When Rommel Hall made the transition from producing skits and stage plays to film in November 2008, he assumed he had all the tools to be a successful filmmaker.
The Barbadian was wrong.
Crafting a business plan that details how your movie will be made, marketed and sold and the cost that will be incurred are vital elements in a highly competitive and challenging industry.
In 2010, Hall attended the Caribbean Tales Film Festival (CTFF) incubator program created to help producers raise financing and find matching funds, connect with appropriate buyers and assist with making their products market-ready.
Participants are also provided with invaluable networking opportunities with industry colleagues from Canada, the Caribbean and the rest of the world.
“Before attending the incubator, I hadn’t done a budget for a film,” said Hall, who along with his wife, Keren and business partner, Shane Holford, participated in this year’s incubator. “I have benefitted so much from this training program and the professional mentors. The budgeting lessons and the art of the pitch are some of the things I learned that I can now apply in my profession.”
Holford, who studied film & video at Columbia Academy in Vancouver in 2007, expected to gain a lot of valuable knowledge from the incubator.
“This is the first time for me and I picked up a great deal on the first day,” said Holford, who is the managing direction of Fresh Productions. “It has been a very stimulating experience.”
As part of the incubator, participants are required to pitch their projects to industry professionals attending the just concluded Toronto International Film festival (TIFF). The pitch winners’ projects will receive support from the Caribbean Tales Incubator (CTI) production support program, which will advance each project to production through creative support, script development, fundraising support, networking and partnership building for production.
A University of the West Indies graduate and former Universities & Colleges Christian Fellowship drama coordinator, Hall – who celebrated his 36th birthday while in Toronto – and his team produced a 15-minute web series, “Abiola”, which is on YouTube.
The series depicts the social life of Barbadian teenager, Abiola Adams, who lives with her mother and stepfather and has to make significant life adjustments after she’s transferred from a private to secondary school. The story lines are told through Abiola’s reflections as an adult.
Through Jesus Army Productions that he started in 2003, Hall wrote, produced and directed award-winning skits and plays, including “The Must Have Trade Expo”, Bad Friday” and Trapped in an Elevator, which was recognized with a silver award and voted “Best Overall Film” at the Kingdom Arts Festival.
Six years ago, he and his wife of 11 years co-founded Hall-e-Wood Productions.
The Halls and Holford produced the popular “Keeping Up with the Joneses”, which is a popular Barbadian sitcom.
There were 14 participants in this year’s six-day incubator.
Dr. Keith Nurse, the chair of the Caribbean Tales Worldwide Distribution board, said the incubator is a critical experience for filmmakers to expand their opportunities.
“In the incubator, they don’t learn how to make films because they already know how to do that,” he said. “They are taught how to pitch their films, think about how to monetize their films, leverage the intellectual property embodied in their films and think outside the box. For many of them, they have been trained and schooled to become filmmakers and not understand the business of film.
“We marry that understanding of where is the marketplace and understanding business models and other things with how to pitch the project. It gives them some vital skills to expand their whole experience and business opportunities. That’s what we are attempting to do here.”
Dr. Nurse, who is an integral part of the festival founded by Frances Anne-Solomon, has produced groundbreaking research on Diaspora tourism and the significant economic power it wields. His research project was turned into a documentary, Forward Home, which made its world premiere at the 2011 Caribbean Tales Festival.
Coerced by Solomon to play a lead role in the festival, Nurse – who was born in England and raised in Trinidad & Tobago – said the event’s uniqueness was the main attraction for him.
“We just don’t do a festival alone,” he said. “We offer a constellation of services that feed into the other. The films that we are showing are on our catalogue and many of the filmmakers who are coming on board are people who have graduated from the incubator program. We are creating the content that comes on to the catalogue which shows up in the festival.”
Solomon started the CTFF, Incubator and Worldwide Distribution after returning to Toronto 15 years ago from England, where she worked with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as a TV drama producer and executive producer.
CTFF, which also has a news and television arm, secured charitable status last year and acquired significant funding from the European Union to build distribution networks for Caribbean films.
The holder of an economics degree from the University of Western Ontario, which is the alma mater of Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) artistic director, Cameron Bailey, Nurse said the CTFF is well on its way to becoming a film industry.
“We now need to strengthen the opportunities for ordinary people to access Caribbean content on a digital platform and to buy the content,” said the University of the West Indies Consulting Inc. executive director. “We also need strategic partners like Caribbean governments, film commissions and other key stakeholders, including tourism agencies to buy into the concept that we could use Caribbean film to brand the destination called the Caribbean and all the products and services that come out of that region. There is nothing better than film to do those things. We need to figure out a framework within which we could make this happen.”
The 10th annual festival opened with the screening of Pan! Our Music Odyssey.
Filmed in Trinidad & Tobago, the film intertwines re-enacted vignettes of pivotal moments in the pre-history and history of pan from 1820 to 1963, from the banning of slave drum dances, to the first Panorama, with today’s “reality” narrative of the competition in which various pan players from Trinidad & Tobago and abroad join the bands to prepare for the big stage.
“This film does more than speak to pan music,” said Belgium-born director, Jerome Guiot, who was in Toronto for the screening. “It looks at the country, the social issues and the way the people gravitate to music to overcome their struggles.”