Words cannot describe how I feel about this win. It was unexpected, it was exhausting, it was worth it.
Tale of shadows is the story of a monster named Boris, tasked with protecting a forest from the destruction of human beings. One day an 8 year old girl enters his life and changes his heart towards humanity.
This amazing story is all the work of Animator and 3D Generalist Corretta Singer. She created the characters, wrote it and animated it. She called me one day and asked me to be a part of her team. She recruited me as a supporting writer and someone with some skill set in pitching and business presentations.
I was honoured and privileged to be given the opportunity to be on her team. I had long been a fan of her work and particularly Tale of Shadows. When asked to join, I did not hesitate. I knew the boot camp would be grueling, but knowing it did not prepare me for experiencing it.
I met with my team Corretta Singer and Dele Adams a writer, filmmaker and voice actor who previously contributed to the project as the voice of Boris. We got along immediately, It was evident Corretta picked a team that was on the same wavelength as her, as we were at her disposal, and what ever she wanted, that's what we aimed to give her. We were not there to change her idea, only to enhance it, so we came in with no egos.
We met with our competitors from Trinidad, Jamaica and the U.S. whom were all really nice people. with amazing projects and competitive but friendly and encouraging.
We met one of our coaches, Caiphus Moore from EA Games and man was he hilarious but full of knowledge.
We had breakfast and met the rest of our coaches, Camille Sevlon, David Soutar, D'Oyen Williams and Caiphus Moore, then everyone introduced themselves and the fun began. We went through a series of exercises and each team lead went up and pitched. After which we received comments and we had to go back to the drawing board to refine our pitch. The refinement process took us all the way back to the wee hours of the morning. We were ready!
Day 2 (Mock Pitch Day)
We were nervous, but we knew we covered everything and it was time to reggae. The other teams pitched and they were quite thorough. We went up and we pitched but took so much time transitioning from one point to the next that we ran out of time quickly. We finished our presentation right on the edge. We sounded rushed and hence the energy wasn't consistent.
The judges were sorely disappointed. We focused on the wrong things and came in guns blazing with water for ammo.
That night we were exhausted and running on little sleep, but we refused to rest and carried on. At one point we became tired drunk, you know when you are so tired, your train of thought gets derailed just breathing? Yeah! We made jokes to keep awake and we were entertained by the staff of the hotel who would drop and break a glass almost every hour on the hour.
Eventually however, the sandman won the battle and we all went to bed by 2 a.m. I think.
Day 3 (Day of the pitch)
Woke up the next day and after a later start we were at it again trying to fine tune our business side and memorize our creative side of the pitch. We had a trick up our sleeve we weren't sure how it was going to be received, but it was the only way we thought it should have been executed.
The pitch had 3 segments:
1. The concept
2. The management of the production
3. Marketing and merchandise
The auditorium was teeming with about 400 seats filled. We opted to go last strategically so that we could observe the other teams and make any last minute adjustments. Due to a glitch in the Matrix, we some how got scheduled first after an impromptu coin toss...literally! I hooked up the laptop and Murphies Law kicked in. The projector was not connecting. At first I thought something was wrong with the laptop settings so I was desperately fiddling around. The long wait was awkward and had me and the team sweating. We gave up and let the next team present but they had the same issues, so it was the projector that was failing us. Eventually a technician sorted it out and we were back in businesses presenting second. Then the audio decided to crap on us, but that got sorted out too.
Stage 1 we did the first round I thought really well, but the judges comments, though they liked it, they also thought it was too dark. There was only one judge from Spain who had no problems with it and thought it was excellent right through. At this point we thought we were behind because everyone thought our story was too heavy for kids.
Stage 2 came and we presented a simple plan explaining what we needed to get the production done, how much it would cost and what the money would go towards. This was one of the most difficult sections we prepared for. We crunched the numbers and they were scary, but we decided look, it costs what it costs, we have to just be real about that and let them know. If they say we are being too ambitious, we would just have to defend it and move on. After all these are executives, they already know what it will cost, so if we give too low a figure in an attempt to look attractive, they would have seen immediately that our budget was lacking. I strongly believe our approach worked in our benefit.
Stage 3 was the ultimate stage. We simply took out an action figure of Boris and set him in front of the judges. There was immediate pandemonium in the crowd. I saw some jaws dropping. This was our secret weapon, jumping off the screen on to the judges desks. I even saw judges taking selfies with it.
In the end it was down to Tale of Shadows and Bim and Bam from Trinidad. We HONESTLY thought we were going to place second because Bim and Bam was impressive, it was solid, the characters were super cute, the intro vid was fun, the presentation was comprehensive. So when we realized Tale of Shadows came first, we all had to process for 2 seconds before realizing what just happened. The win was so paralyzing that we ended up leaving the auditorium long after everyone left and while the care taker was cleaning up and giving us the evil eye to leave.
