FilmTT’s Stakeholder Q&A
What is a Gaffer?
The Gaffer is the head of the Electrics/Lighting department on a film set. He or she is responsible for assisting the cinematographer with lighting and providing power to the set. They work directly with the cinematographer to achieve the look of the film the DoP is going for.
What skills do you need to be a gaffer?
You are not expected to have a specific degree to become a gaffer, but you will need experience and training in film/ TV production. A college education in this field is a great place to start to build your résumé and compile a demo reel of your work. Student films and independents are the best way to start learning the trade.
How did you become a Gaffer and how long have you been working in the industry?
I have been in the industry for 30 years to date I have always had a passion for creating scenes with light and the story that light tells it is like painting with lights.
What type of tools do you need to have on set?
These are some of the tools you should have: Utility Belt, a pair of gloves, Gaffer tape, Multi-tool like a Leatherman, Flashlight, Tape Measure, or Laser Light, Markers, Clothespin/A Clamps, Electrical Tester, and a Light Meter.
What is the relationship between the Cinematographer and Gaffer?
Having a strong relationship with the cinematographer is vital at the start of a production. Depending on factors like budget, shooting length, camera format, location, and more, the Gaffer will choose which units are right for a look and the scene the DP wants to achieve
When does the Gaffer join a film production?
From the inception of the production, the gaffer goes with the DP to scout the location for the shoot.
What is a Tech Reece?
That is when the DP, Gaffer, Sound, Producer, Director, AD go and visit the locations and make decisions regarding what is needed and plan the direction and look of the shoot.
What does a Gaffer look for during a Tech Reece?
You would look for things like electrical power supply, space for lighting, where is the strongest light source direction, place for storage of equipment, and accessibility.
What do you do when you are on set?
On set, you have to rig the lights, tweak the lights, check on the power supply, always be on attention to see what is going on set and if the lighting is to the DP’s liking. You also always must keep an eye on your equipment once the lights are on, as they can overheat and catch fire.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to become a gaffer?
I would say to love what you do and every day try to learn something.
IG: @sharipettiii | ScenePresents IG: @scenepresents |email: email@example.com
When did you realise you wanted to work in the film industry?
I realized I wanted to work in the film industry the first couple days I interned behind the scenes on my first film set. I loved the fast pace, the energy of the people around me, solving problems for people, and overall, just being in a creative environment of such high intensity. I never experienced anything like that before and wanted to learn more!
What was your first production job that you worked on and what was it like?
The first production I worked on behind the scenes was Bazodee, before that I worked as an actress on camera before. That experience working behind the scenes was a major eye opener for me and the reason why I decided to pursue a degree in film. It was a lot of hard work, I did a lot of things I didn’t exactly want to do (like clean toilets and taking out the garbage all day lol), but I knew the work i was putting in would lead to other opportunities. I also learned a lot about other departments by observing how things operated and that gave me the confidence to take on other positions in the film industry in the future when presented with opportunities.
Why "Scene Productions" and what do you want to shoot?
I wanted to start a platform to display my work, since there were a lot of projects I wanted create, but I didn’t want them to all be on my personal social media pages, and I also needed to register a company in order to formalize my career, so the idea came at the right time. I started making my own content because I found that when I spent hours on YouTube, I rarely ever found channels dedicated to content from the Caribbean that wasn’t a vlog, or music videos, so I wanted to contribute to the kind of work people saw when they searched Trinidad or the Caribbean on YouTube. It’s a platform I want to grow beyond what it is currently, as a place where anyone from anywhere in the world can browse if they want to see mostly short form digital media from the Caribbean, and I hope to expand and make content in the diaspora as well. Whether it be short documentaries, narrative and documentary series, short films, investigative journalism, experimental work etc.
How has the pandemic encouraged you to explore film otherwise?
Honestly, during this time I have mainly been doing a lot of post-production work, and research. I filmed a good bit of projects right before lockdown, so I’ve seen picture locking projects I would have had in progress for a while, editing projects that were shot right before the pandemic, and jotting down ideas for new work I plan to make in the future, and watching a lot of movies and series.
As a Caribbean filmmaker what inspires you?
What inspires me is my community and my family and the fact that I want to be an example for them and encourage them to take steps towards achieving their goals and not using their circumstances as an excuse to settle for less. I want them to see that I look like them, grew up around them, and was able to make something of myself regardless of the challenges I would have faced growing up. And I also want to be in a position to assist them financially and otherwise, so I know I have a lot of work to do still.
What is your hope for the Caribbean industry?
