I’ve just returned from delivering my Story Lab Cuba 2014 workshop at the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Television in Cuba and am very pleased with how it went. I had a wonderful group of participants, all experienced in film or related fields such as journalism, with an age range from 25 years old to 58 years old. Participants came from Spain, UK, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.
We spent two weeks exploring creativity and story. The first week was predominantly exploring creativity, story and narrative through a series of exercises, discussions and screenings, while the second week was predominantly driven by each individual developing a screenplay supported by individual tutorials. We finished with everyone reading their completed screenplays to class and critiquing them.
EICTV is based just outside San Antonio de los Baños, which is a 40 minute drive from Havana. The surroundings are beautiful and peaceful and this provided a perfect backdrop and context for creative work.
I promised participants that at the end of the workshop they would emerge with screenplays for short films that they would be very pleased with. And they were not disappointed. Because of the way I like to develop ideas with people, I know that what emerges is going to be something that, first of all, they are surprised they had in them and, secondly, that will have such a strong connection to them and their creative aspirations, that they will feel very close to the work, proud of it and connected to it. Getting the seed right and understanding approaches to story and narrative makes it possible to have first draft screenplays that are very close to being ready to go into pre-production.
I was amazed at the quality of work these participants came up with. Stories that mattered; stories that came from the heart; stories that powerfully dealt with a range of profound themes. Diverse stories that reflected the character of each individual. Unusually, in every single case, I felt these stories to be very good and deserving of production. In fact, I know that most participants are going away to look at realising these works and I look forward to this happening.
It was an immensely enjoyable workshop. Hard work keeping tabs of the work of 12 people in such a concentrated periods of time, but well worth it. The stories emerging from the participants truly inspired me in my own work. In fact, I got so impatient that I decided to try out my new iPhone 6 Plus to make a little on the spur of the moment documentary. Through my good friend, Oriel Rodriguez, I was introduced to a young man, Alejandro, who, like so may other young people, are so frustrated with life in Cuba. Unlike every single one of his friends that I met, he has no plans to leave Cuba. When I asked about how he dealt with these issues, he started telling me about how he hangs out with his friends in a particular square every evening and they talk about their frustrations with Cuba deep into the night. They have no money, no opportunities, no entertainment and no incentives to invest in fighting to change Cuba. The psyche of the youth is so broken, the only option is to find a way to leave. So I decided to make a little documentary about it and spend an evening shooting and doing some interviews. This could actually be the beginnings of a bigger feature film and because of this initial shooting, my mind is abuzz with ideas circulating around a kernel around this theme. More to come on this in due course.
Some evenings, I had the good fortune of being able to attend Ruth Goldberg’s class on Alfred Hitchcock. She is an inspirational teacher, and like a previous series of classes I attended some years ago about Robert Bresson, I felt truly inspired by re-looking at one of the all time masters, Alfred Hitchcock. Not only the films, but the discussions that Ruth expertly guided were very interesting and enlightening.
I believe that I will be doing another Story Lab workshop in Cuba in 2015 and look very much forward to that.