It was as if a huge feel of relief and fatigue that took over.
Award Day was here and we were tired. Oh so tired, but there were too many good workshops and business connection meetings to pass up. I attended the "How to pitch to Cartoon Network" ,"How to create a winning Pitch Bible" and "How to choose a winning team". Literally had to have a 5 minute power nap before the ceremony.
I will spare you the details of the ceremony itself and cut to the chase. "Tale of Shadows" won 2nd place for best Caribbean Short; Best Jamaican Product and of course as already stated, best pitch. Nothing can compare to this feeling and though we won, this is only the beginning as we already have to be focusing on what next. In fact even at the after party we were discussing our next steps.
This was a hell of a ride, and it was only the beginning. I look forward to the rest of the journey.
Film Festival Showcase on TVJ
Saturday night, August 8, 2015 Jamaica was treated to a broadcast screening on TVJ of short films by local filmmakers. The four films screened were recently entered in the concluded GATFFEST and JAMPRO Jamaica Film Festival.
Heart Shaped Box - Kevin Jackson (GATFFEST Viewer's Choice Award)
Trapped in the Mirror - Mark Smith (GATFFEST Viewer's Choice Award)
Jessie's Baby - Audrey Williams
Proscenium - Allison Harrison (JaFF Best Short Film Award)
I’ve been meaning to talk about Heart Shaped Box’s win at GATFFEST as well as review GATFFEST and JAMPRO’s Jamaica Film Festival in separate blog posts. I didn’t get around to it, even though separate posts would have given me more views and improved my posting consistency. The truth is I was waiting on a few things to happen that would have made the article stronger. I thought those things would have happened sooner than later, but some of those things still haven’t happened yet and well the festivals are long behind us.
So why am I writing now? Well, I am still benefiting from entering these festivals and people are still asking me about it and I think it is important to share that there is much more to get out of screening your work than winning awards. So let me begin.
GATFFEST 2015 Opening Night
GATFFEST in collaboration with the US Embassy, had their opening night last night, June 25, 2015 and what an auspicious occasion it was. Many stalwarts of the film industry were present for the premier of the UWI Film Project film "Epiphany" directed by Eka Campbell one of the UWI Film Project coordinators.
The launch of JAMPRO’s Jamaica Film Festival went live yesterday with several media houses and members of the industry in attendance. A Red Stripe sponsored bar served the red carpet affair that saw what looked like nearly 200 in attendance filling up both the conference room and the lobby.
Hosted by TV personality Debbie Bissoon and singer/actress Cherine Anderson, the launch was being televised live before the news. This most likely meant a lot of people saw it. After the launch opened with the national anthem Chairman of JAMPRO and Attorney at law Milton Samuda engaged the hosts in a discussion about Jamaica as a destination and the services it provides with its many experienced crew members, actors and equipment painting a very rounded picture of the industry. An industry of experts who have worked on many international films over several years.
Following him was a video speech given by Diane Edwards President of JAMPRO mentioning JAMPRO’s involvement. After which the sponsor’s, Acting Brand Manager Andrew Anguin gave his endorsement then we got a taste of what is in store regarding a film and music work shop, from Marie Bruce the General Manager of the Bob Marley Group of Companies.
Then what we all had been waiting for was an overview of the overall festival from Carole Beckford the Film Commissioner who worked hard to make all this possible. The festival will be from July 7-11 and will feature workshops, premieres, screenings, an award ceremony and networking opportunities. Films from all over the world will be on display including the region.
Closing off the evening was the Hon. G. Anthony Hylton MP, Minsitry of Industry, Investment and Commerce giving his remarks.
The evening ended with cocktails, networking and lots of Red Stripe. Take a look at the pictures while I upload some videos. #jamaicafilmfestival #JaFilmFest
That Pesky Rat Just Won't Go Away
This rat has tormented me for many nights. Hiding in the shadows, waiting to jump out at the last minute with his mischievous grin. He isn't tormenting because he is nasty. No. It's because he is a scary reminder of how nasty we are.
The other night I was in New Kingston and I literally thought the rat union was out to get me. I stepped out of an establishment and a rat frightened by a security guard chose to literally run across my feet. Not in front of, not near, literally on and across my feet. This rat was heavy and had power, because it felt like a dog ran across my feet. I am sure I broke a toe.
Needless to say, those shoes are currently soaking in a vat of bleach. The rats in New Kingston are as comfortable there as tarmac on the streets. They have been a permanent fixture since the 90's. It's bad that they are in an area where people eat, but imagine how many of them are lurking in our gullies, and rivers because of the garbage we throw on the roads that get washed away. That's your drinking water, cooking water, washing water, bathing water.
These PSA's are meant to be humorous to capture your attention, but there is serious symbolism behind each scene and each element at the same time. The chicken floating in the river and ending up in the gully. Remember the reports in the news about the meat vendors were finding in gullies and rivers that are washed off and resold in the market?
