Fri | Aug 7, 2020

GATFFEST pitch competition winners to use cash for varied reasons

Published:Saturday | December 7, 2019 | 12:05 AMKimberley Small/Staff Reporter
Professor Ian Boxill affixes his signature to a symbolic cheque, as filmmakers Vennessa Hanshaw, Kaiel Eytle and Hanif James, along with Professor Dale Webber, pro-vice-chancellor and principal of The UWI, Mona, look on.
Professor Ian Boxill affixes his signature to a symbolic cheque, as filmmakers Vennessa Hanshaw, Kaiel Eytle and Hanif James, along with Professor Dale Webber, pro-vice-chancellor and principal of The UWI, Mona, look on.

Filmmakers need funding for all kinds of reasons, and the top-three recipients of GATFFEST’s first-pitch competition (which took place at the festival’s first film market earlier this year) reveal that though trodding the same path to a summer premiere, they will all be using their winnings for varied reasons, at various stages of the production process. From hiring talent, to securing perfect lighting equipment and locations, to post-production (those finishing touches that turn footage to film), filmmakers Hanif James, Vennessa Hanshaw and Kaiel Eytle have pocketed some generous cheques, and are now well on their way to completing their community-based short films in time for the 2020 festival period.

James’ $700,000 will go into the production of A Shade of Indigo. Hanshaw will use her $700,000 for long-awaited post-production work on her film, A Touch of Sugar; and Eytle’s $500,000 cheque will be funnelled into securing talent for his psychological, supernatural horror short film, Nice Lady.

In support of the growing local film community, the UWI Community Film Project received donations totalling $1.9 million. Bob Marley Foundation donated $1.5 million and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) donated $400,000, to be shared among the pitch competition winners. Guided by JSIF, the productions will be filmed in inner-city communities, with the expectation that residents and small businesses in the communities will directly benefit from the productions.

Winners grateful

“It’s been a long time coming, but we’re grateful,” Hanshaw told The Gleaner. A Touch of Sugar, written and directed by Hanshaw, and co-directed by Mark-Anthony Deacon, follows a bottom-of-the-bottle young man who must confront his feelings to be a better father to his son. She continued: “Thankfully, with JSIF, we can use the communities that they’re a part of. So that cost is offset. GATFFEST is helping with transportation, so the bulk of it is really post-production. We’ve been preparing for it. It really was just waiting on the money to come in.”

A Shade of Indigo, written and directed by James, follows an adolescent girl who struggles with her identity as she begins bleaching her skin. He was inspired to write the script after time spent abroad, where he experienced what it felt like to be brown in a predominantly white country. “I started thinking about what people actually experience because of how they were born and the fact that there isn’t enough conversation, not just about racism, but also about colourism, even within our own black communities,” he shared. With colour at the fore, A Shade of Indigo’s production will rely heavily on lighting and shading. “What I’m really inspired by in terms of film and cinematography is the use of light and shadow. Colour is such an important aspect of the film, so a lot of money goes into production,” he explained.

One of their winners, Caleb D’Aguilar, had to forgo the winnings, for good reason. He was accepted to a prestigious film school in the UK. In his place, Kaiel Eytle, along with UWI Community Film Project graduate Shayane McKay, will produce Nice Lady, a psychological, supernatural horror short. “[ Nice Lady] started out based on the experiences of a friend of mine. I decided to expand on that and twist it with the supernatural. Horror is a great space to explore those negative aspects of who we are as a society. So I’m taking the opportunity to explore the genre myself and poke at things we have a little bit of a hard time discussing,” Eytle said.

The bulk of Eytle’s funding will be going towards the film’s talent, both in front of and behind the camera. In addition to exploring the horror genre, Eytle’s other goal is to take film students and other young aspirants looking for opportunities, and pair them in an assistant or shadowing role with more experienced people in the industry.

kimberley.small@gleanerjm.com