A Conversation with Storm Saulter, Producer/Director of “Ring di Alarm” & Writer/Director “Better Mus’ Come”

This week we ask do 10 questions with Storm Saulter, Producer/Director of “Ring di Alarm” & Writer/Director “Better Mus’ Come”. A graduate of the Los Angeles Film School Storm Saulter is passionate about his work and hopes to see more films being produced regionally and a stronger integrated focus for the success of film making in the Caribbean. Storm Saulter’s “Ring di Alarm” is currently being shown at film festivals around the world and will be premiering in Jamaica soon. The film features seven short stories that show multiple facets of the Jamaican reality. The film is an anthology whereby through communal effort it was produced by six Directors and Writers each bringing their own flair to the project. We caught up with Storm on a very busy day when he was in Jamaica.

Q1: Did you anticipate that “Better Mus’ Come” would be so well received especially on the Jamaican scene?
Ans: I knew when I was making it that it was something that had really never been done in the way it was done and I put so much work into it that I wouldn’t say that yes I expected it to be that great but I definitely worked for it to be received that great you know so when the reception was great I felt that it was justified for the amount of work that I put into it you know

Q2: With the success of “Better Mus’ Come” you have a new film now “Ring di Alarm” tell me about this film?
ANS: ‘Ring di Alarm’ is not only my film which is very important to note. It’s not just my film. It’s basically a film made by the New Caribbean Cinema collective. I’m one of the producers of the film I’m also a Director of one of the stories. But what ‘Ring di Alarm’ is, its seven short stories, by different directors, all taking place in Jamaica and we put the seven stories together as one feature film. When you watch ‘Ring di Alarm’ you’re basically watching almost like a mini festival you know you’re watching all these different stories and angles of life in Jamaica. From the country, to the town, to the inner city you know and very varying stories. So ‘Ring di Alarm has been doing film festivals internationally. We have a screening in New York this weekend. We have a screening in Amsterdam the following week and we are working towards the premiere of ‘Ring di Alarm’ in Jamaica.

Q3: Tell me about the film making process; it was about six persons who made the film, what was it like making ‘Ring di Alarm’?
ANS: Well it was definitely a communal effort. The good thing about it was that it was a really strong team. Everyone did it for free because we knew if we worked on each other’s stuff and give everyone strength then everybody would have the opportunity to tell their story. So ‘Ring di Alarm’ was made in an unusual way but we were able to make it for very little money and it was very fun making it because it was like a family of people. So say you’re the director one day on your film and on another day you are helping to produce another one you know what I mean, which is great actually.

Q4. What were the challenges you faced making this film?
The challenges were that we had a budget you know all the actors worked for free, all the directors, all the crew worked for free. We were aiming to make every one of the stories. All the seven stories were each shot in a day. So we said ok we gonna set out to do a story in one day and seven different stories each of them we’ll only do in one day. And even though it is a short story doing it in one day is no small fete. So we had to make it was stories we could really make work in one day. We had to make sure our locations were close to each other. We had to try and find locations that never charged us because even though everybody worked for free we had to spend money on feeding everybody and making sure the wardrobe and the costumes were correct. I think it was a challenge doing that stuff but film making is problem solving you know. So you have to have that mind set when you going into it because even when you have a big budget, even when you have a fixed crew and everything is comfortable there is always something that comes up that you didn’t expect and it is how you react to that that determines your success. Other challenges I mean we had scenes where we had to have guns used in the scene and you know to film with guns on set you have to inform the police you have to have special security and all these things cost a lot of money and you know we trying to make films in a legal way. So it was kind of toeing the line between being legal and safe and being able to make it with what we had you know. But the rewards from ‘Ring di Alarm’ for me greatly outweigh the challenges because at the end of the day many of the directors it’s the first film they have ever made and I feel very proud to be helping to launch their careers and you have some very great and promising film makers like Ras Tingle, Kyle Chin and some of these folks are making their first movies and they made excellent films. So it is challenging and a lot of work on my part for sure as I was the cinematographer for pretty much all of the films but it was very rewarding you know.

