It’s just over a couple weeks to the start of the trinidad+tobago film festival/09. It’s also Independence Day here in Trinidad and Tobago and, from the sounds of it, it’s a country gone a bit mad. Earlier today, I could hear sirens from a nearby parade, while this afternoon brought the raucous sounds from a neighbouring bar and the people next door who have put up massive speakers seem to be continuing their party into the night. And, of course, it’s now time for the fireworks show in the Queen’s Park Savannah, so booms are booming, car alarms going off, dogs barking, and I swear, above it all, there’s a baby crying.
Yet, in the midst of all this, our team is festival-focused as we work hard to pull off our own mid-September celebrations. Like any good celebration of anything worthwhile, a lot of hard work goes into the preparation. Celeste, one of our interns, mentioned a few weeks ago that a friend expressed disbelief when she told him she was busy working with us. “How much work is involved in putting together a film festival?” her friend wondered. Well, in response to that unnamed friend, here’s the very much abridged version.
Early this year, we put out a call for entries for films to be screened at the festival. This year, we used the website,Without a Box, and received a 500% increase in the number of films received. Those films weren’t going to watch themselves, so the selection committee, head up by Annabelle Alcazar, our programme director, set about doing just that and making some tough decisions in order to whittle hundreds of features and shorts down to sixty-something. Letters of notification then went out to directors. At the same time, our festival mission was being reconsidered, locations for film viewings were being secured, workshop themes chosen, special guests invited for workshop participation, the festival artist chosen, the festival venues secured, and festival themes defined. Then to New York to create the festival’s limited edition print.
Also, we can’t do anything without funds, and so we set about getting our sponsors for the 09 season, a formidable task that festival executive director, Marina Salandy Brown undertook in earnest. Festival cash prizes were established. At the same time, Emilie Upczak, our creative director was busy with our official design partners, charged with overseeing our new visual identity, which included rebuilding our website. (We may look great now, but it took a lot of work to get us this way!) We coordinated, and continue to do so, with our festival viewing partners at the StudioFilmClub, at UWI, Naparima Girls, and in Tobago. Jonathan and I watched the selected films and compressing hours of film into to what we hope are lucid and entertaining synopses. (How often can one use the word, “poignant,” Jonathan once asked.) Ads were designed for magazines as were invites to launches and text was written for our festival guide, as well as for speeches to be delivered at special events. Our design partners were working on our poster while, at the same time, fitting info for all our films onto a single sheet of paper and shuffling through hundreds of images from around T+T to find those that would best suit our identity and reproduce well for our billboards and standees. Our festival fashion designer was briefed and set about working on our T-shirts and tote bags. Ticket and accommodation arrangements were being made for our guests. Press conferences were put together, the artwork launch party was held, interviews were given here and there, caterers were hired. Questions are coming at us from all directions and we’re sending them out in all directions, too. And, this morning, a meeting about a newspaper insert didn’t allow much room for sleeping in. And, we’ll continue again tomorrow.
It’s been a lot of work—work which sometimes, if not always, calls for us to put in time on the weekends and holidays. But, we’re not complaining. Today’s Independence Day reminds us of what we’re trying to accomplish here in Trinidad and Tobago and of our mission of becoming “the cutting-edge Caribbean film festival that continues to evolve and expand in celebrating expression and empowerment through film.” Without a Trinidad and Tobago there is no trinidad+tobago film festival so today, especially, we’re grateful and happy that we have the privilege of working hard to put on a celebration of and for and in our country—a country that is, above all else, free.