Beyond the lens with Gabrielle Blackwood
Thirty-one-year-old Gabrielle Blackwood always knew that she would be directing films. At just eight years old, she was writing and producing her own made-up plays, recreating moments from the Pantomime and the Olympics opening ceremony with her neighbours. She designed her own stage with just the right props and relived the glory of Olympics in her home-made stadium.
By virtue of being a bookworm, she found interest in story development and began watching and critiquing films. At a tender age, Blackwood took her creative energy seriously and worked towards developing it.
Blackwood said that her film journey officially began nine years ago, before heading off to read for her master's degree, having already earned a bachelors of arts in media and communication. She worked as a volunteer crew member on numerous productions in varying capacities. Since then, she has been running her own business where she directs and shoots films, documentaries, commercials, and music videos. " It didn't start easy and motivating myself in an industry that, at the time, wasn't very inclusive, was very small, was very unpredictable and very male-oriented, took a lot of backbone and was extremely difficult."
She continued: "It has been extremely challenging having people accept me as a director of photography/cinematographer or anything related to lifting heavy cameras or lighting a set, etc.," said Blackwood as she spoke about the trials she faced being a female in a male-oriented industry. She further stated that even negotiations over payment were difficult.
Her talent was finally recognised and she was accepted for her incredible work as opposed to being seen as threat or a female in a 'mancave'. For that, she was very much appreciative. Although, at times, she confesses that, "I am still sometimes mistaken as a producer or someone pushing paper." Not until the client sees that she is the one lighting, directing and shooting their production, do they acknowledge her.
Though she had to fight to make her mark, her hard work did not go unnoticed as she is now both a director and cinematographer. She is the first and youngest Jamaican to receive a commonwealth scholarship, specialising in film. She graduated top of her master's class at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, with a first class honours in screen production specialising in directing drama. Many of her films have been selected and awarded at multiple film festivals both regionally and internationally. Blackwood has lectured at three local institutions and is the current president of the Jamaica Film and Television Association (JAFTA).
Blackwood can't imagine a world without cameras but if she was not doing what she loves, she said that she would probably be travelling and doing some form of humanitarian work, as she loves to learn about different cultures, and meeting new people. If not she says she would be writing or conducting an orchestra, producing music or performing.