Taking Caribbean film-making by Storm

Seven stories, Six directors. One island. Ring Di Alarm, a Jamaican feature-length film made up of seven shorts, is not a new concept in film. Anthology films like Edmund Goulding’s Grand Hotel, Je t’aime and If I Had a Million have been around since 1932, as Leiselle Maraj reports in this article for T&T’s Newsday.

However, film-maker Storm Saulter is looking to use this technique to further develop the Caribbean film industry. The Caribbean model, however, has a unique twist to deal with – the all too familiar cry of lack of funding; Ring Di Alarm was made for almost next to nothing.

Saulter is one of the founders of the two-year-old company, New Caribbean Cinema, which created and produced Ring Di Alarm. He would be familiar to trinidad + tobago film festival afficionados as his film Better Must Come was featured in last year’s festival and won the Viewer’s Choice award. St Lucian film maker Michelle Serieux, Saulter’s brother and fellow film-maker Nile Saulter and Joel Burke make up the rest of the team at New Caribbean Cinema.

The company is also a creative and advertising agency, which helps generate finances for its film projects. For Ring Di Alarm, the company used communal filming to complete the project at a very low budget.

“There is not much government funding or any actually for us and sometimes it is hard to get people to invest. At the same time you may have a lot of young film-makers who may not be ready to do a feature film which is way more money than a short. So we worked out a formula where we have a core of people and we all work on each other’s film. One person directs while another could be director of photography; we kind of rotated roles for this first film,” Storm Saulter explained in a recent interview.

“All of the shorts were shot on one day each and all the crew worked for free. We thought, let us devise a way to keep making films and see if we can bypass this funding issue which people use as an excuse and we said we know enough people who want to do this that would love nothing more than to make a film and we could safely guess they would work for free if given the chance to do their thing.

“That was correct. Also, when we set our parameters to one day, the people who are passionate about film-making will give you their time for free,” he said. Aside from the financial benefits of this form of communal film-making, younger film-makers would have the chance to gain experience and knowledge from their more experienced counterparts, according to Saulter.

“I have done a feature film which got a bit of acclaim and I understand some things about film-making which may be quite advanced but then there are some film-makers who are very talented and need to take that step into making a film. A lot of times you mess up on your first film because if you are used to shooting commercials and music videos you might not be as well versed to work with actors and you may need some help in finding a story which could really make an impact and what the collective allows is that the more experienced are working with the younger members so everyone’s work is brought up to a level. The short stories involved in Ring Di Alarm are very varied but all are at a very high level of production,” Saulter explained.

This Trinidad showing at this year’s recently concluded trinidad + tobago film festival was the second time the film has been screened outside of the New Caribbean Cinema editing room. It premiered earlier this year at the British Film Institute London Film Festival where it sold out at every screening. Each short however can stand and has stood on its own. The short Missed was screened at the Cannes Film Festival while Coast by Nile won best cinematography at the Portobello Film Festival.

“The shorts can be sent on their own. We intend on putting them out there on their own but we feel it has more strength when it is together,” Saulter said. 

The seven shorts were all shot in Jamaica and were directed by the Saulters, Serieux, Burke, Michael “Ras Tingle” Tingling, Desmond Young and Kyle Chin. They have simple storylines but no set prevailing theme like other anthology films, Saulter noted. However, some themes, like morality, frequently appear.

“It is clear to us that this is on the mind of a lot of young Caribbean people and it came out very naturally,” Saulter said. The entire feature is 75 minutes and each short varies in length between five and 17 minutes.

“I hope it inspires a ‘do it yourself, take matters into your own hand’ kind of approach. It is very liberating to think we created a feature-length film for under US$15,000. That is practically unheard of. But also through this process, the six film-makers have a chance to shine in one sitting,” Saulter said.

Compiling the shorts into one feature-length film also gives the piece the advantage of being suitable to be shown in public cinemas. “You could release short films on the Internet or you could go to short-film festivals. You do not use them to make money. What we have done by putting the films together is we have created something that can go into cinemas,” he explained. 

New Caribbean Cinema is hoping the appeal of this type of film-making spreads throughout the Caribbean as a way to get around the no-funding obstacle which affects most of the region’s film-makers.

“I am happy to be in Trinidad because I think this is, by far, one of the most progressive film festivals in the Caribbean. There are so many film-makers here that I feel like we have to be sharing this knowledge here. Ring Di Alarm was based in Jamaica naturally because that is where we are based. We want to bring this method into the rest of the Caribbean and into Trinidad. We have been having talks to try and replicate this production here with young film-makers from Trinidad and the Eastern Caribbean. We need to build a regional movement. We need to get to the point where Caribbean film is almost like a genre and of interest to people. We hope through this film we can get funding to create a financial situation to replicate this. We would like to do the second one as a truly Caribbean film,” he explained.

The Internet is New Caribbean Cinema’s avenue of choice to advertise and promote its work and mission. Its website/blog gives insight into its work and highlights areas the company is interested in. It is also a place for regional and international film-makers to connect. New Caribbean Cinema also has a serious presence on Facebook and Twitter.

“We are naturally going to go that way because we are not paying a publicist and we have a firm belief in creative, guerilla marketing and we have used it before with our other film and we will be incorporating it as much as possible with this,” Saulter said.

The group will continue to make feature films, documentaries and anthology films and hopes emerging film-makers from other Caribbean territories come on board with this particular film-making initiative.

“There is a massive market for this. There are those in the diaspora starving for anything from the Caribbean. There are also those who are fans of the culture, music and athletics. The fan base is growing and film is the most all-encompassing art form. There is going to be a need for this and we want to fill the need. This is a movement and we are doing this by ourselves and it is only going to work if we have support. So people who are interested in the industry and a hands-on approach should let themselves be known,” Saulter said.

For the original report go to http://www.newsday.co.tt/features/0,167152.html

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