Diante Scott wants to help put the Cayman Islands on the film industry map.
Mr. Scott, 19, is a student at University College of the Cayman Islands and is enrolled in the school’s videography course this spring. He is hoping it will be a stepping stone toward becoming a recognized film director. A course in documentary-making last year already helped him improve his camera skills, he said.
“It allowed me to step out of my box and be really creative,” said Mr. Scott, who has been making videos for the past four years and has his own fledgling production company.
He is just the kind of student Ivan Eubanks had in mind when he began formulating a new media studies program last year. Many of those new courses were first offered this semester, which began on Monday.
Mr. Eubanks, who earned his Ph.D. in Slavic languages at Princeton and taught at Boston University and Moscow’s New Economic School, came to the Cayman Islands two years ago. He grew up in Florida, but had never been to the island before.
He said a rebranding study that was done about the same time had led to Lance Parthé, an instructor and owner of a local production company, to suggest establishing more clubs on campus and having each one increase its visibility through creating and posting videos on social media. Promoting the idea of creating videos led to other things.
“Lance wanted to do a documentary filmmaking class,” Mr. Eubanks said. “I was acting dean of academic affairs, so we got that through and offered that course.”
Mr. Eubanks had taught film history both in Boston and Moscow. At the latter, he assigned video projects for his students, teaching them the basics of videography.
“I started getting more into the creative process,” he said.
The idea of using video to boost the profile of UCCI seemed like a natural progression.
“When I got here, it all kind of fell together,” he said.
During the course of last year, Mr. Eubanks put together a slate of courses in the genre, including videography, sound engineering and an introductory class to broadcast journalism.
In recent years, UCCI has focused on providing more job-specific programs, such as nursing and accounting. The idea has been to train Caymanians, few of whom have had such skills, for positions often filled by foreign workers. With the media studies courses, however, there is no well-established industry to tap into.
Mr. Eubanks is not worried. He has something of a “Field of Dreams” philosophy. If there are trained people, the work will follow.
“That’s the idea,” he said, “to generate an industry. The idea is that if more people graduate and want to do filmmaking, even if there aren’t jobs here, they could get off-island clients. You’ve got Florida, with Miami right there. You’ve got Jamaica.”
Several of Mr. Eubanks’s students are just as optimistic as he is. They see evidence of increased local opportunities.
“There are more people interested in doing film as a career,” said Thea Foster Ebanks, 16. “Even in [some] high schools they’re offering media courses.”
Ms. Ebanks recently participated in the Young Image Makers program, a filmmaking competition for young people, through the Cayman National Cultural Foundation. Winners get to spend a week at the New York Film Academy. She said putting together a documentary on a foreign student’s struggle to adapt after transferring to Ms. Ebanks’s high school, whetted her appetite.
“I want to look at writing my own screenplays and then shooting them,” she said.
She thinks she will leave the island to study at some point, but that move would be more out of choice than necessity.
Her classmate Grace Ruby, 19, is of similar mind.
“Since I want to do full features, I will probably have to go off island,” Ms. Ruby said. “But they’re starting to do more [here] and I wouldn’t be surprised if more films might be done down here.”
Ms. Ruby won the Young Image Makers competition and went to New York in 2016. Since then, she said, she has worked on the set with some Cayman production companies. She is focused on a career in film and said she would like to be one of the first woman to win a Golden Globe for directing. Barbara Streisand is the only woman to have won the award for best director, claiming it in 1983 for “Yentl.”
The UCCI course she is taking will help her, she said.
“I feel like I will learn some valuable things,” she said. “I just hope they offer more classes.”
Mr. Eubanks said that is part of the plan.
“I’m looking at expanding into a filmmaking degree,” he said. “I’d eventually like to turn it into a BA program.”
The plan, he said, is to create an associate degree in media studies first. By the time the first class of students attains their degrees, the BA program would be in place so those same students could smoothly transition into upper division classes.
Such a program would allow students to complete their undergraduate studies here before looking for jobs in the industry or going on to film school, as some are already planning to do.
Mr. Scott has his eye on going to film school in Los Angeles. Ms. Ruby said she may study in Toronto, but she does not intend to leave Cayman completely behind.
“If I do make it,” she said. “I will definitely try to film a feature film down here.”