The Shot List shining a spotlight on film
Thanks to the transatlantic partnership of the organisations the Jamaica Film & Television Association (JAFTA), The British Council, and We Are Parable, droves of creators and consumers of film enjoyed themselves at The Shot List, the film festival dedicated to showcasing visual arts offerings from the UK, Trinidad, and Jamaica. Ten hours of independent short films, music videos, and television episodes projected, as patrons plopped down bean bag balls and blankets, taking in the exclusive selection.
For a community devoted to a visual medium, the aspiring film-makers and film lovers of Jamaica often seem to be perpetually hidden from view. The presence of hard-working creative minds devoted to the craft of telling stories through moving pictures feels more like a myth in the contemporary landscape of home-grown entertainment. Local film artists may be hard to find in your day to day, but at The Shot List, they could get a chance at the spotlight they deserved.
The unique visions of independent creatives that are only limited by their budgets. Stories like My Maxi, the Trinidadian mockumentary short film that finds humour and heart of a pansexual man coming out to his parents. The tragic decades spanning tale of a Jamaican family, entwined by the roots of a breadfruit garden in Sweet Yellow Heart. A misadventurous romantic encounter from the UK in The Perfect Knight. No matter the region, The Shot List had a diverse array of narratives on display.
For JAFTA president Saeed Thomas, that’s what the event was all about. “We wanted to highlight a lot of films that we felt like people wouldn’t have seen anywhere else.” but there’s more to The Shot List than entertainment. The festival is in its second year, and for it’s sophomore stint, the name of the game was escalation through education. While attendees were free to take in the short films on the big screen like the year prior, this time they had the option of joining two workshops run by professionals with hands on experience ready to share their keys to success.
“At JAFTA, we always want there to be a component of learning” said Thomas. Speaking with patrons of both workshops, it seems the result was success. “You didn’t just learn about film, you learned how to present yourself and your ideas,” was a comment on ‘Making a Winning Pitch’ as presented by Opal Levy.
“You got the sense that your first five minutes makes all the difference for your script,” a lesson learnt from sitting in on ‘Writing for TV’ with Adjani Salmon. The British Academy Film Awards winner did more than divulge his learnt industry secrets, but was the subject of a segment all to himself, as he gave the audience a special presentation of his work, followed by a Q & A that involved the audience, speaking in particular about his success with the BBC series Dreaming Whilst Black. As a Jamaican living in England, Adjani couldn’t help but share his joy about bringing his work home. “Showing this to a Jamaican audience is really something else,” he said.
“It’s about showing the viability of it. Yes lots of people have a dream, but we want to show you how you can turn that dream into a success story” said Thomas. Whether you joined the workshops or not, The Shot List put knowledge at the forefront. Several panel discussions with film-makers were held, including experienced members of the music video scene. The creators of content dove into their process, and the obstacles they’ve faced. With so much going on perhaps the most astounding element of The Shot List was its brisk pacing. The festival was packed with short after short, yet each segment of the days’ events went on as promised with nary a delay nor a postponement.
Finally as the night came to a close, the unveiling of the winners from the JAFTA Propella program were screened for the first time to the public. Those films were The Shade of Indigo, a topical issue driven narrative about the perils of bleach ridden topical cream, by first time film-maker Hanif Jones, Time To Go, a memorable ode to memory by Gemmar McFarlane, and Parolytic, the dialogue free story with the visuals of a nightmare, of a young person’s harrowing journey, by Nadean Rawlins.
Speaking of the 2023 selection, Thomas had this to say, “For this year with Propella, we really focused on the story, and bringing out a different kind of film than you’re used to seeing from Jamaica”.
The final showing of the evening came from former Propella winner Kurt Wright, debuting his fully fledged pilot based on his 2016 short film of the same name Origins. The episode depicts the terror wrought by the witch Annie Palmer and is chock full of all manner of Jamaican folklore brought to life.
With the directors on the stage, they were questioned on how their films came to be, and what they saw as their next steps. Some mentioned other projects, others an initiative to be seen in festivals around the world, others were proud just to show their films to the crowd in front of them.
Throughout the day there was an overwhelming sense of optimism unbridled. Surrounded by like-minded creatives, those interested in becoming directors and writers could leave the event with a greater sense of the industry they wish to join.
At The Shot List the impossible dream seemed downright possible, with the eventuality of failure characterised as an opportunity for growth by several of the speaking experts. But whether it be the BBC television show born out of a webseries by Adjani Salmon, or the pilot episode developed from the short film by Kurt Wright, or the script that becomes a short by Hanif James, or the twisted vision that becomes manifested on screen, by Nadean Rawlins, the overwhelming lesson was that the journey of film starts with a single step. For several leaving The Shot List, that first step may be easier than ever before.