Laureate in Arts & Letters, Danielle Dieffenthaller of Trinidad & Tobago
Danielle Dieffenthaller is a Trinidadian television and film producer, director, writer and a passionate advocate for a strong Caribbean film industry. She has been all these things for the last 25 years, well before the term “creative industries” was a catch-phrase. She has produced ground-breaking television series, documentaries, reality television, corporate and music videos, and lifted the standard and reach of Trinidad and Tobago productions.
Most adults in the country have had their lives touched in some way by her work, from the drama series No Boundaries, to the environmental series Ecowatch to Machel Montano’s music videos. Many positive changes wrought in local filmmaking today are due significantly to her influence. She was one of the first advocates for increased local content, which she produced, virtually single-handedly, and in an economically sustainable way.
Ms Dieffenthaller is also one of the most prolific producers/directors in the region, with her own production company, Diefferent Style Flims [sic]. She (along with her creative team) produced the longest-running television series in Trinidad and Tobago, Westwood Park (1997 to 2004) which continues in syndication in the US, UK, and worldwide and is set to start regional syndication through Flow, the cable provider. The most recent country to syndicate Westwood Park is Papua New Guinea. She then produced another dramatic series, The Reef (2007), which was well-received but ran for one season (13 episodes) for lack of funding. She has just begun production on Plain Sight, a crime drama series tackling Trinidad and Tobago’s enduring themes: crime, politics, and corruption.
In the 1990s, she was CEO of Earth TV, which, in addition to Westwood Park, produced Ecowatch, a (10-part) series tackling environmental issues before this became the hot-button issue it is today. Ms Dieffenthaller has also produced and directed popular Caribbean music videos, including “Wet Me” by the Barbadian band Krosfyah, “Big Truck” by Machel Montano & Xtatik, and “Blue” by 3Canal.
She got her start in the mid-80s as part of the cast and crew of No Boundaries, and as a reporter for the then TTT. During a short stint at the local production company, Banyan Ltd, she was half of the only local crew to record the 1990 coup.
Ms Dieffenthaller also worked in London, as a producer for Channel 4, on the iconic series The Bandung Files after graduating from Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. From the 1990s she chose to live and work in the Caribbean, and has been instrumental in creating a viable industry, and producing work for regional and international audiences. This year Ms Dieffenthaller, with film industry colleagues, formed Filmmakers Collaborative of Trinidad and Tobago (FILMCO), “an organisation to represent, lobby, agitate and actively defend the most viable ecosystem for all our members”.
Laureate in Entrepreneurship, Kimala Bennett of Jamaica
Kimala Bennett is a Jamaican filmmaker, entrepreneur, strategist, creative thinker, author and more. She has created a name and reputation for being multifaceted and uncompromising in the pursuit of a higher standard. Ms Bennett has emerged as an entrepreneurial visionary in the creative space as founder and CEO of the ground-breaking marketing firm The Limners and Bards (LAB) Ltd. As the Caribbean’s business landscape continues to evolve, the creative industry has become a powerful economic resource. Over the last ten years, The LAB has built a reputation as a fully integrated creative agency and production company which produces 360-degree campaigns from concept to consumer, with high-quality content, digital management, as well as audio and film production.
Kimala’s role as the managing director of The LAB is to execute the vision of a truly integrated creative agency by pooling the best thinkers in the Caribbean and pairing them with the best executors. This philosophy also emanates from the business model of The LAB which prides itself on seeing the big picture where a client is concerned. The research arm drives the creative, and the creative powers the execution.
She is also co-founder of Blue Dot Data Intelligence which specialises in the data analytics which drive strategic frameworks, as well as the founder of spin-off companies including Cr8space, a creative professional hub which serves as a collaborative work and learning space for local and international production teams, and Scope Caribbean, the Caribbean’s first booking database for talent and production locations. Scope has received support from the Development Bank of Jamaica to the tune of JM$1 million for programming costs, and is intended as a freely accessible platform available internationally.
