RBC Focus Reflections with Willy Rollé

By Dr. Leanne Haynes Wednesday, November 7th, 2012 Categories: RBC: Reflections, Updates

RBC Focus: Filmmakers’ Immersion at the ttff/12, which took place from September 19 to October 2nd. In 2011, RBC Focus was introduced to the festival as part of the bank’s commitment to developing emerging artists in the region. This talent lab returns in 2012 and will engage promising Caribbean filmmakers in an intensive 4-day development programme. They will be exposed to group discussions and exercises on a range of documentary filmmaking techniques geared to enhancing their creative voice.

ARC Magazine is partnering with RBC to present a series of weekly interviews with past and current candidates from the Focus Immersion Filmmakers’ programme. It is our hope that their stories, trajectories and elucidation opens up a way for emerging filmmakers to understand the infrastructure being created to support the film industry across the Caribbean. This week we continue with Willy Rollé.

Willy Rollé directing on set

Leanne Haynes: Can you tell me how you heard about the RBC Focus Immersion project and why you decided to apply for it?

Willy Rollé: I belong to the Caribbean Diaspora, my father is Guyanese and my mother is from Guadeloupe. As a filmmaker, my work was screened at the most important French Guyanese film festivals (CICA – Cinéma d’ici, Cinéma d’ailleurs – and Cinamazonia) in 2011. I also started working the same year at the G-CAM, which is the Guyane – Cinéma, Audiovisuel and Multimédia. This association was founded the year before by Guyanese professionals from the audiovisual and electronic media fields and was casually born after the birth of Guyanese Cinema. G-CAM as an association has facilitated the connection of some notable filmmakers including Marc Barrat,  Éric Besnard, Serge Poyotte,  Cédric Simoneau, Olivier Sagne and Stéphane Floricien. Pierre-Olivier Pradinaud, the President of the G-CAM, connected with Bruce Paddington, founder and director of the TTFF, at FEMI 2012 in Guadeloupe. All G-CAM-Members were briefed about Paddington’s book project on Caribbean cinema and subsequently about RBC’s Focus Immersion workshop. I have been working on a documentary project “PAYBACK”, which is about micro-loaning, but I haven’t found a producer or the funds to produce it. So I decided to apply, because I knew the idea was good, but I did not know how to optimize a documentary proposal and make the project more solid.

LH: What did the workshops involve? Was it constructive?

WR: The workshop was led by two facilitators: documentary story consultant Fernanda Rossi and Jamaicam-American filmmaker and teacher Alrick Brown.  The workshop involves four days of development programme. The first step was to get to know the other colleagues selected, we learned about each other’s projects and more about the leaders of the workshop. We were given guidelines around the basic vocabulary that constitutes a pitch: the various differences between loglines, taglines, proposals, treatments, synopses, featurettes, promos, assemblies, pitch videos, pitch tape, teasers etc.  Thirdly, we were asked by Alrick about our projects and the reasons why we want to make see them materialize. Existential questions were addressed: Why do you want to make films? Why do you make this film? What is your special voice as a filmmaker? And finally, we were divided in two groups and each of us had to resize his/her logline, to speak about the character(s) of his/her documentary, and to look intensely at what he/she has to do to optimize their pitch. The vibe between the participants was very constructive, we all have different backgrounds: people from the different Caribbean countries were mixed with people from the diaspora, people with a strong journalistic background worked together with people with a cinematographic or artistic point of views. It was enriching to put us together, to observe and see how the chemistry works! I was a little bit scared at the beginning, because I belong to the diaspora and English is not my mother tongue and on top of that I still hadn’t made a feature length film.

Willy Rollé location scouting

LH: What project did you submit – can you describe in as much detail? And how did the workshops help you develop the ideas, if at all?

WR: Here is what I have been working on for the past couple of months. One day, after having read an article about micro financing, I decided to lend the equivalent of  a yearly salary in Sierra Leone to a young mother of two children. I follow up on the evolution of micro financing and try to discover how this new way of supporting economics multiplies or balancing disparate economic classes, affects the life of a strong woman and her environment.

The workshop helped me to develop my ideas letting me understand that I have to be more concrete and fixed with my idea. This means I have to make a trailer for the project and be more aggressive promoting it, It has made me think more about the invisible hands that are also guiding my career. In the immersion program I had the opportunity to improve my pitch skills in the presence of “World View” coordinators, Amy Richardson and Himesh Karand and to the Tribeca Institute’s representative José, F. Rodriguez.

LH: How was it working with the creative directors?

WR: Working with the creative directors, i.e. with the facilitators, was very effective because of the clear articulation and focus of the workshop. Fernanda and Alrick have two different profiles: Fernanda has more a theoretical, very structured and academic point of view. She worked with the framework of her book “Trailers Mechanics” and its supporting information. Alrick works more intuitive, and used practical oriented skills, extracting lessons from his own experiences as a filmmaker. The two facilitators were a dream team for such a workshop, because their skills worked well together.

