T&T film’s future is safe in the book bags of the hundreds of students who have participated in the Secondary Schools Short Film Festival (SSSFF) since it was founded eight years ago. Open to all secondary schools and registered youth groups in Trinidad and Tobago, the Festival fosters the creation of responsible local content by aspiring filmmakers. Each year’s themes come under a specific subject area, and in 2012 they are: Making a cleaner, better future (the environment); 50 years of culture: Preserving the T&T legacy (cultural traditions/preservation); My islands, what it means to be Trinbagonian (national identity); and Fixing T&T (peace/social change). Thirty-nine schools and 53 youth groups, each represented by eight young people, participated in the 2012 training sessions for the SSSFF. The training was undertaken by the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company Ltd (TTFC), the main sponsor and organiser of the SSSFF. The young filmmakers went through weeks of training with experienced industry practitioners in order to learn the basics of filmmaking so each team could create a five-minute film for the festival.
Trainer Ashford Jackman worked with young people from Morvant Laventille Secondary this year. He said, “Every year you see obvious talent. The question is how far they would take it. It’s a joy to see them and see their interest. They surprise you. They have ideas, especially when it comes to acting and thinking up scenes. “I hope one day I live to see some of them do what we haven’t been able to do yet and break through in the film industry, that people will see the value of it. They’re young and they’re smart.” Another trainer, Reggie Seeraj, who worked with El Dorado East, Bishop Anstey East and Trinity College East students, said of his young charges, “They’re willing to learn, they have lots of ideas. You just want to channel their energy into the right things.” He emphasised to his students that they were being exposed to valuable skills training. “In Trinidad it is a growing industry. If more (international) films start to come here there’ll be a demand for (the skilled workers).”
This sentiment was echoed by Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Division of Education Co-ordinator of School Supervision, Dr Verleen Bobb-Lewis. The THA is a partner in the SSSFF. “The film industry is expanding,” Dr Bobb-Lewis said. “There are opportunities to move into the industry based on heritage tourism and other avenues.” The SSSFF is a huge undertaking. It entails working with hundreds of students annually, facilitating their training and providing them with manuals, adjudicating films made by dozens of groups, and then ensuring their screening. The TTFC works in partnership with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Investment, the Ministry of Education, THA, MovieTowne, and the trinidad+tobago film festival. The TTFC does not provide equipment for the productions by the schools and groups. They each have to make their films using available school equipment or consumer-level equipment which they source themselves. However, the TTFC gifts 16 awards which comprise film and audio equipment to the schools in categories such as Most Dramatic Film, Most Creative Film, Best Technical Skills, Best Script, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Overall Film.
TTFC chairman Christopher Laird told the young would-be filmmakers at the January launch of the 2012 SSSFF that there was interest in adopting the model for use in other Caribbean countries. In fact, the International Cinema Festival of Guadeloupe, invited some of last year’s SSSFF winners to be part of an inaugural exchange programme between T&T and Guadeloupe. The T&T youths made a film about the experience, and it was screened at the TTFC’s Filme Caribe showcase at the Little Carib Theatre in July. This year’s winning SSSFF films will be shown on September 29 at 1 pm at the Little Carib Theatre, Woodbrook, as part of the trinidad+tobago film festival. Individual SSSFF films will also be shown throughout the trinidad+tobago film festival.
• For more information on how to register for the 2013 Secondary School Short Film Festival, contact the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company Ltd at 1 868 625 FILM or to [email protected].