A trained filmmaker herself, Ms Bennett took a hands-on role early in her career, parlaying her on-set experience with artistes like Sean Paul, Kanye West and Alicia Keys, into a sustainable film-making business. Stepping away from the lens, she shifted into a more managerial role to start her own company with then business partner Melissa Llewelyn in 2007. Under Ms Bennett’s leadership, The LAB has highlighted the expert level of Caribbean filmmaking on the world stage. The company has produced over 300 commercials within the region, as well as supporting international feature films such as Nick Cannon’s “King of the Dancehall” and music videos such as Rihanna’s “Man Down” and Drake’s “Find your Love”.
Ms Bennett has been making significant strides in building a comprehensive business platform for the Caribbean’s creative industry. The LAB prides itself on close collaboration with a list of high net worth clientele, including, National Commercial Bank (NCB), Grace Kennedy Limited, and The Digicel Group among others. As powerhouses with multi-national footprints, these brands have trusted Kimala and her team to create lasting campaigns throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Ms Bennett uses these international collaborations as a platform for learning and exposure between local and international crews. These relationships and skills help to develop the regional film community and continue to build invaluable institutional knowledge.
In addition to her own business ventures, Ms Bennett has made strides in boosting her industry, ensuring that resources are invested in transforming the marketing and advertising sphere throughout the Caribbean. This year The LAB hosted their inaugural think tank which presented Jamaica’s most current and cutting-edge study on millennial consumer behaviour, with guest speaker, the world-renowned market researcher Tina Wells. Dubbed “The Millennial Whisperer” by Fast Company, Wells has guided brands such as Nike, Oprah’s OWN Network, and Sony. The event saw over 200 of the nation’s marketers and key decision makers in attendance, and is intended to expand throughout the region.
Ms Bennett is a visionary business leader who is determined to share her success by building those around her. She has published three manuals for Caribbean entrepreneurs: “Starting a Business in Jamaica”, “The Young Entrepreneurs Handbook, and “Let’s Talk Money.” Her passion for guiding and nurturing young entrepreneurs comes as no surprise. Inspired by her own opportunities studying internationally, Kimala is committed to investing in others and sharing her own knowledge with her peers.
Ms Bennett has also championed the education of well over 7,000 young Jamaicans in conceptualising, planning, and executing their own businesses. In 2011, the “I Am the Change” young entrepreneurship programme was launched by her organization – and tutored by Ms Bennett herself. The two-year programme, a JM$15 million partnership with The Mutual Building Societies Foundation, a partnership between Victoria Mutual Building Society and Jamaica National Building Society and Digicel Foundation, saw the participation of six of Jamaica’s non-traditional schools impacting over 4,000 high-schoolers each year.
Kimala studied at Mount Holyoke College, and thrived under the tutelage of the Network for Training Entrepreneurs and the internationally acclaimed Action Coach programme. She is currently enrolled in the Jack Welsh Management Institute MBA programme.
She serves on several boards and has received awards including the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica’s 50 under 50 award, Bigga’s High Achievers award and the Rotary Club of St Andrew North Vocational Service Award.
Laureate in Public & Civic Contributions, Corey Lane of Barbados
Corey Lane is a social activist from Barbados, who embodies the phrase “rising from adversity”, and using his own unfortunate circumstances as an impetus to help others in similar situations. At the age of 15, his mother died in childbirth. Around the same time, he witnessed the murder of a close friend. Those two events would have devastated most people but they had the opposite effect on Mr Lane. He dedicated his life to assisting at-risk youth who, like himself, grew up in challenging circumstances, incarcerated persons, and those living with HIV in Barbados.
One of his first ventures was the establishment of the Nature Fun Ranch (NFR) in 1998 (shortly after he lost his mother) to assist young people who, like himself, grew up in unfavourable conditions. The ranch works in conjunction with government rehabilitation centres and programmes across Barbados to provide guidance and respite for young people who live on the margins. Over its two decades, the Ranch has assisted more than 2,000 Barbadians by providing them with the foundation to make the right life choices to become what he describes as citizens of excellence.
