“COAST,” a short film by Jamaican filmmaker, Nile Saulter, was made as a part of the first production in the New Caribbean Cinema Series, “Ring di Alarm.” The New Caribbean Cinema Series, is a fresh, pioneering approach to film-making in the Caribbean. A mixture of ‘First World’ technical skill and business savvy flavored with a distinctly Caribbean world-view, the New Caribbean Cinema Series proposes to present the world with a showcase of creative artistry from the region’s up and coming filmmakers.
The series is a Caribbean co-production, jointly produced by Storm Saulter of Jamaica and the St Lucian born Michelle Serieux. The productions relied heavily on the creative and technical support of Joel Burke and Nile Saulter and were sustained by the commitment and effort of the production crew, who worked at greatly reduced costs to help create a body of work representative of the capabilities of Caribbean filmmakers.
The complete film, “Ring di Alarm,” premiered at the BFI in 2012, and has since been screened at the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival, and at several film festivals across the world. We asked Kyle to share with us some of her experiences making the film and his thoughts on filmmaking in the Caribbean.
In your own words, tell us what this film is about and why you chose to tell this story.
The film is about young entrepreneur who is faced with dilemma in which she has to make a quick moral judgment call. I wanted to tell a story based on a unique sort of character from my hometown of Negril.
Did the film turn out the way you envisioned? If yes, in what ways. If no, why not?
It pretty much turned out how I imagined. Essentially, I set out to tell a simple story in a stunning setting, having the landscape sort of become its own character.
What was the most challenging aspect of making the film and why was that so?
I guess the heat. And resisting the urge to swim every hour. It flowed really well and everyone on set was sharp as we had limited time, so it was pretty painless.
If you were to pick an aspect of filmmaking – producing, writing, directing, cinematography, editing – which would be your favorite? why is that? – which do you dislike the most? and why is that?
Directing and cinematography are my favorite aspects and I also feel are my strongest skill sets. I like having that creative control in the midst of the chaos, trying to mold something coherent that hits all the pre-determined notes in my head. It’s a fun challenge. Editing is something I’m also good at, but I find it gets tedious. The wealth of possibilities it provides is also it’s crux. Editors and writers deserve so much respect though, those are the real unsung heroes of the industry.
If you did not have to think about a budget, what film would you make and who would you cast as the lead actors? (ideal world question)
I might give a different answer for this on a different day, but right now – I’d probably make a film similar to “Babel” with several interlocking storylines that spanned a vast amount of space and time. Thematically, it would have to involve a great romance and political struggle. Marion Cotillard, Freida Pinto and Javier Bardem, all come to mind.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a filmmaker.
I’m from Negril originally, and was always inspired by the environment and life of all the characters in the town. I realized the impact of cinema early on because of how it could shift my own emotions and those of others around me, so profoundly. I want to help pioneer a more focused, arthouse-leaning, nuanced style of storytelling, coming out of Jamaica and the Region.
Did you use any visual references during preproduction? What was that process like? What did you choose from?
I watched an amazing sequence in an Italian film set on the coastline that inspired how I’d want to treat the colors etc – I can’t remember the name though! Otherwise, I just winged it, and trusted Storm to do a great job as DP. Didn’t go in with a too rigid set of ideas.
Describe some your best experiences while making the film and some of your worst. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything?
It was great all around. Cast and crew all piled into vehicles in Kingston the night before shooting and drove down together. We hit it hard in the morning and didnt stop until that final frame, where the sun sets – one long day. It was great to see how fast we could all work together having the same goal in mind, and we were lucky to not have any mishaps or weather issues. I’d have worn more sunblock if I had to do it over again – haha.
Currently, there is a sort of awakening in the Caribbean to filmmaking as a form of artistic expression … you are a part of this “new wave”… can you share with us your thoughts on what is currently happening and where you see this energy leading filmmakers?
I think we’re just all becoming braver and less apprehensive in experimenting with styles and subjects that for whatever reason we felt were “beyond” us. There is a bigger exchange of ideas, and greater accessibility to content from diverse regions of the world. The more we take in, the better it informs our ability to put out material uniquely our own.
Do you think there is a “Caribbean film aesthetic” being created as more and more films are being made? If so, can you describe what you’re seeing as that aesthetic?
I feel theres an aesthetic developing yes, but its less about a style overall and more about different types of content and what the sum of those parts represents. I really applaud the fact that more daring subjects are being examined.
And then some completely random questions: What is your fav film (or 2 or 3) all time? What did you enjoy about it the most?
“The Passenger,” by Antonioni, is my all time favorite film. It’s set in Barcelona, London and North Africa, and is endlessly fascinating, visually. It also examines some themes I like to tackle in my own work, such as identity and resistance to societal pressures, wrapped up with a bit of mystery and a quietly beautiful performance by Maria Schneider.
What is your fav Caribbean film? What did you enjoy about it the most?
I don’t know what my favorite is, honestly, but I’ll shout out a recent one I really enjoyed, Lucy Mulloy’s, “Una Noche,” from Cuba is fantastic. Watch out for her upcoming work.
Is there a particular director’s work you admire? If so, who is that and what is it about their work you admire?
I’m a big fan of Steven Soderbergh. I rate his ability to seamlessly maneuver between films of such varying styles and tones, but never lose his ability to make it his own. I always know a Sodebergh film, even if the subjest matter, setting, etc, is wildly different.