Q5: With all these challenges, what makes you want to do film?
ANS: I want to make a serious impact on film, on cinema not that I just want to I will. I want my work to be recognized as up there with the best of cinema anywhere in the world you know I’m determined to do that. The beauty of being in the Caribbean is that the film industry is pretty new. We’ve had great films over the past four decades here and there but there is not a consistent output of great quality films and that for me as a film maker I want to be one of the main voices in developing a serious cinema culture in the Caribbean not just Jamaica. I never just think in case of Jamaica I think more in a regional sense because the Caribbean shares a very similar history all throughout and I think there is strength in looking at our experience in that way a lot of the world looks at us in that way too. I mean they might look at Cuba and Jamaica as they speak Spanish and we speak English here but Trinidad and Jamaica ain’t that different to most people out there in the world. Michelle Serieux she is one of the authors and producer of ‘Ring di Alarm’ and she also directs one of the short stories and she is the Founder of New Caribbean Cinema. Both of us founded the collective together and yeah she is St. Lucian and our goal is to do more of this as a project with directors from different islands as well but we have to start closer to home

Q6:  Do you feel like Jamaica and the wider Caribbean will have a more vital film industry in ten years or so?
ANS: Definitely! Most definitely we’ll have a vital film industry! It’s already happening but I think in the next five years you gonna see even more turnover and more releases. What happening in the Caribbean now it is like a whole new movement with a lot of the Caribbean getting into it and there are a lot of people making films and the quality of the film is really going up fast. Really what it takes is quality you know. Nigeria has done pretty well with Nollywood and they make films in a week. There are so many people in Nigeria that they make so many films and then after a while they have to start getting good because its thousands of them being made. In the Caribbean I think we need to try to hit the mark every time. Every time we set out to make a film it is so difficult to get the money together so difficult sometimes to pull it together that everyone has to work  much better and make it counts. So I think what you’re going to see are more films and them being consistently quality films. And of course there are people in their neighborhood taking up cameras and shooting neighborhood stories with their actors and creating an energy but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about more films on the level of ‘Better Mus’ Come’ or even greater than ‘Better Mus’ Come’

Q8: With the success of ‘Better Mus’ Come’ do you think ‘Ring di Alarm’ has hit the mark, has it reached that caliber?
ANS: I think ‘Ring di Alarm’ does hit the mark. But understand that ‘Ring di Alarm’ is a different type of film, shot in a different way, with a different approach it’s not just one singular long story. It’s a series of chapters of different stories. The budgets were very different in size but I definitely feel like what we set out to do with ‘Ring di Alarm’ has hit the mark totally. I will give you an example, we showed ‘Ring di Alarm’, we did the world premiere of ‘Ring di Alarm’ in London at the British Film Institute and there was a lady in the aisle and she asked the first question and she said she left Jamaica in 1959 or 1960 and she has never been back. And she said after seeing ‘Ring di Alarm’ she said thank you because we brought Jamaica to her. Nothing she has seen has ever showed so many facets of Jamaican culture in such a reputed way. In one way ‘Better Mus’ Come’ takes place mostly in the inner city ‘Ring di Alarm’ takes place across the country. One story takes place up in the Blue Mountains another, one takes place on the cliffs of Negril, yet another one takes place in the inner city, another one in the South Coast, St, Thomas area you know it’s like you seeing every kind of landscape and the stories are very  different.

Q9: Does Ring di Alarm’ focus on other issues rather than the political tribalism that was a major part of Better Mus’ Come?
ANS: Yes ‘Ring di Alarm’ focuses on all kinds of things. I would say a lot of the stories are like morality tales. Like stories of making the right decision or the wrong decision but that is putting it in different ways. Some of the stories are very experimental and out there. Some  are very artistic for lack of a better word some of the films are straight up comedy like laugh out loud fall out of your seat comedy and there is political commentary in there as well but it’s not just about that. But there is a scene that runs throughout it is morality and a lot of the characters in there are trying to make the right or wrong moral decision

Q10: Do you find it challenging to reproduce or create something new that has the same caliber as ‘Better Mus’ Come’?
ANS: Yes definitely a challenge because I have set a mark for myself. But you have to challenge yourself you have to get better so I want to get better and I have to get better because if not I am moving in the wrong direction. So yes it’s definitely a challenge because it’s harder as before Better Mus’ Come there wasn’t much to mar myself on and now there is way more. It is what it is and now I am not complaining about it. I have to be more precise and confident in my direction. It makes you better knowing that you have to perform well.

Bonus Question: Is there anything new that you are working on?
ANS: Yes I have a few things that I am working on the only one I can really mention and you will be hearing much more about it toward the end of this year is a film called Sting Ray. It is a love triangle taking place in up town or so called up town Jamaica and it is basically examining culture from an uptown angle.


For more information on Storm’s films see the websites below: