Investing in developing filmmakers and actors in Tobago

By Sophia Cooper

THE Division of Community Development and Culture spent $120,000 during the recent filming of The Resort by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Shadae Smith in exchange for training aimed at developing local talent.
Of the 45 people on the cast, only four came from outside Trinidad and Tobago. The others responded to an open casting call for roles that largely focused on the support and service staff of the tourism industry, like house-keeping.
The story is based on a couple’s visit to the island and their interaction with locals in making it an unforgettable vacation.
Community Development and Culture Secretary Dr. Denise Tsoiaffatt-Angus says the Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) involvement not only covered the stipends and meals during the five days of filming, but it was also used to negotiate a training workshop by Smith in August. “They have also given their commitment to coming back and doing those workshops as part of that [$120,000] investment,” she said.
“When we were approached by the company to do the film, The Resort, we saw it as an opportunity to invest in the development of our young filmmakers and actors on the island, and in that regard we were able to come to an area of collaboration, ” the Secretary explained. This collaboration included assistance from the Tourism Division in preparing Pigeon Point Heritage Park for the shoot.
Although Smith did not reveal the overall production costs borne by his company, he stated that the expenses covered by the THA were not a major part of their budget. He added that their Los Angeles funding sources paid for the expensive 16mm film, its processing and bringing in crew members from the United States of America.
Smith was quick to point out his Caribbean roots and warned that the region needs to work on the quality of their films, “Once you create good stories with quality footage it will sell regardless, because it’s good. Now the problem is, and I am going to be honest, when I do see some films from the Caribbean they might have a really good story but it might not be written right or shot right.”
He congratulated the Secretary and her Division for attempting to correct this perception, “It’s a small step, but it’s a good step towards creating something that can work as a market for showcasing and developing Caribbean film that could start right here and also move to something worldwide. “
Smith’s opinion was supported by Associate Producer and Production Coordinator Dave Elliott, one of the five locals on the crew. Elliot said when a company wants to film in Tobago the only thing it should work with is a script and Tobago should be able to provide the rest. He says he wants a situation where “investment remains here on the island and filters down and is not watered down”.

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