For the second year, the Trinidad + Tobago Film Festival (TTFF) is hosting the RBC Focus: Filmmaker’s Immersion, a project that focuses not on building audiences for regional film, but on the new creators making cinema that’s not just from the region, but is, well... immersed in it. Five of last year’s participants have successfully entered films in this year’s festival, among them Sean Hodgkinson with his quirky comedy A Story about Wendy and Kevin Adams with the gritty No Soca, No Life, an early version of the feature-length film that he’s developing from the material. Adams went into the first workshop with no shortage of enthusiasm. “I got involved in Focus because I’m about winning. That doesn’t just mean the award prize, but the opportunity.” He was one of the four winners of a TTFF competition in 2010 with a short story he’d submitted and was ready to take full advantage of the opportunity. The young filmmaker admitted to having an eye on making useful contacts after being accepted.
Adams remembers the four-day intensive event as very much a competition and a turf war at that, one fought among, as he put it, “the next generation of Caribbean filmmakers.” Adams pitched a film he was calling Clash, about pan in the early 20th century. After being critiqued and challenged on the project by the lecturers and his colleagues, he went home and turned it overnight into what he described as a City of God movie. That effort earned the astonishment of his peers and huge doubts about the new direction from the workshop’s leaders. Taking their advice that more juice didn’t mean adding conflict and violence to it, he returned to the smaller relationships in the story and he’s still working on developing it, as Steel, into a more personal narrative. Kevin Adams did get that opportunity to network. And Maria Govan won the prize trip to the Bahamas International Film Festival, but since she already lived there, she passed the trip on to Adams, also a finalist in the pitch session, and he seized the opportunity. Sean Hodgkinson describes his educational background as being in geography and the environment, but since he was a child, he’d been shooting “horrid shorts with family and friends.”
Beginning with television production, he started working on music videos and television commercials, learning the business and moving up from production co-ordinator to producer. A Story about Wendy is his first feature film script and to make his pitch to take part in the 2011 Focus Workshop, he made a two-minute teaser for the project featuring Heidi Walcott in the title role and got accepted. Such brevity would be a hallmark of his experience in the 2011 Focus group.
Given three minutes to pitch his film idea, he remembers rattling it out in less than a minute. “For me it was the chance to interact with other filmmakers from the Caribbean,” Hodgkinson said. “It’s just an awesome experience to meet others who think like you, who have the same passion and drive, and it gave me the confidence to pursue A Story About Wendy, and now we are in the Trinidad + Tobago Film Festival with a 40-minute film.”
The RBC Focus
This year’s four-day RBC Focus: Film Immersion workshops began on September 19, the day the 2012 film festival launched, with ten participants: six from Trinidad and Tobago, two from Jamaica and one each from the Bahamas and French Guiana. The groups are competing for a grand prize of $20,000 in a closing pitch session for their projects after being led through the workshop by Jamaican-American filmmaker and teacher Alrick Brown and Argentine-born documentary story consultant Fernanda Rossi. The pitch session will be adjudicated by a jury on September 29 at 1.30 pm at the Jetsam Room, Carlton Savannah, St Ann’s, and will be free and open to the public.