One of the ttff’s directors, Emilie Upczak, recently returned from the Miami International Film Festival (MIFF). Emilie sat down with me to discuss her experience.
What were the reasons for you going to MIFF?
I attended the festival as a representative of ttff in order to make links with another regional film festival, to network, to look for potential films for our programme and identify strategic partnerships with key players that could help develop our mission to support the development of a Caribbean film industry.
How is MIFF structured?
MIFF is a mid-sized film festival—not a huge festival like, say, Sundance [at which I worked last year]. It hosts approximately 50,000 participants over a two-week period, and is centrally located in South Beach. Their emphasis, like ours, is on the exhibition of films; however their programme is really an international programme without an overarching curatorial thrust, and their panels had a particular emphasis on the business of film. As a smaller festival, ttff is able to focus a bit more on training—our workshops are more developed than MIFFs—and our visiting filmmakers and participants may have a more intimate experience here in T&T.
What aspects of the festival did you find most useful?
I found the filmmakers’ lounge to be an excellent place to interact with guests of the festival in an informal setting. The panels were thematically well programmed and therefore the presenters in a short period of time were able to disseminate really valuable information. They had key representatives from major distribution companies, as well as sales agents, who participated in the festival as presenters.
Give me some idea of the types of panels you attended.
Alternative distribution mechanisms seemed to be one theme. Distribution in general—how to get finance and how to get your work out there. The business of film as opposed to the more creative elements of film.
Why do you think that was so?
Well, the technological platforms for cinematic exhibition are changing; how people are interacting with media is changing. Then there’s the increasing obsolescence of the DVD format. Also, each festival carves out its own niche and Miami is the hub for Latin American film, and as such it is focused on capital demand, as opposed to say, Sundance, which was founded by a creative person [Robert Redford] and focuses on the expression of the creative voice.
Did you get a sense that the Caribbean, as far as film is concerned, is on the international radar?
Unfortunately not. I didn’t get the feeling that distributors or even festival programmers are aware of the burgeoning Caribbean film industry. It was clear to me that the Caribbean is co-opted into Latin America—the term was used inclusively.
An interesting thing I realised is that film festivals are the new market places for independent filmmakers to make contact with distributors and/or sales agents. Therefore it’s of the utmost importance that programmers from Caribbean festivals like ourselves attend international festivals of note, and that Caribbean filmmakers not only create work but commit portions of their budgets to being at those festivals to promote their work and have creative and financial conversations with key people.
Did you make any useful connections or links for the ttff?
Yes, I did. Keep an eye out for our upcoming programme to find out more.