Q&A with Green Screen’s Very Short Shorts Youth Winner

Renaldo ‘Red’ Frederick recently copped the Jury Award in the Youth category (ages 17-25) of the inaugural installment of the Very Short Shorts Mobile Film Competition with his film I, Refuse. His film presents a dystopian take on a society without clean water that barters plastic in exchange for the necessary resource. Valued at TTD5000, courtesy FilmTT, the prize was announced and presented at the opening of the 8th edition of Green Screen – The Environmental Film Festival on October 31, 2018. The festival ended on November 3.

Frederick, 25, started acting at age 16 in secondary school where he won a scholarship to attend Trinidad Theatre Workshop. He can be seen in TVCs, music videos and short films. Notable film credits include Girlfriends’ Getaway, Flying the Coup, Pan! Our Modern Odyssey, Unfinished Sentences, and Home Invasion. Currently, he is pursuing his MA at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London.

In this interview, Frederick shares some of his Very Short Shorts filmmaking experience as well as his passion for the environment.

Minister of Agriculture, Land & Fisheries/Ag Minister of Trade & Industry, Senator Clarence Rambharat presents Frederick with the Very Short Shorts Youth Award
Photo: Marlon James

How did you hear about The Very Short Shorts Film Competition and what moved you to enter?

Social media. Instagram and Facebook. I was moved to enter because I have a passion for telling unique stories, especially through cellphones. The prize money was a great incentive too.

Are you passionate about the competition theme “Stories of our rivers and seas” and/or environmental issues, more generally?

Yes I am very passionate about this year’s theme. I’m very much into astrology and the elements – of which water is mine – hence I gravitated to this particular topic. I am very concerned about environmental issues because the simple fact is WE HAVE THE POWER TO FIX IT. It’s on us to be responsible with our waste disposal, our carbon footprint and we should really have our own home gardens. Growing something as simple as seasoning goes a long way.

Tell us about the idea for your film, how did you develop the story?

The idea came about from examining the guidelines for the film. I usually like to take a very “ugly-truth” approach to my work but one of the guidelines said that I needed to highlight the beauty and importance of our rivers and sees. I didn’t want to take the generic approach of “Don’t litter”, “recycle” or “save water”. I decided to put forward a question: what would be the cost of water in a time where water is priceless?

Was this your first time making a film? You’re no stranger to the acting world, did you find the transition to directing difficult?

This was not my first time making a film. I’ve done other short films, music and promo videos. Filmmaking is my second forte after acting. The transition to directing wasn’t difficult but awakening. I realised how much of a perfectionist I am while learning to finesse how I speak and relate to people. I direct how I’d like to be directed.   

Tell us about your experience meeting the competition’s two main requirements: filming on a cell phone and telling your story in one minute.

I’m more familiar with shorts. I like work that is simple, clever and to the point. It was no problem keeping within the minute. I’ve done most of my shooting using a smartphone and I also took part in the Trinidad and Tobago Smartphone Film Festival in 2015, which helped sharpen my skills. Shooting with a cellphone requires you to ensure it doesn’t look like it was shot on a phone. And I love that challenge.

Were you satisfied with the final product, seeing it on the big screen? Is there anything you would do differently?

No, I was content at best. It wasn’t what I wanted ideally. I wanted to have the last scenes shot at the dump in Beetham. I had really amazing shots and moments planned out if I had gotten access to the dump in time but it didn’t work out. And I didn’t want the actors going there without the proper precautions and guidance. I had to find another “barren-esque” location to shoot and that’s what was seen in the film.

Would you like to make or see I, Refuse made into a feature length film?

Definitely. Definitely. Definitely. The majority of feedback I got said that they honestly wanted more. They wanted more backstory on Refuse, more landscapes to see what became of it. Given the opportunity to make this a feature, I would make waves (no pun intended). It would be a visual, breath-taking delight.   

Do you see the potential for the Very Short Shorts to help raise environmental awareness? How would you like to see them used to this end?

It definitely can be used to raise environmental awareness. The use of short dramatic narratives can be powerful enough to inject that sense of “wanting to change”. It should be extended to schools. By getting students involved they would have to research the subject in order to script it. And that’s a good start. It also encourages them to explore their creativity and unlock their potential for filmmaking. 

Are you hopeful about our country’s capacity to shift attitudes and behaviours regarding our water courses and the environment? What do you think is needed?

I am always full of hope, especially for my country and its people. And sometimes I think it’s that harsh reality check; having things put into perspective of “what if” and “how will we survive if” can really create the catalyst for active change. People are afraid to admit when they are afraid. Now, more than ever, is the best time to channel that “fear” of environmental loss into united preventative sustainability measures.   

Can we look forward to seeing you in 2019 edition of Green Screen’s Very Short Shorts Mobile Film Competition? What words of encouragement would you offer interested young people?

Very much so. I won’t be in the youth category next year so I need to step my game up. I would encourage them to start filming from now: experiment, mess up. The most amazing things happen when we take risks. As artists, there is no “right” or “wrong” art, just create. Be bold and be unapologetic about it. We are all gods in our own right and we should never allow the results of any competition/critique to validate your work, or your worth.

REC

REC dives deep into recreation entertainment and culture within the Caribbean. It’s the only lifestyle magazine in the region that spans across every platform including print, television, radio, billboard and digital. We highlight the very best of Caribbean culture with it’s wide variety of traditions and unique perspectives.

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