Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 11th 2014 Contents B30
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt May 11, 2014
Franco Sama, a US producer of
more than 20 films, including one
that is set to begin shooting in T&T
this June, visited the country for
the first time in February and has
been back twice since then.
He s become aware of the short-
comings T&T would have to address
if it wants to become a prime film-
But he also sees the country s
promise. There s enough of it that
Sama wants to contribute in different
ways to the development of the film
He led a whole-day workshop at
the recent Decibel entertainment
expo in Chaguaramas, encouraging
T&T filmmakers to "make bold
moves," but also plan carefully before
embarking on film projects so as not
to lose investors money.
He s met with government and
industry officials, sharing ideas, and
said the discussions were "very
And, perhaps most importantly,
he wants to work on getting US
companies to open much-needed
sound stages and post-production
studios in T&T, which the country
currently lacks---a big obstacle to the
growth of filmmaking here.
"I m doing it for me, too," said
the avuncular Sama, when asked
why he wanted to do so much for
a small country he only visited for
the first time three months ago. He
already has a solid career in the US
and has written a book, The Art of
Networking for Actors.
"This may sound corny," said
Sama. "I have three more years till
I m 60. I ve been making movies for
a long time. I feel at this point in
my life and my career I want to make
a bigger contribution to the business.
"I saw the quality of the people
here and the desire and the excite-
ment," he continued. "I was, like,
This is my chance. This is my
opportunity to make a big move in
the later part of my life. "
Sama s story is an extraordinary
one. He got into films at age 39 after
spending most of his professional
life in the car industry, as first a
salesperson then as a consultant.
Approached 40, "I had the begin-
ning of a mid-life crisis," he told
participants at the workshop. His
career wasn t fulfilling and "I wasn t
doing what I had planned to do since
I was a little boy.
"The only way I was going to even
begin the process of pursuing any
kind of dreams I might have was
that I would have to be prepared to
make a bold move."
Sama moved from Boston to Los
Angeles in 1997, met with a new
acquaintance, photographer Jay
Spence, who wanted to break into
entertainment magazine photogra-
phy, and convinced Spence to hire
him as his publicist at US $200 a
week for 90 days.
After looking through popular
magazines for the relevant names
and phone numbers, he made cold
calls to photo editors. Convincing
Spence to send him to New York for
face-to-face meetings, he was able
to secure Spence an assignment cov-
ering a social event put on by leg-
endary Hollywood director Francis
Ford Coppola for a six-page spread
in InStyle magazine.
That one success led to jobs with
actor Will Smith and his wife Jada,
and actor Gary Oldman. Eventually
Sama established himself in the
industry as a producer, specialising
in film financing.
"I had only been in LA for five or
six months," he recalled, "and I was
sitting at Francis Ford Coppola s
house, drinking wine. He was pass-
ing cigars, and I was with Holly-
wood s elite.
"It shows how a bold move can
perpetuate itself," he added. "If I had
not made that choice to take that
step, where would I be today? I have
no idea. I d rather not have to find
He said he s been approached by
aspiring filmmakers so often and
found himself giving the same advice
so many times that he started class-
es.After a class at the American Film
Institute in December, two people
who d attended, Richie Gibbs and
Rebecca Herrick, approached him.
They were the director and a pro-
ducer respectively of When We Were
Pirates, a film about a group of child-
hood friends who reunite.
Gibbs and Herrick told Sama
about their film, which was to be
shot in Trinidad. Sama was even-
tually brought on as executive pro-
Simon Baptiste and Carolyn Pasea
of Question Mark Entertainment,
the T&T company that organised
Decibel, are also producers.
Among the film s actors are three
members from the cast of the pop-
ular TV series Lost, including Henry
Ian Cusick, who spent part of his
childhood in Trinidad, living in San
Fernando and attending Presentation
Baptiste had worked with mem-
bers of the film s crew before, he
said as he made the announcement
at an event last year. A few of them
visited T&T and loved it, he said.
"So when the idea to do a shoot
on an island came up, they said
Trinidad," said Baptiste.
Sama---whom Baptiste called an
"incredible individual" in a recent
interview---joked at the workshop
that his job as executive producer is
usually finished once filming begins,
but he s become so enamoured of
T&T that he might make an excep-
tion in the case of When We Were
"I might have to stay a couple of
weeks just to make sure everything
goes okay," he said, to laughter.
"I just might have to."
T&T gives US film producer new purpose
Dese S Rec ds, CEO, Ken "D " Hill, igh , s eaks an a is e a endee af e he Decibel ksh held in
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