Local filmmaker Christopher Din Chong believes that by stimulating young people's interest in film production, T&T can build the professional skill set needed to develop its film industry.
Just last month, Din Chong returned from Cuba where he was invited to observe a new filmmaking project in collaboration with the UK-based organisation First Light that trains young people between the ages of five and 25 years to develop skills in film and media production.
He and owner of Full Circle Animation Studio Camille Selvon-Abrahams were invited to act as advisers in the project titled Camara Chica and hosted by La Facultad Arte de los Medios de Comunicacion Audiovisual (FAMCA) at the University of Arts in Havana. The project included a series of seven projects in six Cuban provinces.
Adopting this mentorship role was nothing new for Din Chong, however. Throughout his career, he has tutored students in the T&T Secondary School Short Film Festival, the National Open School of T&T and the University of T&T.
In 2011, he established the Forward Ever Foundation with the aim of introducing young people to the world of filmmaking. He hoped the foundation would offer positive influences for young people through mentorship and training programmes while presenting a career opportunity that made use of their inherent creativity.
In a recent telephone interview, Din Chong said he and Selvon-Abrahams were sent to oversee the project in Cuba and to determine whether or not similar initiative could be launched in Commonwealth countries.
"We had the job of auditing or advising during the training sessions which covered the basics from storytelling, documentaries, editing, sound, angles and other techniques. It was very similar to the workshops that we (the Forward Ever Foundation) do down here so in the post-mortem, we told the organisers that a project like this could definitely be reproduced down here in T&T."
He said the British Council approached him to be a part of the Camara Chica project since they had already seen some of his previous work. Earlier this year, he was commissioned by the British Council to produce a film as a part of its International Inspiration programme which uses sport to enrich the lives of children and disabled people in developing countries. Din Chong filmed the local edition of the programme in a docudrama called The Singapore Promise that featured stories of by young athletes in the fields of track and field, swimming, cycling, table tennis, archery and martial arts.
Hot on the heels of his Cuba trip, Din Chong has returned to T&T with renewed vigour and plans to host similar workshops for children throughout the country. In the last year, with the help of other film practitioners like Mikkell Khan, Che Rodriguez and Maria Lewis, he hosted two one-day workshops for children in east and south Trinidad designed around his own filmmaking curriculum. At the sessions, participants were given the opportunity to write, direct, edit, produce and act in their own one-minute film. He said the feedback from the kids has been overwhelmingly positive.
"The workshops would be three hours long and really we just wanted to pique the young people's interest. The workshops were very successful because the kids were really open. They were like a sponge soaking up all the information we had to share."
Din Chong is currently focused on expanding the reach of the foundation and has decided to partner with Selvon-Abrahams through her animation festival Animae Caribe which starts in late October. The Forward Ever Foundation also plans to host film workshops for kids throughout T&T later this year.
For more information on the foundation, visit its web site at: www.forwardeverfoundation.net.