I hope that one day watching a Caribbean film in the movie theatres, Netflix, television and other platforms across the region and the globe, becomes the norm and not a “once in a while” experience. I want us to be able to profit off of our films and really make our mark in the global film industry just as Nollywood, Bollywood and Hollywood.
What advice can you give to persons interested in working in the film industry?
I will say to research on YouTube or via books as much as you can about the industry to see if this is something for you because it takes up a lot of your time. I would also suggest reaching out to the people in your local industry and ask if they need a hand or assistance in anyway, even if it’s for free. A lot of times that’s how people get to experience being on set for the first time and if you perform well, I’m sure people would want you around more.
Director: www.steventaylorfilm.com | Ig: @steventaylorfilm | firstname.lastname@example.org
Why did you decide to make this short?
Raise your hand if this is you: hypnotically binging content across platforms, numbly sliding your thumb across instagram's infinity scroll or better yet, falling uncontrollably into the depths of Netflix's streaming tunnel. I'll put my hand down though, so I can finish typing --- One morning at 4am, the finale rolling credits of another binged series descended us into darkness as the projection screen dimmed before our eyes. I looked quizzically at my wife and producing partner, Rheem and asked, 'Why aren't we making content?' Think about it - we have an opportune moment to splash our stories, ideas and creations across screens that face humans who are bored to death while trapped in quarantine. Content, especially during these times, is I.V. drip therapy for the global, house-ridden captives. We've surrendered our attention to the online/virtual world in search of information, education and more than ever, a safe means of escapism through digital media. There is a very clear demand with no middle man to 'jumbie the vibe '. (Plus, I was seriously having filmmaking withdrawals). In that moment, we brainstormed some ideas and fleshed out the concept that was the creepiest -- '19' (2020) was born.
What did you have to do to prepare for filming and were there any challenges?
Honestly, I've been preparing all of my life through my early trial and error phases in academia and work experiences, so there wasn't much preparation for this specific film but ore of an action plan. Of course without a crew and professional equipment, my goal was to simplify the process and focus on the things that we can control. With that mindset, I wrote the script on WhatsApp that same night, all the while being mindful to incorporate the limited resources that we had at our disposal. The film was done with a cellphone, a flashlight, a small selfie mobile light, a broken tripod, an Osmo, a free mobile app, free editing software and the internet. The most challenging aspect was lighting. I wanted to preserve the image integrity as much as possible, despite shooting on a phone, by avoiding underexposed, grainy and soft-focused images. All of which was a bit challenging when working on a tiny screen with weak light sources and no grip gear.
Were you satisfied with the outcome?
Yes, and the extremely positive global response concretizes that satisfaction.
Is there anything you would change about it if you weren’t limited by the constraints of the pandemic?
Yes! I missed my production crew. (haha) I really enjoy their energy of collaboration and the fun of set life. However, I won't change anything with regards to the outcome of '19'. These 'pandemic limitations' forced me to make directorial choices that had to be technically accomplishable, economical, visually distinct and story/character-driven. Limitations pushed me to improvise…like using crunched up aluminum foil around the flashlight to control light spillage instead of the more convenient black wrap.
How have you been coping in this time and is there any advice you would give to fellow creatives in this time to stay afloat, mentally, financially and otherwise?
I am the kind of person that latches onto positivity in most situations. The positives may not outweigh the negatives, but they are sure as hell less tedious. For me, I am working on sharpening the skills that I have and embracing the idea of learning even more. #neverstoplearning I've started back editing and have since produced and premiered a global music video where we invited families from all over the world to submit personal cell phone videos singing along to Erphaan Alves's 'Hold On'. It was a new experience
where I directed persons from all over the world who had different languages and lived in different time zones to create a cohesive product while observing social distancing. I've also released, using untouched BTS footage, a new series entitled 'Fly on the Wall' where we give local audiences a peek into the behind the scenes of my local music video productions. I'm honestly, just sitting here thinking to myself, 'What would I want to binge?' - but , instead of binging, I’m creating. . This change in perspective created a more uplifting, purposeful mood and positively shaped my mentality towards work while allowing me to ultimately break it down to this - our digital products are made up of ones and zeros - it's intangible - we sell air - and air is essential and always in demand, just like water. 'What's the difference between tap water and bottled water?' -- primarily packaging -- it's still water. Therefore, the crucial decision lies with how we determine the right packaging for our content for the appropriate method of distribution. It is important that we do the much needed research and find out more information about the demands and trends of our target audiences/clients and (re)package our content to suit their ever-changing needs for maximum financial returns.
