By Rhea Cinna
This week, The Missing Slate debuts a series of interviews which will hopefully spearhead the new direction we plan to actively take in offering emerging filmmakers a new platform to showcase their work. Christopher Guinness’ Captain T&T has managed to capture the hearts of many, including many on the film team, so requesting an interview with its creator was only natural. Watch the film and read about its inspiration and the writer-director Christopher Guinness below:
What inspired you to make this film?
Childhood memories, daily situations, the social and political climate of present day Trinidad and Tobago. And of course I always wanted to do a super hero story.
Do you have any favorites in the superhero genre that you are paying homage to in Captain T&T?
Not any specific origin story per se. However, throughout the story the film references many of the more popular heroes as Thin Foot searches for his power and by extension who he really is. So he tries to tap into the Hulk’s strength, a Jedi’s mind power and so forth, until his searching eventually leads him to important life lessons that shape the man he becomes.
You said you find inspiration for your film(s) in your childhood memories and day-to-day situations you encounter. Tell us a bit about yourself. What first got you into film?
I grew up on cartoons, comic books and weekends at the beach in Trinidad and Tobago, the southernmost Caribbean island. I was the kid who used to draw on the floor, walls, even myself. My love of illustration turned to animation and I pursued that degree in college. When the DSLR revolution started to kick off at around 09′ I took notice of the capabilities of these new affordable cameras. I decided to give it a try and fell in love with the aesthetic, ease and endless possibilities. Like animation or illustration, film was a way to express my ideas.
As your film tells us, you don’t have to be a superhero to do the work of one. Do you have a superhero of your own? Someone who inspires you or who you look up to?
Yeah, my wife is my hero, her cooking is her super power. She believes in me like no other, goes along with and helps nurture my little ideas. And my dogs, they are my super hero team. The way they love each other and take care of everyone in the pack is inspiring.
How do you get around the minuscule budget independent filmmakers usually have at their disposal? What are the tricks (so to speak) to making your films look competitive to a public more and more demanding in terms of high definition?
First off you have to know your production limitations. What can look grand without a Hollywood budget (unique outdoor locations) and what to avoid because it can look cheap (too many effects). You have to know your equipment and how far you can push it. A DSLR camera can only do so much, same with the Go Pro. Maximize their strengths and minimize their short comings.
Then it’s about getting inventive with your solutions to save money, I used a ziplock bag instead of water housing to shoot the rainy scenes. A ladder instead of a crane, lots of lighting courtesy the sun. Little stuff like that adds up.
What kind of equipment do you use?
A DSLR camera (5DMK3), a Go Pro, Glidecam and Glidetrack.
What are some of the problems you’ve encountered as an independent filmmaker and how did you overcome them?
Well, a lack of proper funding is always a problem for those now starting out.
But besides that, getting your film seen is pretty challenging. We’ve done fairly well online, using the power of social networking sites and curators like Vimeo and Io9 recognizing and promoting our work. If you are releasing online, contact bloggers, critics and taste makers. Ask them to watch your film. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
How do you intend to further promote your work?
Interviews like this, haha. We got pretty good coverage in our country, full page features in two of our national newspapers. And Captain T&T is doing a small festival run right now, screening in Aruba at the moment, then in London at the Caribbean Film Corner with hopefully a lot more to come.
What do you think publications could do to help emerging artists, in this case filmmakers?
Exactly what you are doing here, every feature, interview or article is so beneficial.
Any advice for someone who’s just starting out? We often hear “just point your camera and film whatever inspires you” but it’s not always as easy as that. What’s the next step and the one after that?
Well I still feel like an infant at this so I’m no authority on the subject. However, do work that not only inspires you but inspires others. You have to build an audience. Also don’t be afraid to start small, really small. Like 30 second commercials. They are little stories in themselves, that’s how I started. Hone your skills, there is a wealth of information online, research, research, research. And collaborate. Help others with their films and they will return the favor. Keep going and you’ll learn what works for you.
Have you ever participated in any festivals, and if so, can you share some of your experiences with us?
I’ve been to a few. The one that stands out is the Vimeo Awards. We were finalist in 2012. A very inspiring experience, attending the screenings and participating in the various workshops held by industry leaders. Plus it was a networking hotspot, we met a lot of cool people there. And partied.
I think you can tell a lot about a person based on the films they love. What films do you love?
My taste is diverse. I love sappy animated films like An American Tale and Mary and Max to Korean cinema standouts like Mother and Old Boy. From the works of Kubrick to lighter stuff like Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire and Big Daddy.
What do you want to be when you “grow up”, what do you hope for the future to bring?
I want to continue to do work that inspires me and others. Opportunities to do so is all I hope for and will continue to pursue.
Do you have your next film planned out already? If so, can you tell us a bit about it?
Yes I do, it’s called Forever Alone, it’s a satire piece about the “culture of loneliness”.
Here you have it — talking to Christopher Guinness was a real pleasure and we at The Missing Slate look forward to what he has in store for us next — remember to keep an eye on Mr. Guinness’ Vimeo profile and stay up to date with his newest creations, and maybe drop him a line to show your support.
Rhea Cinna is Senior Film Critic for The Missing Slate.