared strategic plan.
The Global Animation industry will be worth $242.92 Billion by the end of 2016 according to “Animation & Gaming Market Size and Global Forecast (2012–2016)report.”
How do we position the Caribbean to be a major player in the Global Market?
Our focus in sector development has been mostly in the area of (2D Animation), with training and focus on getting into international outsourcing markets. Using India, Philippines, and South Korea as comparative markets for growth. Areas typically unexplored, or not explained in detail are things that aid in those markets such as the functioning ecosystems, funding support structures, governmental tax incentives, ease of movement human capital, IP creation, distribution, marketing and licensing, which are just a couple of factors that help to sustain it. Without building those ecosystem support structures for the industry we may be able to fully capitalize on this $250 billion dollar growth.
In discussing this ecosystem, we need to address both internal and external sources of interest. The Caribbean at large has yet found a way to leverage our existing marketplace. We have an estimated population of 42 million people in the Caribbean with a 0.7% steady growth rate over the past 3 years which does not include the Caribbean diaspora. We can potentially hit 50 million within the next decade. With 41%, or 17 million people having internet access and 9 million of those active on social networks, we have close to 9 million people that we can potentially leverage in a fundamental way to enact change and consumption of Caribbean content.
Building any industry needs to have a mass movement of both human resources and revenue capital. Unfortunately, when it comes to the animation industry across the Caribbean, statistical data is limited at best and the exact contribution to the GDP is unknown. That’s where we hope to start our building.
“Unfortunately, when it comes to the animation industry across the Caribbean, statistical data is limited at best and the exact contribution to the GDP is unknown”
The Animation Industry covers
2D hand Drawn Animation
2D Digital Animation
Each of these can supply to a variety of channels including Outsourcing Animation services to larger markets, IP (Intellectual Property) Creation, development of both Long and short-form films for distribution through traditional and digital mediums, Animation for both Web and Mobile interactions, TV (broadcast and digital) content for both kids and adults, Gaming (PC, Console, and Mobile), Commercial Advertising and more recent advances such as VR and AR applications.
Our general discussion around Animation needs to change as it is varied and widespread and our catch-all term can potentially be more harmful than good.
ASSESSMENT (Year 1–2)
According to various Facebook pages for the various animation groups TTAN (987), JAN (1273), GAN(311) and SAN (49) we have 2,620 possible members in the industry at large. Let’s speculate that at least 50% of those members are actual practitioners in the industry be it in the areas of 2D and 3D Animation, Character, Environment and/or Concept Design, Character Animation, Visual Effects, Motion Graphics, Storyboard artists, Sound engineers, designers, editors, etc and also geographically based in the region.
With that speculation, there are 1,330 people currently involved in some way be it as a full-time registered company, freelancer or hobbyist. That leaves 1,330 people that can be tapped into and mobilized for the Caribbean animation industry. Let’s split that number down further and cut them equally up into the 4 general skillsets of animation revenue generation, 2D Animation, 3D Animation, Visual effects (VFX) and Motion graphics.
That leaves on average a little less than 350 people per broad sector. We will also have to take into consideration the skill level of those 350 people, the available pipeline, and if they are all working on the same platform, as software fragmentation may be an issue.
An average Animation studio be it for outsourcing or Ip creation can range from 280 to 1200, and yes, we’re aware that the argument can be made for smaller studios making big impacts, but if we’re talking about BPO and competing competitively at a global scale, these are the minimum requirements.
These numbers should also include Upstream and Downstream skillsets of the production including administration, marketing, sales, licensing and distribution which will actually cut into our available production staff. Training in these ancillary activities will also take precedent in the sector strategy development.
Using that as a starting point, we do a general questionnaire assessment that will be distributed to the entire industry, island by island. This initiative will be led by the various Animation organizations and will take the form of a general assessment document followed by one-on-one interviews to get a more intensive picture of the industry and its needs and support mechanisms. This will be collected, collated and presented by an overarching body and used to formulate a strategic plan for the next stage.
DEVELOPMENT (Year 2–3)
Once the assessment has been established and collected and we have the right datasets, such as, who is in the industry, what is the potential GDP earned and reinvested by these stakeholders, what are their pipeline logistics, etc. How do we go about developing that talent into actionable industry sectors?
The Caribbean is a small place in relative terms, but at the same time we are mired with a range of factors such as regional politics and high cost of inter-island movement, but with people wanting to take their place within the industry that is as separated as it is, it’s up to us to lay the necessary groundwork for the type of industry/industries we want it to be.
The data will dictate the priority and which markets we should develop our talent pools and skillsets into and to best use the limited funding resources available to us in the Caribbean. Having proper numbers means we can build proper structures to develop that standardize training curriculums throughout the region and if necessary bring in external training while building relationships with foreign parties in knowledge sharing partnerships and future market penetration.
