The recent shoot of the music video for Nicki Minaj's single, "Pound The Alarm" revealed many things that need to be fixed before Trinidad can be considered a desirable destination for international video and film production.
It's not that the island does not offer excellent locations that will entice filmmakers from around the world, but several factors in the way of bureaucracy, difficulty to get even simple things done and the lack of certain equipment makes it quite frustrating.
Director of the "Pound The Alarm" Video, Benny Boom who had also shot the "Big Pimping" music video here for Jay-Z back in 2000, had a sit down with CEO of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company, Carla Foderingham after he wrapped the shoot.
The Express was invited to join in on the discussion in which the acclaimed videographer and filmmaker gave some advice on just what should be done to turn Trinidad into a viable destination for the global film community. Benny Boom said in a nutshell that Trinidad is doing everything, "back to front" and the authorities here need to literally turn things around before there could be any forward movement.
Interestingly animator and filmmaker, Shaun Escayg was also in Trinidad around this time and he too said to the Express that in the film production arena, things are done in a reverse manner and there needs to be drastic change. Both directors said they can't understand why one has to go to so many places in order to get information on possible locations, permits, licenses and to get financial matters put in place when there is the film company.
Benny Boom and Escayg drew reference to New York City where the Mayor's office there has an Office of Film, Theatre and Broadcasting where one can go and get everything set in place for whatever productions. One just has to sit at a computer and input the necessary data on the production and what is required and the Mayor's office takes it from there and deals with all permits and licenses needed.
Benny Boom joke of having to run from one place to another to get required permits and permissions to use locations, have the police cordon off places and reroute traffic where he was shooting, make arrangements for monies to come in for payments and don't talk about sourcing certain equipment that would have been too challenging to bring in with them for the production. Escayg too spoke of the nightmare it has been for him to shoot productions here having to get the same things put in place for even the simplest of productions.
By the way, Escayg is the person who animated Bumble Bee and the Worm in the Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon movie and also the screenwriter/director of the short film, Fish that made it to the top 50 of 15,000 films submitted for the prestigious Ridley Scott: Your Film Festival and is expected to make the top 10.
Benny Boom has directed music videos for the who's who of the music world including; Jay-Z, Birdman, Nas, Ja Rule, 50 Cent, T-Pain, R Kelly and many others. He also directed the acclaimed films; Next Day Air and S.W.A.T. Firefight. The much sought after director studied his craft at Temple University's School of Radio, Television, & Film.
Benny Boom said that the Film Company must become the one stop shop for anyone wanting to come in to Trinidad and Tobago to shoot any video or film production. He said the hassle of a director, producer or their people having to run all around the island to get the paperwork done has to stop. He added that until he met Fodderingham and the Film Company got involved he felt as though he was pulling teeth to get things done.
Benny Boom also said the Government through the Film Company needs to use the many human resources available to it in New York and Los Angeles. He recommended a Trinidadian, a former journalist, out in New York who was the production manager on the "Pound The Alarm" shoot and works regularly with Benny Boom.
Benny Boom recommended the person be employed as the liaison between the Film Company and people in the industry, including Trinbagonians and people of Trinbagonian heritage such as actress, Nia Long, filmmaker, Little X and others. Benny Boom suggested that a coalition of sorts be formed by these people who will sell Trinidad and Tobago as a location for films. He said there are places here that can be used as locations mirroring other destinations where it is either too expensive or maybe even too dangerous to shoot.
An example he gave was the use of Puerto Rico for the filming of the Fast and Furious 5, which was actually set in Brazil. Foderingham underscored this telling Benny Boom about the soon to be released movie, Home Again starring Tatyana Ali as a young woman deported from Canada to Jamaica. When the Canadian producers encountered problems in getting into Jamaica to shoot the movie they came here and found locations that were just like the places in Jamaica they had based the movie on.
Benny Boom also added that during his time here he and his Trini-born liason were also able to identify places that can serve as sound stages where major productions can be done. He also advised that the Film Company and even private entrepreneurs invest in heavy equipment that can be warehoused for when international filmmakers come in or even to be used by the locals.
Escayg went even further to say that with the 35 per cent guarantee cash back incentive being offered by the Government, the Film Company can select the ten best screenplays from local writers and go into Hollywood telling any of the production houses here are ten good screenplays that you can invest in. Escayg said that just telling a Warner Brothers or Miramax that they are guaranteed a 35 per cent return on investment is enough for them to be willing to invest a couple million in a good screenplay or ten even.
Both Bennie Boom and Escayg believe Trinidad and Tobago has something very good to sell to the world in its culture, land, sea, people and creativity. The biggest challenge they see is for the powers that be realise that in order for there to be a real breakthrough there must be significant investment in the right areas and that people be dedicated to and honest in everything they do. The two directors said that greed will get the local film industry nowhere very fast.