Mini-CayFilm to focus on local shorts

Photo by: Wil Bignal Photography

Albeit on a smaller scale, the Cayman Islands’ very own international film festival, CayFilm, will once again be taking place this weekend. Established in 2014 by Tony Mark, a writer, director and Emmy Award-winning video editor, CayFilm has since flourished into a staple of Cayman’s calendar of events, drawing in a host of A-list celebrities and venerable figures from the global film industry to participate.

This year, the temporarily scaled-down version of the film festival will take place at The Ritz-Carlton on Friday with an audience of 300. Throughout the course of the evening, seven short films made and directed by a host of talented local filmmakers will be screened, showing off the best of what the local film industry has to offer.

Here’s a preview of what to expect:

‘We Will Live’ and ‘Canvas’: Pascal Pernix

Local filmmaker Pascal Pernix returns to CayFilm with two entrees this year. “We Will Live” follows the story of Elia (Hailee Robinson) and Ayon (Tyrell Cuffy), whose plane crash lands in a remote tropical environment. Aided by the memories of fond moments between herself and Ayon, Elia’s struggle for survival is not only a story of a woman’s extraordinary strength and endurance, but a story that explores the power and importance of love.

Stating that it “was the most challenging film project I committed to as a director,” Pernix and his small crew labored tirelessly in the scorching sun and humidity of some of Grand Cayman’s most remote locations.

Much like ‘We Will Live,” Pernix’s second film due to be screened at CayFilm this year, “Canvas,” further explores the theme of empowered women. This story sees a cunning trio of all-female art thieves named Muse (Caitlin Tyson), Apollo (Janine Martins) and Ayo (Maia Muttoo), who develop a devious plan to resell a stolen painting while also promising Michel Dore (Mike Joseph), the gallery director, to return the painting for a ransom.

Pascal Pernix is very active in the local film industry.

Speaking of how the concept of the film developed, Pernix states, “I’m the father of two young mixed daughters and I’d love to see them become strong, independent and identity-conscious women. I also spend a lot of time with them creating, looking at, reading about, and approaching all types of art forms and I truly hope they’ll embrace some sort of creative/artistic hobby or career at some point in their lives, because I believe expressing yourself as an individual is the most satisfying and freeing way to live.”

‘Interloper’: Teri Quappe

Teri Quappe, a well-known contributor to the local community through her work as a director and stage actor, will be screening her latest film, “Interloper,” at CayFilm. A dark and gritty entry to the festival, “Interloper” follows a woman who takes a trip to a cabin in Scotland to recover from a traumatic experience. However, upon realizing that she is being stalked by someone, she sets out to find who that person is.

Quappe served as both director, writer, producer and editor of this project, while Melanie Ebanks plays the lead role of Effie Morgan alongside Dominic Wheaton, who acts the role of The Man.

Inspired by the films “Split” (2016), and “The Skeleton Key” (2005), and having worked on a documentary about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Quappe became engrossed in questions of the mind, how it works, and how it can be warped and twisted following trauma.

Save one interior scene, which was filmed in Cayman, principal photography took place in the remote Scottish wilderness, which presented its own set of challenges.

Michelle Morgan is the writer behind ‘Letting Go.’

“Our location was so remote that getting there was a bit sketchy. It was a one lane road with blind summits and turns with tons of logging trucks barreling down the road. We also only had about six hours of daylight a day because we shot in November,” Quappe reflects.

The weather was also a force to be reckoned with. Scotland is notorious for its frigid climate, and the crew, who stayed in the same cabin they shot in, had to “figure out who the pyro amongst us was to keep the fire burning,” according to Quappe.

At the end of each day, the crew would have dinner together and enjoy some mulled wine before hitting the sack to prepare for the next day of production.

‘Tocsin: Made in Cayman’: Brittany Kelly

“Tocsin: Made in Cayman” is a behind-the-scenes documentary providing viewers with a look at the filming of “Tocsin,” Frank E. Flowers’ latest project shot in the Cayman Islands. “Tocsin” itself is a short about young musician (Garrett Hedlund), who, looking for inspiration, journeys to an isolated island studio, but discovers a dark secret lurking beneath the waves.

Brittany Kelly, the first assistant director and a producer on the “Tocsin” project, speaks of the challenges of production that the behind the scenes documentary explores.

“The pre-production time on this film was one of the shortest I’ve ever experienced,” says Kelly, “Frankie (Frank E. Flowers) first contacted me on December 6th about maybe, possibly, attempting to shoot in-between Christmas and New Year’s Eve and three weeks later we were rolling camera on Seven Mile Beach.”