The success of the Ranch has brought many accolades, inclusive of Prince Harry of the UK, who visited in 2016. In 2018, Barbadian Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Indar Weir, praised the venture as one worthy of replication because of its self-sustaining model. However, Mr Lane’s contribution and influence in his community stretches far beyond this. Mr Lane has not only led the charge in assisting youth through his Ranch, but also by becoming an ambassador through the Live-UP campaign. Other noteworthy areas of involvement include HIV/AIDS campaigns and rehabilitation programmes with prisoners in the island’s prisons. He earns his living as a consultant on social issues and social media development. He is also a talk radio host, and features on many television and radio programmes and other social platforms, where he delivers positive and uplifting messages to the youth.
Despite his success, Mr Lane continues to strive to improve the lives of young people and the community. His drive for continued success has gained him international recognition for his selfless pursuits to assist at-risk youth. His work has been recognised by the now Prime Minister of Barbados, The Rt Hon Mia Mottley, and he was awarded the Points of Light Award by Queen Elizabeth II in 2018, and by the Rotary Club of Barbados. In her reference for Mr Lane, Prime Minister Mottley wrote: “The importance of the work that Corey is undertaking at the NFR (Nature Fun Ranch) cannot be understated, given the many problems facing our youth at this time.”
At age 36 Mr Lane is the youngest person to be conferred with one of our awards in its 13-year history.
Laureate in Science & Technology, Prof Michael Taylor of Jamaica
Professor Michael Taylor is a Jamaican scientist, and director of the Climate Studies Group at Mona. His remarkable career is dedicated to the study of and action on climate change throughout the Caribbean. He is a regional leader in climate science, having served on many national, regional and international committees. These include most recently as a coordinating lead author for the special report on 1.5 degrees of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He has also served as a member of the Scientific Steering Committee for the CLIVAR programme of the World Climate Research Programme; on Jamaica’s National Climate Change Advisory Board, and as a director of the Caribbean Climate Modellers Consortium.
Taylor’s science has been a game-changer in understanding and quantifying the Caribbean region’s vulnerability to climate change – laying the necessary groundwork for regional resilience building efforts. He is pioneering the use of regional climate models to improve the understanding of how Caribbean climate may change through the end of the century. He is also developing climate tools to support decision making, building Caribbean Climate Databases, and deciphering the drivers of Caribbean climate to enable its prediction on seasonal timescales.
Taylor has been the director of the Climate Studies Group since 2007. He has helped build the group into what it is today – a regional hub of expertise for addressing this most pressing issue of the time: climate change. He has collaborated with colleagues locally and regionally to define and pursue a scientific agenda to guide the mitigation and adaptation responses of the small island developing states of the Caribbean to climate change. He is an advocate for climate planning to be included in all development projects and plans, and his genius and commitment to his field have taken him across various platforms to advocate for the environment.
His reputation exists both on a macro and micro level, because he applies influence not only on a regional scale but also through educating, supervising, and mentoring university students, high school students and community youth.
He is also a prodigiously published academic with two books, three short monographs, 19 book chapters, 50 refereed journal publications, 17 refereed abstracts and conference proceedings and 26 technical reports.
Taylor has occupied many positions during his tenure at the UWI, from student to lecturer and more recently Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology (2018). During all these appointments he has been admired and respected by colleagues and students alike.
He has received numerous notable awards, local and international, for his work in the field. These include: The University of the West Indies (UWI) – Vice Chancellor’s Award for Excellence – for Research in 2015 and for Globalization in 2018; eleven UWI Mona Research Awards in consecutive years; Fellowships from the US National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) and the Organization of American States (OAS); Young Scientist Awards from Jamaica’s Scientific Research Council (2005) and the Caribbean Academy of Sciences (2008); Research awards from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) and the Caribbean Waste Water Association (CWWA), and Jamaica’s Silver Musgrave Medal for Science in 2013. In 2018 he was made a Fellow of the Caribbean Academy of Sciences.