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British Council, JAMPRO & JAFTA facilitate script development workshop

Published:Thursday | March 2, 2017 | 5:38 PMKimberley Small
Filmmakers Immersion participant Gabrielle Blackwood, sets up her camera to start filming in Jamaica.
President of JAFTA, Gabrielle Blackwood (left) and Film Commissioner, Renee Robinson.

Fifteen local film-makers were selected to participate in the British Council's script-development workshop for experienced film professionals, in partnership with JAMPRO and the Jamaica Film and Television Association (JAFTA), from March 1-5, 2017, in Kingston.

The five-day workshop was designed to introduce the concept and practice of good script development by focusing on the role of the script editor and their relationship with screenwriters and producers.

Following a rigorous application process, the film-makers benefitted from the guidance and expertise of Ludo Swolski, a script consultant, as well as second unit and assistant director of various films and television shows. Smolski, also a tutor for the National Film and Television School's Postgraduate Diploma in Script Development, facilitated the sessions.

JAFTA's president, Gabrielle Blackwood, told The Sunday Gleaner that the British Council made contact, enquiring the areas they believed needed assistance. Further to their approach, Blackwood said that the British Council suggested the workshop, along with its facilitator.

"The script-development workshop is designed to facilitate the relationship between screenwriters, producers and script editors, and how to navigate the fragile relationships between producers and writers," Blackwood told The Sunday Gleaner.

JAFTA sent out an invitation for entrants to the workshop in January, with screenwriters asked to submit a cover note along with a full feature-length script. Producers were asked to present a body of work, and script editors were asked to submit their analysis of an existing screenplay or film. The final 15 were selected by a judging panel of three, consisting of a JAFTA representative, a JAMPRO representative, and a representative from the British Council. Blackwood said that the workshop was deliberate and methodical, taking the form of lectures and practical and pitching sessions. The workshop focused on script analysis (of existing films, scripts, and treatments), how to meet budgets, and how to get scripts from paper to the screen.

"The help starts with storytelling," Swolski told The Sunday Gleaner. "Is it as engaging as it is supposed to be? Is it working as a work of cinema?" he continued. Admitting that he was not familiar with Jamaican film-makers, Swolski posited that his unfamiliarity could be because local production has been targeting the local audience.

"There has not been a huge output in Jamaican films that have travelled. One of the objectives of the workshop is to find ways of storytelling that look outward instead of inward," he said.

Swolski's numerous credits label him as a script consultant, a role, he said, is not so simple to define.


"There is not an easy answer. My role is to work on a script with a writer, to help them make a script better," he said. Though the procedure sounds straightforward, Swolski told The Sunday Gleaner that it is to be noted that it is merely one step in the filmmaking process. "Given how difficult it is to write a screenplay, it is not the finished product. Consider that a film is going to be made from that script," he said.

"It's been a great experience so far. It's a combination of writers and producers and film-makers. I think they're doing great because it's particularly difficult when you try to talk about new ways of working versus talking about ways things have always been done. They have been open so far," he told The Sunday Gleaner, declaring that the group has been fantastic in having its work disassembled. "It's a very personal thing. For them to be so generous, it has helped to make the workshop work," he continued.

Jamaica's Film Commissioner, Renee Robinson, said that JAMPRO was pleased to be supporting the initiative because of its potential to develop the industry's skills, a major focus of the agency. Robinson said, "JAMPRO, through the Film Commission, is pleased to be partnering with the British Council and JAFTA on the delivery of this workshop. We are always exploring partnerships that will further the development of the industry and this programme is one such. We look forward to the positive outcomes and anticipate our continued partnership."

"As the organisation tasked with representing and developing the film industry in Jamaica, we look forward to the mentorship and training that will come from this workshop and anticipate the ultimate production of the feature-length scripts," Blackwood said.

Affirming their support of the development of arts in the region, The British Council's Caribbean Director and Country Director for Jamaica, Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick, stated that the organisation had more projects in the pipeline to support the development of the arts and the creative economy. Jacobs-Bonnick said, "In maintaining our commitment to contributing to the development of a healthy film ecosystem in Jamaica, The British Council is pleased to partner with JAMPRO and JAFTA to host this workshop. Our arts and creative economy work in Jamaica and the Caribbean focuses on skills development, knowledge transfer, artist collaboration, and institutional partnerships. This is one of several development workshops in the arts that we hope will deepen our relationship with the industry in Jamaica and the region."

The British Council has also teamed up with the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival for the same initiative. Ludo Swolski will facilitate a similar script-development workshop for another 15 film-makers in Port-of-Spain from March 8-12, 2017.