Scene from KinderWunsch-Family Planning

LH: What’s your background, with regards to film?

WR: I was born and grew up in Paris. I have procured a Masters in Philosophy from the Sorbonne and an audiovisual Diploma from the Stuttgart Media University in Germany. During my time as a philosophy student, I was a passionate cinema goer. In Paris this is not a difficult thing because the cinemas offer retrospectives or series on a regular basis by the masters, Hitchcock or work from Nagisa Oshima every day of the week.  I also worked in Germany during my civil service at the Institut Culturel Francais in Tübingen and was responsible for the cinema program, then I went on to study audiovisual media. During my studies I made some industrial films and fictional short films. Subsequently, I worked as a video journalist for a couple of years for the music channel TRACE.TV and produced many reports about the German urban culture. For the last two years, I have been teaching filmmaking and working on film workshops as a coach with youth living in difficult social districts in French Guyana. I also work with students learning languages in Switzerland and with immigrants in social integration program in Germany. I have also taken the time to make my own works and directed theatre “Cuisine et dependances”, and various artistic shorts, fictional feature shorts (Family Planning) and music videos (JR & The Paklè Family, Maryloo Coopen).

LH: What attracts you to film? Why did you choose this path?

WR: I would say, film chose me more than I chose filmmaking. As a child and a young man, I was always interested in literature and storytelling.  I studied philosophy and never thought about filmmaking. If I thought about going into the creative/intellectual industry, maybe it would have been writing based because it is less expensive and you have the chance to work alone.  During an internship in Spain, I made an industrial film and I enjoyed it so much, that afterwards I decided to make a social spec spot for illegal immigrants. Experiencing this, I literally fell in love with filmmaking because I was simply happy on the set. I decided to be a filmmaker, just because it feels good.

LH: Are there any particular filmmakers that have inspired your own style/practice?

WR: I love a lot of filmmakers, and it does not make sense to specify everything. I love Hitchcock because of his staging and editing which creates suspense and I love how Stanley Kubrick mixes cinematographic and photographic aesthetic. I think that filmmaking is a mixing art, a sort of potpourri or cocktail: dialogue, art work, music, sound design etc has to all fit together. It’s interesting to observe or recognize what is the focus is for each director.

LH: Do you feel you have enough opportunities as a filmmaker? What’s lacking? What do you see as the ‘problems’ with the film industry, in your opinion?

WR: I did not have enough opportunities as a filmmaker, it is the reason why I did not only make film. I used to teach French a long time, and I am living for the last couple of years in Germany. I find that communication does not always work to my benefit and in general most people not understood what kind of films Caribbean people make or want to make. I am very fortunate to have my work supported by individuals, institutions and film festivals the likes of which include AG Kurzfilm (German Short film Association), Film Funding Baden-Württemberg, the CICA (Cinéma d’ici, Cinéma d’ailleurs in French Guiana), the G.R.E.C. (Groupe de Recherches et d’Essai Cinematographique), the C.N.C. (the french Centre National du Cinéma et de l’image animée) etc. The cinema industry in general is a hard one to break into.

LH: Have the workshops helped you develop any particular skills – if so, how specifically will this inform future projects.

WR: The workshop has helped me to focus on my work as it comes out of an emerging country, as opposed to something European. I define it now as the Caribbean or the African Caribbean Pacific countries. I learned also that I am not alone, and that there is a huge diaspora, which can personally and, I hope, financially, support me.  Specifically, for my project, I know that I have to work more and be more determined when I propose projects to fundraisers.

1*MO". Name of the Band: JR & The Paklè Family

LH: What’s next for you?

WR: I need to finance and make a trailer of my “PAYBACK” project. I also have to follow up with some potential producers, who I met at the TTFF and see how we can collaborate together. At the same time, small things like making a schedule and organizing my time will make a great difference. I am also working on a short feature film, “Giving and Taking” about gold and ecological tourism in French Guyana.


Born in Paris, Willy Rollé has a Masters in Philosophy and an audio-visual Diploma. He speaks French, German, Spanish and English. Audio-visual conception, screenplay-writing and consulting, film/ theater directing and producing, creative video-journalism, editorial work, film academic teaching all belong to his daily global business. For more information, visit www.exilproduction.com

Dr. Leanne Haynes
Dr. Leanne Haynes

Leanne Haynes has recently finished a PhD at the University of Essex, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Her thesis focused on St. Lucian literature and mapped out the island’s rich literary landscape. She also completed her MA (Postcolonial Studies) and BA (Literature) at the University of Essex. Haynes has presented material at conferences in the UK and Europe. She is a keen creative writer and amateur photographer, with publications in the UK and US.