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Screenwriters meet at Jake's - Residency programme brings aspirants, mentors together

Published:Sunday | September 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM
A scene from Spider-Man: Homecoming, by Sony Pictures, whose VP Production, Eric Fineman, participated in the recent Screenwriters Residency Programme at Jake's in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth.
President of JAFTA Gabrielle Blackwood (left) and Film Commissioner Renee Robinson.
Gabrielle Blackwood, president of the Jamaica Film and Television Association (JAFTA).

The Jamaica Film and Television Association (JAFTA) and JAMPRO's Film Commission continue to develop and support educational initiatives for film-makers in an ongoing effort to encourage more involvement from local aspirants. From the development of the PROPELLA short film initiative, supported by The CHASE Fund, and the British Council's offer to host an internationally led script-development workshop, the organisations have collaborated once more to promote the Calabash Literary Festival, in partnership with ScreenCraft Media, Screenwriter's Residency Programme.

Fifteen Hollywood-writer aspirants spent September 12-16 at Jake's in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, under the tutelage of Hollywood industry professionals. The programme attracted the interest of approximately 400 international applicants, as well as the mentorship of a number of established, accomplished Hollywood screenwriters and literary agents.

Those included Jamaican-born Vanessa Ford (The Weinstein Company) and Steven de Souza, whose films have grossed over US$2 billion. Also in attendance as mentors were Eric Fineman, vice-president of production at Sony Pictures (Spider-Man: Homecoming), as well as literary manager Hannah Ozer from Kaplan/Perrone Management.

Three local aspiring film-makers - Tony 'Paleface' Hendricks, Kurt Wright, and Alana Igbe - were among the shortlisted participants. Hendricks and Igbe (the youngest resident) were invited to attend 100per cent tuition free. Wright was in the PROPELLA 2016 cohort, along with Hendricks.

"People don't have access to this on a regular basis. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," JAFTA president, Gabrielle Blackwood told The Gleaner. ScreenCraft Media is one of Hollywood's leading screenwriter-talent discovery platforms, specialising in educational events and screenwriting competitions. Many ScreenCraft contest winners have signed with Hollywood's top agencies and management companies, including 3Arts Entertainment, Paradigm Talent Agency, and United Talent Agency.

"There were excellent mentors. Screenwriters got to work one on one with mentors, who read all their scripts and offered feedback. There were peer reviews. Beyond that, the environment of Jake's and going out with everyone was another great feature," Blackwood continued.




Igbe told The Gleaner: "It was a lot going on. I think my biggest takeaway was everything I learnt from the mentors involved. The books recommended to read, the urge to continue to write and grow, the honest feedback, friendships forged, and the small adventures in between."

JAFTA, in partnership with JAMPRO, hosted an investor's roundtable at the end of the immersive week-long programme to facilitate knowledge exchange with local financiers and boutique investors and the residency programme's mentors. Along with Fineman and Ozer, other mentors who participated in the roundtable are Peter Craig (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay), Aaron Covington (Creed) and Steven de Souza (Die Hard, Commando).

Last March, with assistance from the British Council, JAMPRO and JAFTA partnered to facilitate 15 local film-makers in a script-development workshop.

That workshop was designed to facilitate the relationship among screenwriters, producers and script editors, and show how to navigate the fragile relationships between producers and writers.There, the filmmakers benefited from the guidance and expertise of script consultant Ludo Swolski.

"We are always exploring partnerships that will further the development of the industry," Blackwood said.