Lights, camera, action for new film festival

The man behind Cayman’s planned international film festival hopes to use his Hollywood contacts to lure A-list celebrities to Grand Cayman.

Tony Mark, who will be the director of the event, planned for 2015, has 20 years’ experience in Hollywood as a film and television editor. But his best showbiz connection may be a bit closer to home – his mom.

Sally Gordon was assistant to Francis Ford Coppola, director of “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now” and also worked at Lucas Film, the production company of “Star Wars” creator George Lucas.

She is currently writing a book about Robert Watts, a British film producer best known for his involvement in the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” film series.

The producer, perhaps not coincidentally, has signed up to be one of the directors of the Cayman Film Festival, which is slated to take place on April 22 to 27, 2015.

Plans for the event launch were unveiled as the curtain closed on the Cayman Islands Underwater Film Festival last week. That event will be absorbed into the new project.

Backed by the Department of Tourism and the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, the new festival aims to show international feature films and documentaries along with short movies by local filmmakers.

Mr. Mark, a photographer at Cathy Church’s Photo Center, said the festival would also feature question-and-answer sessions with directors and actors. He hopes it will rival other events in the region, including the Bermuda International Film Festival, which has attracted stars such as Richard Dreyfuss, Willem Defoe and Stephen Baldwin.

Mr. Mark, who runs a movie club for young people at John Gray High School, is also launching a film institute to develop local talent.

He hopes to bring guest lecturers to the island to deliver courses on movie-making skills, including screenwriting, video editing and production.

“The fact that there isn’t an international film festival here is kind of a crime,” Mr. Mark said, “because Cayman does have the infrastructure for a wonderful event.

“I am working now with some Hollywood contacts to bring some actors and directors down here. I also want to encourage the learning aspect, which is why we have started the film institute.”

The new festival will also include an underwater film component.

“It is important not to turn our back on what makes Cayman special. I want to continue with the underwater world and I want to include local filmmakers.

“Eventually I’d like to be able to have a special day just for local films.”

Speaking at the Underwater Film Festival at Camana Bay last week, tourism councilor Joey Hew gave his public backing to the project and said he hoped it would help create new opportunities for young people to work in the film industry.

The event will be funded through sponsors.