For the past three years Sanford has been growing as a mecca for the art of short film thanks to the Love Your Shorts Film Festival or LYSFF. The LYSFF was founded in 2010 by a group of local friends and has been promoting, supporting and recognizing the art of short film and its artist ever since. The LYSFF is held each February at the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center and screens more than 70 short films and host guests and filmmakers from all over the world. Nelson Beverly and Christina Grace, two of the five co-founders, were invited to experience a new and unique film festival in Kingston, Jamaica.
We always love that feeling of anticipation and excitement right before a film starts. We have that same feeling when we travel. Film and traveling are a lot alike in that you get exposed to new ways of looking at the world and get to meet new people along the way.
Earlier this year at the 2013 LYSFF we received an out-of-the-blue request from Dr. Ian Boxill, the director of the Center for Tourism and Policy Research at the University of the West Indies at Mona. He wanted to know if he could attend the upcoming Love Your Shorts Film Festival, ask us questions, share ideas and get input for a project he was working on back in Jamaica. We told him we looked forward to his visit and helping out anyway we could.
To be honest, at first glance, his initial inquiry email had a hint of a foreign investment scam from some third world king halfway across the globe. But upon further review and research we knew Dr. Boxill was real and very sincere.
His project and its mission are to give young people of August Town an opportunity to learn about the art of film and a means of joining the creative economy. August Town is on the outskirts of Kingston and just south of the university. The town has a history of poverty, gang violence and crime. However, it also has a rich history that the Jamaican people are proud of and want to share.
Dr. Boxill enjoyed his experience in Sanford and at LYSFF – so much so that a few months later he invited us to attend the inaugural Greater August Town Film Festival or GATFFEST in June.
That feeling of anticipation and excitement started building as we got closer to departure day. Not only were we traveling somewhere new, but it was film related too. Professor Boxill requested our presence to help bolster the credibility and significance of the project to the higher ups in Jamaica. We were very humbled and happy to offer such assistance just by being there.
We felt that this would be a visit of significance to the people in this community, so we wanted to represent LYSFF and the City of Sanford the best we could. We were asked to speak alongside other invited guests at the opening ceremony – one of which was the Most Honorable Professor Sir Kenneth Hall, former Governor General of Jamaica.
In an effort to put our best foot forward we had a custom piece of artwork created to present on behalf of LYSFF. Local artist Anne-Marie Colwell, whose work is currently on display at the Gallery on First, loved the idea so much that she actually made us three pieces – gifts for future travels! We also shared our plans with Mayor Jeff Triplett and asked if he could prepare something that we could present to GATFFEST on behalf of the city. Mayor Triplett went above and beyond and had a key to the city framed with a lovely picture of downtown Sanford.
During our speech we presented the art and the key to the city. And wow, those two gestures were very well received – so much so that there was a line on the red carpet afterwards to get a picture taken with the key.
During the three-day festival there were a lot of speeches, a wide variety of films, and a workshop for aspiring filmmakers. We were also honored that Dr. Boxill borrowed a few ideas from LYSFF and applied them to GATFFEST (voting and jury awards).
The workshop was led by LYSFF alum, Akil DuPont, who directed the award-winning short film Underground. It was a two hour class covering some film basics as well as what it takes to be a successful filmmaker. The class was excellent, we even learned some new things that have helped us appreciate and better understand the art of film.
Being this is the first year of GATFFEST the level of quality from the newly trained local filmmakers isn’t yet at the level of award winning filmmakers like Mr. DuPont. But we did see a lot of potential in these filmmakers. The most positive element the festival and the filmmakers have is the support of their community, government and businesses. This type of support is identical to what LYSFF is blessed with here in Sanford.
We were very impressed with these young filmmakers and the situations they have had to overcome to achieve what we often take for granted.
Acquiring equipment, actors, and other help for their film is not an easy task in a neighborhood overrun with crime, gangs, and drugs. But that is why Professor Boxill began this program and will persevere. His goal is to help these young people out of their current situation and through film, help put the spotlight on talented Jamaican filmmakers.
Seeing how things unfolded during the weekend for their first festival reminded us of our first festival back in 2011. The nervousness, the smiles, the coming together of film lovers, it was all a wonderful experience. We hope that GATFFEST is blessed with the same amount of success that LYSFF has had since its inspection.