Get trained to break into movies

Budding Caymanian Steven Spielbergs and George Lucases are getting an opportunity to train and hone their skills as the new Cayman Islands Film Commission launched workshops for film crews.

The film commission is inviting wannabe film stars, screenplay writers, directors, set designers, and a plethora of other potential film crew members to join the first film certification workshop at the end of the next month.

‘In order to better qualify people to be involved in the film industry, we have put in place a film crew certification programme,’ Dax Basdeo, head of the film commission, said at a symposium on film careers at a packed Harquail Theatre on Monday night.

More than 80 people crammed into the small Black Box theatre at the Harquail to hear how they could break into movies and listen to advice from local film-maker Frank E. Flowers and president of the Travelling Caribbean Film Showcase, Rigoberto Lopez.

Mr. Basdeo said the workshops would form a solid foundation for a local film industry, as well as make Cayman attractive to overseas film-makers because qualified crews would be available for hire here and would not need to be shipped in.

After a delay while technical hitches – of which there are no shortage on movie sets, Mr. Flowers said – were worked out, the credits to his movie set in Cayman, Haven, were played to highlight the wide range of jobs available on a film set.

From executive producer to location scout to accountant, Mr. Flowers, visiting from his Los Angeles base where he is working on his second feature film, went through the list of potential positions that were up for grabs.

He said movies had about 25 departments and could have between 50 and 300 people working on a film crew, so even if a person does not get to start out being a director or actor, it was worthwhile joining a film crew to gain experience.

Pointing out that one of the stars of Haven, Bill Paxton, started his career in film as a set dresser, he said there were jobs on films for which people could start training now, although initially they were likely to have to endure long hours and low pay.

He admitted that he had intended to be an actor when he first moved to Hollywood. ‘When I moved to LA, I wanted to be an actor. I’d worked in theatre here. I went to film school and wanted to be an actor. I did my first audition and afterwards said there was no way in hell I am doing that,’ he said.

He was a production assistant and eventually got into writing, before writing and directing Haven.

He told the audience that, with the advent of a film industry and training locally, they had an opportunity to be involved in the making of a movie in the next three to six months. ‘It was eight years before I made a film. I’ve been in Hollywood 12 years now and I’m about to make my second film,’ he said.

The other guest speaker, Mr. Lopez, advised movie-makers to consider making short documentaries before dipping their toes for the first time into film-making.

He said this would enable them to become familiar with the art of filming, and the techniques and technology involved.

The Travelling Caribbean Film Showcase, which has been showing short films at the cinema in Camana Bay over recent weekends, was a medium through which movies and documentaries made in the region can find an audience, Mr. Lopez, a Cuban film-maker, said.

The showcase is screening independent Caribbean movies in 27 countries.

As well as being shown clips of Mr. Lopez’s 2002 film, Roble De Olor (Scent of Oak), short films featured in the Travelling Caribbean Film Showcase were also played briefly to the audience.

Henry Muttoo, artistic director of the Cayman National Cultural Foundation, said film was one of the most dynamic ways in which individuals can tell their stories and urged people to get involved.

The first training workshop, which will be held on 29-30 May, will educate students on the general language and techniques of film-making, TV or advertisement production, and will also cover what skills are needed, and the rules and regulations of working on a set.

‘Over time, the intent is to conduct more role-specific training and give our programme participants opportunities to gain on-the-job experience with incoming productions,’ Mr. Basdeo said. ‘That way they can build up ‘crew hours’ that will enhance local capacity and put us in a favourable position to see more and more Caymanians hired as the industry grows.’

The first workshop will be run by David H. Lyman of New York’s Media Workshops International and will also feature local and international guest speakers. It will begin with an evening reception on Friday, 29 May and the next two days will include lectures, group activities and screenings interspersed with interactive discussions.

Carpenters, painters, welders, electricians, hairstylists, make-up artists, drivers, office workers, realtors, actors, photographers, writers, accountants, designers, and all other interested persons are encouraged to attend.

Mr. Basdeo said the commission wanted to ensure that local people benefitted from overseas movie, television and documentary productions that came to Cayman from overseas, and that they could become involved in a home-grown film industry.

The workshop costs $125 and includes course materials and meals. Visit www.cifilm.ky for more information.

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