By RON FANFAIR
Rachel Osbourne and Leandra Grant met at Seneca College almost six years ago while pursuing broadcast journalism studies.
Remaining friends over the years, they merged their creative talents to produce “West Bay”, a marine life series that has been selected for this year’s Caribbean Tales Film Festival’s (CTFF) eighth annual incubator program.
This initiative was created to help producers raise financing and find matching funds, connect with appropriate buyers and assist with making their products market-ready. Participants are provided with invaluable networking opportunities with industry colleagues from Canada, the Caribbean and the rest of the world.
“Once we heard about the incubator, we decided to pitch this project,” said Grant who was a production intern with the Space channel three years ago. “We knew we wanted to take on marine life, but we also wanted to tell a story that’s really character driven.”
“West Bay” tells the story of an immigrant who returns to her Jamaican fishing village and finds a new passion in protecting marine life.
“The series explores the ideas of community and ambition and how the two can fuel and destroy each other,” said Jamaican-born Osbourne who migrated to Canada in 1999.
After graduating from Seneca in 2012, she spent a year in Jamaica working for eMedia Interactive – a digital media business powered by technology, creativity and innovation – where she produced four television programs that were shown on Flow which is this year’s CTFF sponsor.
Christopher Hutchinson, who is the series’ co-lead, joined Osbourne and Grant at the CTFF media launch last week where the incubator finalists were unveiled.
“I met Rachel in Jamaica where we were part of ‘Squaddie’ (a half-hour comedy series),” he said. “I was quite impressed with her and decided to come to Canada to expand my horizons.”
The journey from script to screen is often challenging for filmmakers.
Glace Lawrence is counting that her exposure to the incubator will help advance the series, “Mo’ Love”.
“I have always had a couple of projects that were close to my heart and ‘Mo’ Love’ is one of them,” said Lawrence who migrated from Jamaica with her family in 1968. “I have always wanted to develop it into a series and I intend to make full use of the opportunity I now have to do that.”
“Mo’ Love” stands for the lead characters, Monique and Lovina.
“This is a tale about a 21st century odd couple and how they negotiate their lives together,” said Lawrence who line produced both seasons of the award-winning lifestyle series “The Stages” for HGTV Canada and the USA.
This year’s incubator takes place from September 6-11.
Trinidadian Christopher Laird, who has produced over 300 documentaries, dramas and other video productions in the last four decades with Banyan Ltd., has been an incubator mentor for the last three years.
“Those selected have to get their scripts along with their financial and marketing plans in place by the time they get here in September,” he said. “They will be engaged in intense workshops to hone their pitch which is their ability to present their project in an engaging and attractive way to potential producers and financial backers.”
On the last day of the incubator, the participants will make a five-minute pitch to industry professionals.
There were close to 100 applicants for this year’s series.
“The number has more than tripled this year and this is because the pitch winners will graduate to a nine-month Production Support Program (PSP) that takes projects from pitch to production,” said Laird. “For the first time, PSP projects will receive funding from Flow.”
Last February, Cable & Wireless Communications, which operates the Flow brand, announced an exclusive five-year partnership agreement with CTFF. Under the agreement, Flow – as lead sponsor – will support CTFF’s incubator to develop unique content for the region.
“This wonderful partnership provides an injection of energy and resources into the region’s filmmaking process and has the potential to be a game-changer for our emerging industry,” said CTFF founder, Frances-Anne Solomon. “There is now for the first time a consistent mechanism through which most compelling regional projects from the most talented producers can get funding and be seen by wide audiences across the region.”
Solomon started the CTFF, Incubator and Worldwide Distribution after returning to Toronto 16 years ago from England, where she worked with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as a TV drama and executive producer.
There was a special screening of Queen Nanny: Legendary Maroon Chieftainess at the media launch at the Royal Cinema.
The 52-minute film documents the struggle for the freedom of Jamaican Maroons led by the indomitable Nanny, the only female among Jamaica’s seven national heroes.
This is Roy Anderson’s second feature length documentary.
Five years ago, he released the self-funded award-winning Akwantu: the Journey that features interviews with Maroons and some of the most important voices on slavery and Maroonage as part of Anderson’s personal quest to document his Maroon lineage. He is a descendant of Jamaica’s Leeward Maroons who were led by Nanny in the 18th century.
Descendants of Africans who escaped slavery, the Maroons established independent settlements in the Americas and the Caribbean.
Anderson’s wife, Alison, who is the co-producer of Queen Nanny, attended the media launch.
“It was quite a challenge putting this film together because very little has been written about Nanny,” she said. “However, the ties we forged with the Maroon community when we did Akwantu certainly helped.”
The 11th annual CTFF runs from September 7-17 at the Royal Cinema, 608 College St.