The Reel | The Three P's - Pre-production, production & post-production
The Jamaican film industry has been experiencing a rapid ebb and flow in recent years and seems poised for a huge wave of possibilities. Today we continue our feature The Reel - which explores the industry, highlights the player and the possibilities of a bona fide film district on the rock.
Today, we shine the spotlight on the players who work behind the scenes to bring the visuals to the cinema or your television screen.
To facilitate a feature film, there are a number of roles and departments necessary for pre-production, production, and post-production, which require investments of human capital.
Before a film is shot, locations must be selected, approved, and entire sets erected. In the case of Yardie, Donna Noble was the art director in Jamaica who had to recreate elements of the 1970s. "It is the production designer's job to create the film's 'world', to bring the look and feel of the film to life," Noble explained to The Sunday Gleaner.
"Bringing the director's vision to life is the ultimate goal for a set designer, but you also have to keep the producer's plan and the budget in mind, so it really takes a collaboration between all departments. It was my responsibility to oversee the construction, painting, and dressing of the sets and to work alongside the rest of the local art department crew," she added.
"The art department crew on a feature can run into the hundreds, so although a large project for Jamaica, this was still a relatively small crew," Noble said.
Set decorator David Morison came over from England and was assisted by a Jamaican team of dressers, a prop master, a construction team, and a painting department. The set buyer, Rachelle Williams, was responsible for sourcing set dressing and props. Williams' job was particularly challenging as there are no prop houses in Jamaica.
This aspect of all films requires specialised skills. Cinematographer Garreth Daley has a special set of skills in using a steadicam. Usually employed for outside broadcasting and sports events, over the past two years, the unit has been booked for films.
"People tend to say steadicams are from back in the days, and no one uses it anymore. It's what they used in Rocky (Sylvester Stallone, 1976), that scene where he's running up the stairs," he explained. Regardless of the equipment's reputation, Daley boasts the reputation as the premiere steadicam operator on the island. He was catapulted to that position after a football match.
"In 2014, I did CONCACAF U-20 in Montego Bay with Phase 3 Productions. I shot there, and out of that - two years later - one of the management team members reached out to ask if it would be the same steadicam operator. I went to shoot COPA America as the only camera operator out of Jamaica," he remarked.
His work paved the way for other major projects like Marvel's Luke Cage. Daley also worked on Storm Saulter's latest feature film, Sprinter. "It was my first feature film, and it wasn't easy. It opened my eyes to the seriousness of the big leagues." This year, Daley worked on British crime drama Top Boy (Netflix) as well as an upcoming music video for UK performer Stefflon Don.
"Work has been presenting itself as there are more people bringing productions here because it's cheaper to hire someone down here if your work is on par. People ask for references and recommendations." Daley's hope is that people start seeing such skills as avenues to fully realised careers and not just a 'hustle'.
After footage has been shot, it must be edited. Twain Richardson, co-founder of Frame of Reference, is on a campaign to stir up interest for post-production work among young people. "We have a summer programme called In Focus because what we find in high schools is that you're just hearing about traditional jobs. Our aim is to teach the youth about filmmaking."
Frame of Reference is a post-production agency that would employ the skills of video editors, colourists, or VFX editors. "There is proof that these people are making a living. I'm an example as well as my staff," Richardson said.
Like Richardson, Daley hopes that his speciality will grow into a career for others. "It's a niche, but I still hope people will find interest. I can't do everything." He added: "I'm hoping more young people will see it as a career. They use Steadicams every day in the States for football features, short films, feature films. the possibilities are endless. You have to love it and be passionate. It can be a career path."
As his reputation builds, Daley also sees space for the positions supporting steadicam operators. "I can't work unless I have a focus puller with me and not someone who dabbles or is doing it as a hustle. We need people who see it as a career. That's something that's few in numbers."
He also sees a need for camera assistants. "They're not 'assistants' in the way people think. They aren't just lugging around equipment. Camera assistants are people who know measurements, who can change camera settings, who can solve technical problems on the ground. You can't work without them."
As much as what we see in the cinemas or on our television screen, it takes an army behind the scenes to bring it to life.