We can build proper structures to develop that, standardize training curriculums throughout the region and if necessary bring in external training while building relationships with foreign parties in knowledge sharing partnerships and future market penetration.
Let’s, for a minute, imagine what this can achieve.
Currently, there is limited support for mid to higher forms of animation training support systems, and with the animation, sector spread out throughout different sectors and across several different islands, there isn’t a focus in terms of funding a specific sector for development.
The training that does exist is either too general, covering as many sectors as possible OR very focused on a specific subset, which may not actually serve the necessary community who may be the most benefit from it. We can leverage the existing CAPE Syllabus to be launched in September 2016, as a way to gauge the continued training interest of the students that partake in the examination. Thus, using it as a base to create support structures around it that can benefit the entire ecosystem.
The assessment will help to narrow down two big questions,
Where does the largest human resource capital exist in both interest and expertise lie in each island nation and in which type(s) of animation?
How do we better spend the limited resources we have available to develop those sectors, and how best do we fill the gaps?
Upon receiving the data, we were to realize that Guyana has more practitioners in 2D animation as well as in pre-production activities, in Jamaica, there are more practitioners in 3D Animation and the related fields. In Barbados, there is more talent in the animation editing field and post-production activities, with specialties in motion graphics and Suriname and Trinidad both share larger talent and resources for Visual Effects and the general animation sector climates are more geared towards live-action Film and supporting that.
We use the limited funding resources to create focused skill training development of THAT sector on THAT island, and if individuals in other islands are interested in learning those skill sets, online training and collaborative learning opportunities will be made available for them. Fostering closer communities across the region and creating island-specific centers of knowledge in particular skill sets, creating a pipeline of activity to be leveraged in the future and creating a connected critical mass of talent across the region.
If individuals in other islands are interested learning those skill sets, online training opportunities and collaborative learning opportunities will be made available for them. Fostering closer communities across the region and creating island specific centers of knowledge in particular skill sets
FOSTERING FURTHER COLLABORATION and ECOSYSTEM BUILDING (Year 3–4)
Being able to identify the strength of each island sector, building and fostering the systems to develop that, within a couple of years, a well connected and structured pipeline across the Caribbean with online communication and collaboration will develop as a naturally (eg. a Caribbean Artella).
Part of this will have to include getting the work to the right service provider(s) in and across borders as well without thinking specifically in terms of incentivization for doing so each time it is done, but definitely developing incentive structures or finder’s fees work into project costs and profit-sharing eventually. Re-investing into the newly existing support systems and skills training along the tiers further up the pipeline, be it distribution and licensing.
As such, opportunities for things outside the cluster may happen as a by-product, such as inter-island projects or companies developing on their own accord because greater communication is happening amongst the practitioners. With the possibilities for better inter-island connections happening, the atmosphere may be right for also better collaboration in terms of external systems such as distribution and adoption of regional content. The potential for so much activity happening in the sphere of training and content creation, that there is a likelihood of it spilling over from niche adoption to mass-market. Creating a way for us to leverage the 9 million people in the Caribbean and the diaspora as a content distribution hub for future co-production incentives with international partners.
FOCUS ON INTERNAL SECTOR DEVELOPMENT, EXTERNAL TALENT OUTSOURCING AND CONTENT DISTRIBUTION (Year 4–5)
Our focus in the Caribbean, so far, has been on the capitalizing on the outsourcing 2D market, and while exporting talented skillets and IP content has been the strategy for the past couple of years, thanks to the interest of Toonboom in our region, we need to look at building internal structures for talent and distribution and setting a new data-driven course for where our industry needs to go.
We would need to advocate for such things, such as government structures and ICT projects and funding opportunities to deepen and have fixed and structured goals, local/regional content quotas for content on existing Caribbean networks, tax incentives and breaks for both import and export of both goods and productions. Development of a regional talent pool for advertising agencies and existing content houses to work with. Working with state and international agencies with Grant and External funding, fostering and incentivizing inter-island co-productions for the Caribbean, Regional and Diaspora communities to create content for internal and external consumption.
In conclusion, there needs to be a cohesive structured organization shepherding this plan, be it ASIFA Caribbean or an all-new entity with a shared focus on having a regional reach and promotion. This plan is 5–7 years in the making and the structures we are putting in place will need to address the market landscape we are building into at that time.
With AR, VR and mixed reality application adoption becoming more prevalent, the push towards gaming and transmedia, with content distribution moving away from traditional broadcast and viewing windows to worldwide online distribution (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime etc.) the ways of doing business in animation is changing rapidly and will only continue to evolve. As a “nascent industry” we have room to choose our path and grow into it, we need to take these things into consideration as we build our sector into the self-sustainable environment we believe it can be.