Stars shine on dark opening night for CayFilm

Despite a lack of lights due to a power outage Friday evening, Cayman’s third annual CayFilm International Festival, brought cameras and action for a star-studded opening at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.

With more than 100 visiting filmmakers and 200 films on display, the festival’s return represented rapid growth in the islands’ film industry. Twenty featured works were shot locally, demonstrating the islands’ immense production potential, said Minister of Finance Roy McTaggart, speaking in the absence of Premier Alden McLaughlin.

Festival director Tony Mark arrived to the opening gala “dressed to kill,” as he described it, in vampire makeup to honor an exclusive 25th anniversary showing of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.”

Following an hours-long power outage, Mr. Mark welcomed guests to four days of film, food and fashion, highlighted by international stars including chef Eric Ripert of Blue restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, and local talent, including designers Isy Obi, Olivia B and Kenzie Rose.

“We really are happy that the VIPs we bring down are very approachable. You can go up and talk to them,” Mr. Mark said.

“A lot of filmmakers don’t get to go to all the festivals. They pick and choose. The fact that [they] chose to come to the Cayman Islands to be here with us is a real honor.”

Establishing a film school

“Dracula” screenwriter James V. Hart invited moviegoers to join him for a “howl” to introduce the evening’s anniversary feature. Mr. Hart also announced he will be collaborating on establishing a local film school.

“One of the things I wanted to do is help the initiative start the Cayman Media Academy to establish a learning center for young people to begin to learn the craft of filmmaking, the craft of production, the craft of writing, the craft of producing, so you can have infrastructure here so that filmmakers can continue to be celebrated here in Cayman,” Mr. Hart said.

He auctioned several items from “Dracula,” including the film’s screenplay, to benefit the academy.

Mr. Mark said the school will fall under the CayFilm umbrella to offer qualifications in acting, set design, editing, photography, sound design, writing and production. Eventually, he hopes the academy, which may be based at the Cayman Media Park, part of Cayman Enterprise City, will offer a full-time degree program.

“Aspiring filmmakers and artists will have their own specially designed programs to further their education in the creative media arts industry and gain real world, hands-on experience,” Mr. Mark said.

Other supporters include producer Calia Brencsons-Van Dyk, special effects coordinator Dieter Sturn, American photographer and Nikon Ambassador Vincent Versace, and film studio head and producer Gary Lucchesi.

The school must first get approval from the Cayman Islands Ministry of Education.

Food and film

On day two of the festival, Ms. Brencsons-Van Dyk, former producer of “The Martha Stewart Show,” hosted a discussion with chef Ripert.

Mr. Ripert shared the story behind Blue, where VIP guests and filmmakers were treated Sunday evening to a menu prepared by the chef himself. After some consideration, he said, Blue finally came to fruition over a few drinks.

“They put me on a boat with my luggage from the airport. We went to Stingray City with a case of Champagne. We came back without the case of Champagne. We went to eat at Calypso Grill and it was done,” he said.

Mr. Ripert tried to dispel myths about his life as a celebrity chef. While the profession has come with sacrifice, he said, the reality is often far from what is depicted on television.

“In America, we make sure in the kitchen it’s a civilized environment, it’s helping people to begin their career in a positive way. So we are very frustrated when we see TV shows with chefs like Gordon Ramsay who’s promoting insulting and harassing people in the kitchen. This is total fantasy, and shame on the production and shame on him for promoting that” Mr. Ripert said.

On Sunday, actor Wes Studi offered insight into his performances in “Dances with Wolves,” “The Last of the Mohicans” and most recently, “Avatar.” Mr. Studi proposed a more hands-off approach than his wife and Emmy Award-winner Maura Dhu Studi.

“I don’t read [the whole script] unless it has something to actually do with me. I really don’t think I need to know what’s going on in the rest of the story simply because I inhabit a certain amount of time and space within the film,” Mr. Studi said.

“Unless I’m the main character, I really don’t need to know what’s going on in the whole of the story. I contribute to what makes it move forward with my character’s stuff.”

Pixar co-founder Loren Carpenter shared highlights from his animation career. Other workshops featured “Million Dollar Baby” producer Gary Lucchesi, photography pioneer Mr. Versace and stuntman Paul Weston.

The festival was scheduled to close Monday with an awards ceremony, at which screenwriter Mr. Hart was to be honored with a lifetime achievement award.

Six of Cayman’s own vied for the Frank E. Flowers Local Filmmaker Award, including Trevor Murphy, Malcom Ellis, Grace Ruby, Heather Harris, Pascal Pernix and Tanya Streeter.

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