The local business community needs to be convinced it is profitable to invest in T&T's film industry, said Anne-Marie Stewart, executive producer of the locally produced film, Hero.
Hero is a 75-minute feature documentary inspired by the life of T&T national and retired judge Ulric Cross, now 94, whose life achievements spans being a pilot in World War 11 to an adviser in post-independence Africa.
In 1941, Cross entered the United Kingdom's Royal Air Force and became the most decorated West Indian squadron leader of World War II.
He also played a key role in the post-independence political development of African countries like Ghana, Cameroon and Tanzania, and was even an adviser to Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah.
Cross's life spanned many decades and historical eras. Work on the film began about five years ago and it has passed through different stages. The filmmakers hope to complete the documentary in 2014.
They expect to promote the film locally and internationally once production is finished. CaribbeanTales WorldWide Distribution is the company that will be distributing the film around the world.
Stewart spoke to the Business Guardian last month at Medulla Art Gallery, Fitt Street, Woodbrook.
"The technology has taken us into a completely new era. The digital technology has made films relatively accessible and cheap. T&T Film Company, on behalf of the Government, is giving a rebate of 150 per cent of the contribution to film, up to $2 million," Stewart said.
"When I spoke to people about making financial contributions to the film, nobody picked up on that. I do not know if the concept of film is so new to the corporate sector here."
The film would cost roughly $3 million by the time it is completed, which, Stewart said, is "not much."
She said people are no longer reading and film is a good way to spread messages.
"First of all, our stories need to be told and there are a million of them in this country, but they are not being told. People are not reading any more. People are looking at videos and it is a medium to make it accessible. It would seem to me that business people should understand the potential for that.
"First of all, if they make contributions, they get the tax rebates and they get mentioned in the credits of the film. And this film will be shown in the region and internationally. The advertising reach for those who invest in this is worldwide and their name will be all over the place."
Stewart, a management consultant by profession, said this is the first time she is producing a film, getting funding for which has been a challenge.
"I have already applied to Ontario Arts Council and they have provided money for it and I have also applied to the Canadian Federal Council, but I have not heard from them as yet. Apart from the $100,000 the T&T Film Company invested, I do not have any government funding and it is not that I did not try to get it."
The hunt for funding does not take away from T&T's filmmaking potential.
"The technology is easy now. People have a camera, equipment and they record. With technology, it is very easy to shoot complex scenes. At the end of it, it looks like a Hollywood film," she said.
The filmmaking industry also generates jobs.
"In making a film, there is the director, producer, sound system and each of those has about two or three spin offs," she said.
She said T&T's corporate world would be making a mistake to ignore the potential of a film industry.
"I would say that the business community is very foolish not to see the potential in this because of the advertising reach, and because of the jobs it creates, then there is the 150 per cent rebate they get. I do not understand how the business community cannot see the benefits of this," she said.
Among the corporate entities the film has partnered with are: American Chamber of Commerce T&T, BG T&T, Kalloo's Auto Rentals, Taxi Service and Tours, Medulla Art Gallery, the National Gas Company, the National Lotteries Control Board, Kapok Hotel, T&T Film Company and Veni Mange restaurant.
The film has already been certified by the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism.
Stewart said all sponsors will be advertised with name, logo and branding in the film credits.
Stewart referred to the movie, Home Again, that was shot in T&T in 2012 and premiered in the first week of April at MovieTowne.
The cast of Home Again includes Fresh Prince of Bel Air's Tatyana Ali, Canadian rock star, FeFe Dobson and CCH Pounder, from the Shield, Avatar, Baghdad Cafe and Law and Order.
The Canadian film tells the story of three young people who were deported from metropolitan cities back to their homeland–Jamaica–and the challenges they face in coming to terms with the reality of being in a strange place with no family, no money and no support systems.
The movie used 1,200 local actors and extras at such locations as the Piarco International Airport, Sea Lots and Long Circular Mall.
"The film, Home Again, about Jamaica was shot here. That is because the T&T Film Industry is giving all kinds of concessions for filming here. So a Canadian company makes a film about Jamaica and shoots in T&T to get access to resources.
"We are not taking advantage of that," Stewart said. "If others are doing it, so should we."
Bio of Ulric Cross
Retired Trinidad judge Phillip Louis Ulric Cross was squadron leader of 139 "Jamaica" Squadron.
He later held the position of chief liaison officer for demobilisation of all colonial forces, ably assisted by Jamaican-born flight lieutenant Dudley Thompson.
Cross served as a judge in Ghana, Cameroon, Tanzania and T&T. He later served as ambassador of T&T to Germany, France, Norway and High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.
He spoke of his life, his military exploits and other achievements in an April 2008 interview with Gabriel J Christian, who wrote For King & Country - The Service and Sacrifice of the Dominican Soldier, with Irving Andre.
"After high school (at St Mary's Port-of-Spain), I worked for a while with the Trinidad government on the railroad. But, by 1941, Britain stood alone. Dunkirk had been a defeat for Britain and Hitler had conquered all of Europe. The world was drowning in fascism and America was not yet in the war, so I decided to do something about it and volunteered to fight in the RAF.
"We took the ship Strathall for 12 days days, straight to Greenock. A lorry awaited us and took us straight into the uniform of the RAF and training. So from November 1941 to November 1942, I trained at Cranwell on the wireless, did meteorology, bomb aiming, navigation and Morse code. I graduated as a pilot officer and was assigned to bomber command I served as a navigator in the Pathfinder section of 139 squadron; the famous "Jamaica Squadron" of the RAF.
"The pathfinders led the way on bombing raids and marked the target; a most dangerous task. Our unit flew the famous Mosquito bomber, which was made mainly of wood. Jamaica had paid for many of the planes of 139 squadron, hence the name.
"There was also a Trinidad Squadron, where Trinidad had paid for those planes. I was the only West Indian on my squadron. I was lucky to have served at fixed pre-war bases such as Marham, Wyton and Upwood. The fixed bases were more comfortable. There were many other temporary bases which had been scattered across the United Kingdom.
"I flew 30 missions over Germany and occupied Europe. After 30 missions, one earns a rest and can divert to teaching other pilots, etc. However, I was interested in continuing the mission. At 50 missions, they again asked me to take a rest. I declined and flew 80 missions over Germany and occupied Europe before the war ended. I did 22 missions over Berlin and made it through much flak; but one had to focus on the mission.
"My most harrowing mission was when one of the engines of our Mosquito fighter-bomber was shot up over Germany and we came down to 7,000 feet from 35,000 feet. We struggled back to England and crash landed in a quarry. It was a narrow escape, but we made it out alive.
"The navigator is key, as we are the ones who tell the pilot how to get to and from the destination or target. I ended the war as a squadron leader and was then sent to the Colonial Office to act as liaison for all colonial forces. It was there that I was phoned and advised that I was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. A plane was sent for me and I was given the award and we had a party.
"In all, 250 Trinidadians flew in combat in the RAF during the war and 50 died in action. Many hundreds more, maybe more than 1,000 served with other West Indians as ground crew.
"Our Trinidadian contingent also had people of Indian, Chinese and European origin. I knew Dyrample of Dominica (Edward Scobie) and would meet him when we went down to London. Dudley Thompson of Jamaica was a flight officer and he was my assistant at the Colonial Office after the war."