IN the 60th year of Jamaica's political Independence, cinematographer Ariff Butler believes the country's movie industry has a far way to go.
Butler is CEO of Kingston-based Bloozick Filmworks, which he started in 2009.
"When it comes to moving the film industry forward, I think one of the steps that could be taken from an artistic standpoint is in the schools. There needs to be more emphasis placed on telling stories from our vantage point, instead of from a European vantage point. I think things can be made a little bit more accessible, whether it's from Jampro [Jamaican Promotions Corporation] or the Film Commission, especially when it comes to permits or importation of film gear. I think there's a lot more that could be done to foster growth," he told the Jamaica Observer.
Before fully immersing himself in cinematography, the self-taught Holmwood Technical High School past student produced projects for an array of artistes including Beenie Man, Oscar B, Ryan Mark, DJ Nicholas, and gospel artiste Jabez.
One of his recent projects includes Minister Marion Hall's Sorry For Hurting Your Feelings, which has scored almost 500,000 views on YouTube since its August 19 début. Currently, Butler is focused on educating more youngsters about his craft.
"The film-making industry is very rewarding from more than one standpoint. Financially, when you get to a certain point of proficiency, you're making what certain people make in [a] couple months in one day. You also get to travel a lot; you get to see different parts of the world and different cultures and understand why some people behave the way they do — because your mind is a lot more open to certain things," he revealed.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Perry Henzell's groundbreaking movie The Harder They Come. In Butler's opinion, that is one of the most remarkable artistic pieces to come out of Jamaica.
"That is actually one of the films that turned my inspiration on to film-making, so to speak. What I admire the most about that is that Perry Henzell was brave enough to just do it. I like people like that. Even though it might look a little bit daunting, it's a Hollywood thing — but why not just do it here? I've seen it [and] I think it's a great movie, and I think it's about time we probably do a remake of it," he said.
Butler's work has taken him to locations such as New York; Miami; Costa Rica; New Jersey; and Washington, DC where he filmed at the White House. He has shot countless commercials for brands and corporate companies in Jamaica such as GraceKennedy and Black Stallion Bedroom Tonic. He was cinematographer for the human trafficking documentary Rescue, as well as a docuseries for the Jamaica National Foundation's climate change initiative.
Butler said his passion for cinematography stems from his mother who owned a video rental club, which allowed him to watch a number of films.
He plans to go into multiple schools and share knowledge about his career. Butler is encouraging aspiring cinematographers to remain steadfast in their ambitions to achieve their goals.
"One of the biggest lessons I've learnt is that you really have to be hungry and consistent. Be consistent and stay on the right path so when something doesn't work, we pivot or divert. Stay true to your beliefs," he advised.