unnamedToni Blackford
Filmmaker
Jamaica
Studio Anansi Profile

This week, Toni Blackford’s film, “Cleaning House,” was launched on Studio Anansi. The film, produced by the Creatrix Collective Project and 10A Productions, was an official selection of the 2014 Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival.  We asked Toni to share her thoughts with us on the making of her film – check out the Q+A:

CineCaribés:
In your own words, tell us what this film is about and why you chose to tell this story.
Toni:
I like to tell people the short is about first impressions and trust. Somewhere, a little below that, is a bit of commentary on the maid/employer dynamic, which has always fascinated me.
 
The script was actually written for a friend of mine (the film’s cinematographer) quite some time ago. He’d been working on commercials and music videos and was feeling creatively drained, so I offered to come up with something that would, I guess, remedy the situation. 
 
This story explores my own curiosity about people not knowing or even taking the time to learn about someone who pretty much has unchecked access to their most private spaces. I was also thinking a lot about the inverse, where you work in a capacity that offers up all these intimate details about a complete stranger. 

CineCaribés:
Did the film turn out the way you envisioned?  If yes, in what ways.  If no, why not?

Toni:
In all honesty, it didn’t, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We made this with no funding and were heavily reliant on the kindness of others, so shortcomings are almost a given. It just teaches you the invaluable lesson of flexibility and, for me, reinforced the importance of not being too precious about your initial idea.  

CineCaribés:
What was the most challenging aspect of making the film and why was that so?
Toni:
I’d never directed anything before, so in the nicest way possible, this process was a baptism by fire. I sometimes struggled with feeling confident in my choices, less because of a failure to ‘lean in’ and more because I had no experience and didn’t want to mess things up. Many people had given their time and resources to the project so I couldn’t afford to have it go pear shaped because of a wrong decision.

CineCaribés:

If you were to pick an aspect of filmmaking – writing, directing, cinematography, editing – which would be your favorite?  why is that? – which do you dislike the most? and why is that?
Toni:
I like writing and editing the most because they bookend the storytelling process. I’m also introverted, so the solitary nature of getting them done appeals to me. Wouldn’t say that I ‘dislike’ directing or cinematography, I just have a special respect and appreciation for both. I’ve never tried cinematography before and can’t say that I ever will but there’s a possibility that I’ll direct again.

CineCaribés:
If you did not have to think about a budget, what film would you make and who would you cast as the lead actors?

Toni:
The Nina Burgess arc from Marlon James’ book, “A Brief History of Seven Killings.” She was my favorite character and I’d love to bring her to life as someone independent of the other narratives. Not sure who I’d want to play Nina though.     

CineCaribés:
What do you want the audience to take away from this film?

Toni:
My primary aim was to create an alternative Jamaican story, something with a female lead that didn’t involve her exploitation or dependence on another person. Not that vulnerability is bad, but I’ve found that Jamaican films haven’t really given us the full range of a woman’s experience and I wanted this to at least be a brick in the larger construction of that perspective.   

CineCaribés:
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a filmmaker.

Toni:
I currently work as a freelance editor and have been an unofficial part of Jamaica’s film and TV industry for about 10 years now. I started as an intern at a local music video channel, named Music+ where I met a group of really talented people. They groomed me in the art of guerrilla production and opened up the pathway to where I am now. There is a very long list of directors, producers, coordinators and other team members who are in some way responsible for encouraging and inspiring me over the years and without them I’d probably be doing something a lot less fulfilling. 

Watch Cleaning House now:

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Studio Anansi – Cleaning House