Nine film and TV projects for children have been approved for funding under the Production Assistance and Script Development (PASD) programme of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company (TTFC). The applicants were given PASD awards on August 2 at the TTFC offices, Bretton Hall, Port-of-Spain, in a brief ceremony.At the ceremony, TTFC chairman Christopher Laird noted how scarce Caribbean children's content has been. He said that in spite of the demand by advertising agencies, educators and psychologists for Caribbean children's content in film and TV, it is still difficult to get sponsorship for these projects.Laird also said, "Much more care has to go into children's programming than to adult programming" because of how sensitive and vulnerable children are to what they see on TV and in films.The TTFC received dozens of applications from the 2013 call for submissions of children's content, which closed on May 31. There were 25 completed applications accepted, and these were passed to an international jury in July.
The jury met at the TTFC from July 26-27 and chose the nine successful applications.Jim Corston, Cosima Amelang and Debbie Jacob comprised the jury. Corston is Toronto-based executive producer with some 40 years' experience in both general and children's TV production for channels in the US, Canada and the UK. Amelang is assistant festival director of the Children's Film Festival Seattle. Jacob is an author of children's books, a teacher and librarian, who was born in the US and has lived in Trinidad and Tobago for some 30 years.Corston said the jury's role was to decide on the "yeses, nos, and maybes," and to decide on the level of funding to be given to successful applicants. Jury members brought their own criteria to the table, given their diverse backgrounds, they found it relatively easy to agree on the top selections, they said.PASD-supported projects are mentored by a monitoring committee of local industry experts. Laird asked the grantees to strive to work with the committee. "We will help as much as we can to get you to get [the projects] right. None of us have the amount of experience that big filmmakers have abroad, so it's always useful to have feedback."
The projects approved were: Sally's Way (Joanne Johnson and Louris Lee Sing); Avocado and Zaboca (Sonja Dumas); A Steelpan Story (Beverly Singh); Super Sensei (Cathy-Mae SitaRam); Hey Leroy! (Roger Alexis); Pijohn (Christopher Din Chong); JJ and Friends (Rodney Seemungal); Super Me (Jaime Lee Loy); and Why the Fox Left Trinidad (Steven Edwards).Roger Alexis, whose comedy I'm Santana was one of the most financially successful local films ever, said his project was a series of 20 TV fillers–very short pieces each under five minutes long–featuring a Caribbean boy named Leroy. Like Santana, Leroy is a puppet. "What I want to do is take it regionally, and teach our kids from a Caribbean eye," he said. "We all know about apples and pears, but let's talk about mangoes; instead of vampires, let's talk about soucouyant."
Joanne Johnson based Sally's Way on an illustrated reader she wrote that was published in 2002. The 50-minute script about a girl orphaned by HIV/Aids was also developed with a PASD grant. Johnson said she was moved to "present Sally as a possibility for our children, where she is able to tap into the creative potential to change our circumstances."Rodney Seemungal, well known for his popular TV series and live shows JJ and Friends, will make six additional episodes of the series with his PASD grant. He said the show is distributed by Tempo to some 26 stations in the Caribbean.A Steelpan Story, Beverly Singh's project, is a short film based on one of a series of books she has produced; it follows the film A Parang Story. She said she had already produced a version of the steelpan film and it was a hit with audiences when she screened it, but that she wanted to make it over with higher production values. This was her first application for a PASD grant.