The UWI film project – Creating inroads for youngsters in the film industry
SINCE 2012, THE University of the West Indies Community Film Project (UWICFP) has been opening doors of opportunities for education and employment in the film industry for youth from underserved communities across the island.
The project is the brainchild of Professor Ian Boxill, Carlton Alexander Professor of Management Studies, Director of the Centre for Tourism and Policy Research, and current Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at The UWI, Mona. It emerged from a community tourism experiment, initiated by the Centre for Tourism and Policy Research and the Mona Social Services/UWI Township Programme, in the Greater August Town Community.
Originally called the Greater August Town Film Project, the UWICFP involves training young people in the fundamentals of film-making – from cinematography, screenwriting, camera work to computer editing. To date, approximately 200 people, aged 18 to 30, have been trained at the UWICFP office at the Mona Campus and at The UWI, Mona Western Jamaica Campus (WJC) in Montego Bay. The three-month course facilitates a cohort of about 35 people, most of whom are men. It commenced with residents from August Town and has extended to embrace students from Nannyville, Trench Town, Mona Commons, Flanker, Norwood, Canterbury, Jones Town, Jacques Road and Portland Cottage, among others.
“We have had about 70 per cent males from the Mona Campus and 50 per cent males from the WJC. We have used the project as a medium to educate persons and the results have been positive,” Boxill said. “Persons have been able to find employment and to assist in the transformation of their communities. The project trains young people in very technical aspects of film-making so they can be completely prepared for the film industry. Some students have gone on to work with RJR and Mediamix, others started their own companies, some are actors and actresses, while some have proceeded abroad for further studies,” Boxill added.
The course does not require any specific qualifications. Students who apply are invited to an interview and if selected must be available for classes held on Monday toThursday from 9:00 am - 4:00 pm. The aim is for the students to work in groups, develop their technical and creative abilities and produce short films.
“The focus is really working to create a film [and] young people have been excited about the course as it offers them the hands-on experience they desire,” Boxill continued. “The film industry is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Film-making requires bringing different skills to the table. It is a way for people to say something, express themselves, and there is a fair level of independence. We have a dedicated teaching staff, trained in film-making, who are quite adept at recognizing talent and bringing it to the fore,” said Boxill.
The efforts of the UWICFP graduates are showcased at the Greater August Town Film Festival (GATFFEST), a community-based film festival launched in 2013 to assist in marketing and celebrating the work of the students. This annual event runs over a summer weekend and screens all types of local, regional and international short films – drama, comedy, action, animation, documentary and suspense. This medium has allowed the graduates to tell their stories in film and be recognised for their talent and creativity. Some of the best films have received exposure on local television, on UWICFP TV and to a global audience through an arrangement between UWICFP and MAS 2 TV in the USA.
The UWICFP Film and Video Production Training Course has been strengthened through collaboration with UWI departments such as the Office of the Principal, the Mona Social Services, The UWI Township, and the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC). The GraceKennedy Foundation has provided consistent financial and moral support for the project, and links have also been forged with the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), the Social Development Commission, the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, the British High Commission, the Embassy of the United States of America, Knutsford Express and Red Stripe. Additionally, the JSIF and Red Stripe have funded two cohorts of students and most of them have proceeded to work in the area.
The UWICFP also partners with a number of production houses and industry professionals. Several graduates have benefited from the internship and mentorship programmes provided by the RJR Group/RETV and Lennie Little-White/Mediamix.