Yeah! Quite highly disturbing. Please. Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica. Please! Don't do it.
New York based author Tilsa Wright donates half of a million dollars to her alumni’s cricket team in association with her book promotion.
The main character in her trilogy book series “Star Boy” plays cricket, which gives added reason to give back. This is just the beginning of a step in the right direction.
William Watson, the President of the Camperdown Alumni Association _ “The school needs funding in every area and Cricket is one that receives very little support. Needless to say The Cricket team was overjoyed. The funds will be disbursed through the alumni after discussions with the school determines how best to use it. There are talks of installing nets which will widen the range of techniques they can drill giving a whole new strength to their arsenal and competitiveness.”
Tilsa Wright - "It is an honor to give back to an institution that has shaped so many lives. To the young cricketers, I urge you to appreciate the value and pride of this sport. Cricket is not about hype, it is a sport that demands a great deal of discipline and undivided commitment. Moving forward I will try my best to add moral value and encouragement to you, from experts in the business and a respectable mentor if possible. Stay motivated and focus, because I firmly believe the next Brian Lara is among you!”
Wright plans to donate to two more schools in the Caribbean region in 2016.
"I have gotten support from Trinidadians and Barbadians here in the USA, and one of the things I have learned is to give back to those who truly support you."
Cricket is the Caribbean’s favorite pass time and in fact is one of the few times the Caribbean truly shows unity. Camperdown is located in Rollington Town off Winward Road.
Tilsa Wright has also produced an animation based on her book series and is currently in pre-production of an upcoming movie. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njgY6bGNNXY
Jamaica Dutty UP
Check out my latest animation, a PSA done for the Jamaica Environment Trust, titled "Nuh Dutty Up Jamaica.
This was done in 4 weeks, using illustrations provided by Michelle Keane and Anime Studio Pro 9 for the animation software. I am big on the environment, so it was a pleasure for me to do this, even though I was tied down with work and I caught a bad flu that was going around I got through it.
In my opinion it is a very important campaign. There is a lot of work to be done to clean up our environment. Studies show that plastics could be getting into our food chain and this has serious health risks associated with it. Take a look at the statistics from the International Clean Up Campaign in 2014 in the gallery below and check out these images to get a picture of what i am talking about.
Meeting Actress Cassandra Freeman
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting actress Cassandra Freeman, from Inside Man, Kinyarwanda and the Single Ladies series. She is in Jamaica conducting an acting workshop for the finalists of the Jamaica Film Festival project.
Jampro had a launch for the event on Sunday and Cassandra was the main guest. She was very personable and energetic and gave each and everyone that came up to her, quality time to talk about anything they wanted to and she gave her impression of Jamaica as a film making hub. She definitely thinks the country has potential and wants to see more productions coming out of Jamaica by Jamaicans as she is a true believer that people must tell their own stories.
Attending the workshop was a blessing and eye opener, as I learned some great acting techniques and philosophies that will definitely translate into my next film making project. Cassandra is not only an actress, but she teaches the craft as well, so her lessons were very strong and she was able to get the most of out of you in a short space of time, young or old. Her lessons were very revealing in detecting what is wrong with someone's acting.
It's a pity she was only here for a few days, but I am grateful we even got her any at all. I only hope this means bigger and better things for the future of the local film industry and it's impact on the world.
Meeting with CMP and MPI
A few months ago a fellow named Jo Spalburg contacted me on facebook looking for Caribbean films to enter into Sankofa UK television film festival. I pointed him to a short film produced by my business partner Robin Chin and I, (Heart Shaped Box) and a documentary done by David Johnson (Just Action).
Unfortunately I was unable to attend, but I heard it was well received. A month later, I get a call from Jo and he is heading to Jamaica for one day and wants to meet up. I met up with him after work yesterday and had a great conversation about a distribution company, Media Partners International ltd. of which he is the Managing Director and his other distribution company, Caribbean Media Partners. Where MPI handles distributing European content to Jamaica, CMP is the reverse. They distribute and market Caribbean content to Europe and North America for filmmakers looking to break into those markets and they facilitate the sharing of content, including news, TV series and documentaries across the region in all Caribbean languages. English, Spanish, French, Dutch and Portuguese.
Needless to say this was all very interesting and we are already plotting ways to get into various markets as the local distribution sector is completely backward. He was taken aback when I told him we as filmmakers have to pay to put our content on TV here. It was a fact that took a while to sink in.
Through CMP he has a VOD platform called www.caribbe.tv. It is just starting out but they already have deals with Caribvision, Hype TV, RETV, JNN, Tempo and many more popular Caribbean stations.
Early days yet, but I am looking to see where this goes and what it will mean for strengthening the exposure of Caribbean content.
I am a Filmmaker, Animator and Writer. I love telling stories and making them come true. You will see me on the big screen soon enough.