Interviews

Conversation with Jamaican Filmmaker, Christopher Henry

Written by Xavier Murphy

This week we have a conversation with Christopher Henry, CEO & Founder of Christopher Byfield Films. His first film is the critically acclaimed short film titled “”Red, Amber, Green”. The film won numerous awards in the Caribbean, included the best short film at the 2012 Reggae Film Festival. 

Where in Jamaica are you from or how are you connected to Jamaica? I grew up
Between Spanish Town Jamaica and Bronx Ny. My whole familiy are born Jamaican. My mother’s side hailing from Spanish town and my father side hailing from Manchester. So for me I have a balance of the roots and county natural livity.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and how you got started in film production?
I have been in the industry for around 8 years now. First started in front of the camera acting, Dancing, Performing ect.  So the transition was natural for me. The knowledge that I have gain in those years really prepared me to one day produce a great film that not only has a story But a story that feels and seems so real as if it is actually taking place in the real world right in front of your eyes but only on a screen.

Tell us about the film Red, Amber, Green?
“Red, Amber, Green” depicts the lives of three Jamaican teenage boys struggling to make ends meet on the difficult streets of Kingston, Jamaica. Making a living primarily as vehicle window washers and street vending when cars stop for traffic lights, they hustle to take advantage of every opportunity, including entertainment. These friends, by virtue of the ‘yielding forces’ of traffic lights to provide their ‘bread and butter’, have incorporated these colors into their lives as a quick reminder of how to deal with their daily struggles, including learning and growing from each other, and even finding a way to help those less fortunate.

Is this your first film?
Yes this is my first film.

Why did you make the film?
There is many reason as to why I did it. But one will be is that I really wanted to see a different story from what I am used to seeing. So I wanted to go way left field with this type of Jamaican story.

Why did you choose this title?
Red Amber Green is a unique name. To me it has many meanings. Red amber green is obviously the colors in the stop light for one. But it is also a life style not only in Jamaica only but can be related to around the world, and I have witness this in many places where kids, teenager, young and old adults hustlers under the burning sun under the stop light just to survive just to get a decent meal. Regards to the film Red Amber Green, It also means the personality within the three main characters in the movie. The first character name is Proff who is played by Adrian Wright he is the outspoken and aggressive one out of the three so he would interpret RED. Character two who is played by me my character is the unsure one who highly doubts the Red Amber Green lifestyle and is faced by many many doubts about it. And Character 3 who name is Dan Dan which is played by Damarah Danni His character is the humble one. He is the positive and righteous one and also unites all three together to survive and embrace the Red Amber Green lifestyle. So why not uses Red Amber Green title it has many powerful meanings. Its unique.

Is the movie based on a true story?
Well Red Amber Green is reality. It is a normal happenings to ever day living. Where once you leave your house and approach a stop light somewhere in the busy city you will see Kids under the stoplight hustling and many stories and experiences from what took place in the film.

How was the film received?
The film received is much unexpected. I would never expect to own a product that is well loved nationally and globally at the same time. It has screened in many countries and around 8 film festivals. Places like Jamaica, Barbados, Belize, Time square New York, Birmingham London, Portobello London, Trinidad and Tobago and many more to come.

Is the movie entered in any festivals?  Has it won any awards?
Yes it has entered into Belize film festival Caribbean Tale film festival, Portobello film festival, Trinidad and Tobago film festival, Lignum vitae film festival, Reggae film festival and Bahamas Film festival in December. And has won three award at the three of these festivals. RED AMBER GREEN is the winner of the Best Short Film awards at the Lignum Vitae Film Festival the Reggae Film Festival and the Caribbean Tales Film Festival. (Please see attach for further details)

How will the movie be distributed?
Are you currently working on getting it in theaters? It has been distributed as soon as it came out of post production in 2011 with no wait. First there was a sneak peak screening for the first time at the National library of Jamaican deposit month seminar. Then its official release on the first week of January of 2012 to start the year on Flow Cable Tv for on month. Then has been distributed to countless Film festivals right throughout the year To today’s date winning three awards from three separate film festival in the same month of April of this year.

Tell us about some of the talented actors in the film?
Well as for the main actors this was actually there first time ever acting overall. Professionally they are musician. The first character who goes by the name of proff in the movie who is played by Adrian wright is a music producer and artist manager and the other character named Dan Dan in the film who is played by Damarah Danni is Professional singer and producer and song writer and both own their own independent music label.

As an independent film company did you fund the movie?
Yes I funded the movie from pre production, production and post production and distribution still to this day. Wasn’t a lot but made everything possible by the grace of god with the little that I have to the great production team who made it all possible.

How difficult was it to film a low budget film in Jamaica?
Wasn’t difficult because my approach was different. I just saw it as another day hanging out with friends and family enjoying the greatness and unity of what life provides on another day only difference there was a story and a camera attach to it.

What was your biggest challenge making the film?
No biggest challenge. Just remain focus, positive and have faith.

What you want the audiences to say after leaving the movie?
The message being shown in this movie will now apply to their everyday living towards humanity and life’s surroundings

What is your next project? 
To release Red Amber Green Sound Track Music video entitled “Rich Rich” from singing duo group Danni & Tahal, And once that’s finish ill hopefully get a chance to finish my new script which has been on paused for a while now

What advise do you have for young film makers?
Stay strong. Believe in yourself and be willing to work hard for your achievements no matter how long it will take.

Will you be making any movies more movies in Jamaica in the future?
O yes I definitely will. You will for sure see a continuation of the Red Amber Green story and many different more concept embracing the Jamaican and Caribbean culture.

Who are the filmmakers do you admire?
Quentin Tarantino, David fincher. Mel Gibson Nicolas Winding

Are you striving to be like him/her?
Nope. I admire their work and style and approach to being very unique and different in their doings. It reminds me to be unique.

What Jamaican movies are your favorites? 
Rockers, Country Man, Belly, Mark for Death, The passion of Christ,

What are your other favorite movies?
Napoleon Dynamite, Baby Boy, Hunger, Charles Bronson, Baby Boy, Slum Dob Millionaire ,The Hole (1960),

What is your motto? 
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise but a companions of fools shall be destroyed proverbs 13:20

If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
Vegetable Chunks and Ground Provision

Seven day, six night, all expense paid,  my vacation destination is…
It would be Jamaican for me same way only difference is like how I am only granted seven days I will spend a day in seven different parishes all tho I wish it would be all 14.

Thanks for the interview any closing thoughts for visitors to Jamaicans.com.
Blessed love to all readers and thank you for your support and remain strong and confident in all you doing. Positivity and growth. Bless.

Check out Christophers work at http://vimeo.com/christopherbyfield and follow him on Twitter @ chrisbyfield

About the author

Xavier Murphy