Malcolm Ellis has submitted films to CayFilm in the past.

Much of the short’s runtime includes scenes filmed in the water, which, according to Kelly, was the crew’s biggest challenge during filming. “The water is not your friend. Once we committed to shooting in the ocean, we realized that the water would be our biggest adversary in the shoot. Even when we were shooting in the shallowest part near the shore, there were still issues with underwater visibility, movement and safety. Our priority throughout the entire shoot was our cast and crew’s safety; during the water scenes we had a safety boat, a safety waverunner, and a safety diver.”

Despite the difficulties presented to the cast and crew, Kelly looks back fondly on the experience. “There is something magical about filming in your hometown. For me it was really special to look around and see people I grew up with and people I went to school with all working together on a film.”

‘After Work’: Sue Howe

This year, CayFilm debutant Sue Howe will be presenting her film “After Work,” a quirky story that sees main character Bob (Marc Thomas), who begins the day anticipating a promotion, experience a series of unfortunate events that leads him down a path least expected.

When asked about what inspiration behind the film, Howe says, “I wanted to write a quirky story about a regular guy who encounters a day of irregular circumstances, and how that changes the who he thought he was and what his future held for him. I wanted it to highlight that sometimes when we lose something we also gain something; how sometimes we don’t know when something is missing in our life until we find it.”

Speaking of Thomas, the lead actor in the project, Howe explains, “I knew I wanted Marc Thomas for my main character very early on in the writing process, and I think that the ground work using his characteristics made it easier going forward.”

Brittany Kelly was the producer for Frank E. Flowers’ short, ‘Tocsin.’

Although this is her directorial debut, and there were, no doubt, challenges to be faced during production, Howe asserts that the atmosphere on set was nothing but buoyant and upbeat. “There really weren’t any lows during production and we feel that we were extremely fortunate on all fronts relating to locations, weather and of course, the camaraderie with our cast.”

‘Letting Go’: Malcolm Ellis

Also present at CayFilm this year will be Malcolm Ellis’s short film “Letting Go,” a small-scale but nonetheless thoughtful and important story that focuses on one of today’s most pressing social issues: mental health. The film was written by Michelle Morgan.

“This movie explores what happens when things don’t work out and is one of the most emotional pieces I’ve written,” says Morgan. “The content itself has a lot of pieces from my life that took a lot to share and I don’t think I would have been able to get through this production without the support I got from the rest of the cast and crew – including hugs from Taylor [Burrowes] when the tears wouldn’t stop, even after Malcolm yelled ‘cut.’”

Productions tackling issues as serious as mental health require the utmost delicacy, and Morgan felt that the dedication of the cast really aided this part of the production. “We have a great cast who really took on the characters and the importance of portraying some difficult emotional moments with nuance and genuineness. After the initial table reads and blocking rehearsal with the director, we went off and held several rehearsals by ourselves to run the scenes over and over and develop the characters.”

Morgan compares the process to preparing for a stage play, and thinks that this is reflected in the final product.

Ever appreciative of the support of the community, Ellis says, “We were fortunate to be allowed to shoot at the home of some friends who were off-island at the time, so we had full access to the location for rehearsals and the shoot.”

‘Rebirth’: Peter Chamalian

Putting the spotlight on a more local issue is Peter Chamalian’s “Rebirth,” a documentary that examines the potential repercussions of Cayman’s planned cruise ship berthing facility. Originally a senior-year university project for filmmakers Chamalian and his associates, Montana Marose, Tyler Kubicz, David Gutentag and Kevin Adams Jr., the documentary-short features impressive cinematography that aims to shed light on the threatened natural beauty of Cayman’s underwater habitats. Exploring both sides of the argument, the film provides invaluable insight into a controversial topic.

The importance of CayFilm

When asked about the significance of CayFilm, the common theme among the answers of all the filmmakers asked was immediately apparent. CayFilm gives local filmmakers the platform and opportunity to develop their creative output and put it into the world.

Pernix summarizes this perfectly:

“Simply said, CayFilm is the best platform to encourage local filmmakers to grow and develop their identity and storytelling skills. It has established itself [as] a relevant and professional local film festival with true international appeal over the years, putting the Cayman Islands on the festival circuit map and by [doing] so, putting local filmmakers in a position that they couldn’t [manage] independently.”

For more information, visit www.cayfilm.com. As of press time, all passes for the Friday screenings were sold out.