Despite the downturn in the T&T economy and the low energy prices that the country depends on, Tomas Bermudez, country manager, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), believes that all is not...
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T&T popular for filming
The local film industry is more vibrant than ever and T&T producers and filmmakers are on the verge of breaking through in new markets. So says T&T Film Company (TTFC) CEO, Carla Foderingham, who said T&T was fast becoming a premier film-producing country and a popular location within the global marketplace.
In March, Foderingham visited Los Angeles to promote T&T at the annual Association of Film Commissioners International Trade Fair—a huge step for the industry as it had not been done before.
She said traditionally film locations and companies, or film commissions have had one major focus and that is to invite international and regional producers to their shores to shoot on location.
Foderingham attended several business meetings with independent producers as well as with studios like Universal and Fox, and met with the vice presidents of both, to promote T&T as a film location.
“When they saw the pictures of the country, they were absolutely blown away by the architecture and by the fact that we are two islands that offer completely different types of locations,” she said from her Bretton Hall, Victoria Avenue, Port-of-Spain office.
She referred to the Canadian film Home Again, which was primarily shot here but was set in Kingston, Jamaica. T&T doubled as Jamaica for that film.
“Trinidad is now taglining. The tag for us is, ‘We are completely adaptive, yet remarkably unique,’” said Foderingham.
Owing to this country’s diversity, history, cosmopolitan look and typography, it can double as India, Brazil, Havana and even Vietnam, she said.
“What they were also very impressed by in LA was that these diverse locations were in such close proximity to each other, a convenience they absolutely adored.”
TTFC is working with Lisa Wickham, CEO of Imagine Media International Ltd and supervising producer of Home Again, on the African-American feature film Grown Girls Getaway, which is being filmed completely on location here and will conclude in July. The movie stars American actresses Essence Atkins, Melinda Williams and Garcelle Beauvais.
In a news release, the TTFC said it was gearing up for shooting of three other films beginning with Left Turn in August with a projected local expenditure of US$2 million; G Anthony Joseph’s MOG 3, a sequel to the popular Men of Grey series, and Hibiscus Street, in 2015.
The TTFC mandate is to ensure the local film industry is viable and sustainable and to also develop T&T as a premiere film location. Despite having a staff of 12 and a budget of $6 million—not enough to meet the demands of the company, Foderingham said—it has been successfully fulfilling its mission.
While she could not give the current figure earned from foreign productions, she said $30.7 million came in from 2008 to 2012.
As executive producer the company has produced over 200 films, including documentaries, animations and feature films. TTFC has supported and financed some successful projects over the years and some have gained international recognition.
"Our films, like A Story About Wendy and Doubles with Slight Pepper, have been screened at many international film festivals like Zanzibar and the Toronto film festivals."
The sequel to A Story About Wendy was selected from among 79 films and was screened for a second time at this year's Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF)from June 14 - 22.
The film company has also partnered with the Guadeloupe film festival called FEMI. Last year, secondary school students benefited from this alliance when TTFC sent the winners of the secondary schools short film festival to FEMI to showcase their short films.
It supports the BA film programme at the University of the West Indies (UWI), St Augustine, and provides bursary support to the University of T&T (UTT) film programme. It is one of the main sponsors of the T&T Film and Animae Caribe Animation and Media Festivals. Last year it created the T&T Smartphone Film Festival for amateur filmmakers who may not have access to high-tech film equipment.
"We also do community screenings throughout the year where we take the films to various communities across T&T, and we are responsible for the Carnival film series which is in its fourth year," Foderingham said.
Support for youth filmmakers
TTFC is also exposing the youth to the alternative career of filmmaking by creating audiences within the classroom from as early as the pre-school level and lending financial support to upcoming filmmakers.
"We invite schoolchildren into our board room. We also bring in the orphanages. We want them to see themselves on television because we are aware that there are not many images that are reflective of our Caribbean identity that are currently on television in the region, and that too we are working on," she explained.
One such beneficiary is Oliver Milne, who with the help of TTFC is now taking a master class in cinematography through the American Society of Cinematographers. Another was Christian James of St Mary's College, who entered the first secondary school short film festival in 2004. After graduating he joined the BA programme at UWI, and is now on scholarship at Columbia University. James was also sponsored by TTFC to attend the business programme at the Cannes Film Festival in March.
And in 2012 Ryan Khanwas accepted into Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival, which again was a huge success for T&T, Foderingham said.
“So we are doing things, we are rocking in the sense that we are seeing the success from the seeds that have been planted since this company was started up in 2006. "
Foderingham also spoke about how the film industry is contributing to employment in T&T and higlighted other issues affecting the industry. The story continues tomorrow.
To date, 13 completed international films products have been shot on location in T&T since the TTFC began in 2006 to 2014. They include:
House Hunters International
Ghost Hunters International,
BBC, e TV, BET
Channel 4 UK
World’s Strictest Parents
FIFA Futbol Mundial
ESPN, Planet Green
TTFC has a projection for 30 productions a year. These include commercials, documentaries, short and feature-length films. To date, as executive producer it has done over 200 films. Some of the more popular international productions shot here since the TTFC began in 2006 include: House Hunters International Ghost Hunters International, Island Buddy BBC, e TV, BET Channel 4 UK Home Again World’s Strictest Parents Fifa Futbol Mundial ESPN, Planet Green Limbo.
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