How have you been spending the time generally?
Generally, I've been avoiding setting alarms or paying too much attention to time because counting the number of days spent inside can only become depressing. My days are a mix of cooking new recipes with my wife, social media management, grabbing the occasional seat in one of the many instagram LIVE sessions, constant online networking, dressing up for the occasional date nights and liming on Zoom with friends and family, both locally and abroad.
What do you think the future of the film industry can look like after this time?
If we use this time to truly hone our writing/development skills while drawing inspiration from our personal experiences, we can become more consistent at developing stories that bare souls by creating on-screen characters that tug at our emotions. If we take a step back from the overly-indulgent cinematic gimmicks and return to a place of pure ‘gut’ creativity which could potentially lead us, as individual creatives and as a community, towards even prouder ownership of our authentic and unreplicable voices. I think we can look forward to seeing more films that are somewhat stripped of borrowed form to ones that boldly set out to birth a new legacy of memorable character-driven stories.
What do you think can be put in place to help filmmakers and other creatives recover from this blow?
Everyone will recover differently from this experience but why wait until after to put things in place? We need the opportunities at this very moment. One idea would be to curate an active, digital job offer board that connects creatives directly to global opportunities and also offers assistance that pairs paid brand partnerships with content creators. Additionally, investing in more financially incentivized opportunities for icons, new and emerging creatives, to share knowledge through virtual workshops, online conferences and mentorship portals. It's about adding value to what is available within our borders and embracing untapped human resources as we shape our new “normal”. Overall, we will come out of it with a broadened scope of knowledge and some sense of financial sustainability.
We've seen you and Steven work together on 'Buck -The Man Spirit'. How has this relationship influenced your compositions used in "19"? And can you describe what it's like working together?
We both started working together on ‘Buck – The Man Spirit’ in 2012 and since then our skill sets has improved exponentially. I have also scored works for Steven when he was a student at USC and we have also worked on various music videos where he was the Director and I had the role of Sound Designer. My job is to compliment the Director’s vision and to provide the Score or Sound Design that would best tell the story the Director wants to tell. This involves a lot of discussion and the spotting of the film. During a spotting session the Director and Composer will watch the film together identifying cue points of emotion, where to and where not to have music and what the Director wants the audience to feel in a scene. A film is a Director’s creative baby and after developing the vision, directing the cast and crew and overseeing the editing process the Director now has to hand over this creative idea to a person who is trusted to add the emotional finishes to the film. That person is the Film Composer. We have developed that trust.
Were you satisfied with the outcome?
We have received great reviews so far from various film critics who published their views on their blogs and other forms of social media. The film has also been featured on a video podcast and tonight (Thursday) a summary of the film was broadcast on CNC3. We have also received numerous positive comments about the film, through personal messages and social media posts, about how good it was or how it scared them with a few people asking if we are going to make a feature film from it. As the person responsible for composing the Score, developing the Sound Design and finalizing the total audio mix it is also satisfying that people were also commenting positively about the overall sound of this short film.
How has the current pandemic impacted on your approach to projects and what creative methods have you utilised to facilitate the changes?
My methods and approaches to projects have not changed much due to our current pandemic. Most of my interactions are already online and I spend most of my working time composing or audio editing. I am in a fortunate situation where my tools are readily accessible for me to do my part in post-production and I send the drafts/final products via the internet.
What would you consider the most challenging aspect of composing music specifically for a short film?
Just starting out on a blank slate and trying to express the subtext of the character/mood of the film. When scoring to picture, a film composer is like a filmmaker whose specialty is storytelling through sound. My job is to heighten, lessen or even go contrary to the story being told on screen and also to say things that the visuals can’t (or won’t) say. In a short film (or any length of film) I have to immediately immerse the viewer into its world, keep the viewer engaged, know when to have music and most importantly when NOT to have music and emotionally carry the story to its completion.
What is next for you? Are you currently working on any new projects?
I am currently composing the score for a short film called ‘Immune’. It’s a film about an authoritarian government who hunts those who are immune to a virus during a worldwide pandemic. The film was in preparation for a few months and was shot in England. It is Directed by Robert MacFarlane and Produced by Lesley-Anne MacFarlane and Mo Wani. I also composed the Score for ‘Unbreakable’, an app developed by award-winning Stack Designer Anthony Phills. The app uses Augmented Reality (AR) and portrays the life of Cujoe Lewis, the last known survivor of the Atlantic Slave Trade who was brought illegally to the United States on board the ship Clotilda. It is developed for iOS and will be ready soon.