RBC Focus Reflections with Abigail Hadeed

By Dr. Leanne Haynes Thursday, December 27th, 2012 Categories: Features, 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 Trinidadian stills photographer Abigail Hadeed.

Trinidadian Photographer and Filmmaker Abigail Hadeed

Leanne Haynes: How did you hear about the RBC Focus project and what prompted you to apply? 

Abigail Hadeed: I appreciate and support and the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival. Last year a close friend of mine did the workshop and spoke very highly of the experience so when the opportunity came I applied. I am a stills photographer who has always been interested in film, having worked on films and video projects, so when I saw the opportunity to learn and have some theory and structure to all I have been doing practically, I jumped at the opportunity.

LH: Did you like the structure of the workshops? What was your favorite/ least favorite part and why?

AH: I thought the workshop was good for the limited time frame and given the parameters the instructors were working in. I really gained a lot when we were asked to share our ideas with the other filmmakers. Experiencing their take on one’s ideas and the input that came from those interactions was so valuable. Something I would reconsider is that of the ten participants only five get chosen to give the pitch. I feel it should be a choice of the participant if they want to pitch or not. It is such good practice to pitch to the public or a group and so my feeling is that opportunity and gift should be extended to all of those who take part.

LH: Had you done workshops prior to the RBC Focus ones? Were you nervous? What was the atmosphere like?

AH: I have done many workshops, just not for film, always for still photography. Personally I was excited, not nervous, as I had no expectations. I went into it very open, wanting to learn as much as possible. I knew almost all the participants and the few I did not know, it was really great. Everyone was very up beat and positive.

LH: What was it like meeting other filmmakers from the region? Was it helpful to learn of their backgrounds and experience?

AH: TTFF has been very proactive in bringing the regions filmmakers together. Over the years I have met many of them, which has been so positive.  When we got together for the immersion it felt like an extension of this but that much more exciting as the connections ran deeper as we were sharing about our work within only an intense few days.

LH: What project did you submit and why? 

My project is called “The Roots of the Masquerade”. I have been photographing the Roots of The Masquerade, The Steel Band and the communities that have supported them for more than 20 years. Trinidad carnival and the steel band have become world famous, but the people who struggled to have a voice and freedom under colonial rule have very really been documented in images of in film through the generations. My contribution photographically spans 2 decades going into the turn of the 21st century. About 5 years ago I started documenting it with video as well. It’s been quite a revelation being able to shoot films on your DSLR.

Working in East Port of Spain and its environments over the years has exposed me to the heart of our city, its pulse, the struggles and the people that continue to keep the traditions of carnival alive. Masquerade and the Steel band was born, out of a struggle for independence, for freedom of expression, of their faith and the rhythms.

Set in East Port of Spain, the birthplace of steel pan, calypso and carnival, where the streets are often in conflict, residents come together to make extraordinary mas and perform it faithfully. “Roots of the Masquerade” will compare the Barrack Yards of yesteryear — where the bad johns settled their score with stick fights in the Gayelle — with the Planning gangs of today, who use drugs and guns to gain control of the streets.

 LH: How did the workshops help develop this project?

It was very insightful working with a script doctor, who was able to help me develop what the documentary will focus on and how to present it in the format that funders and festivals would require.

LH: How did your passion for film come about?

AH: I have always loved films and loved working on them. Since the late 80’s, I have assisted on many big commercial shoots here as well as films and documentaries. It’s been a secret dream of mine to make movies, but when I went to school I studied photography, because back then film was tough.  I felt I would not have many opportunities to make a living at home. Having said that I still always find myself deconstructing movies I’ve watched, trying to figure out the lighting or how something was shot. I would love to know more about foley. It is another big interest.  Sound.

LH: What is missing from the Caribbean film industry?

AH: At this time distribution is difficult. Cinemas across the region are only outfitted to project film prints, which are very expensive.  This means that if one does not have a major theatrical distribution deal, it can be very difficult to get a Caribbean film in the theaters regionally.  Funding is also a challenge.   It would be amazing to have a film fund for our region so that our home governments are not solely responsible to fund feature films.  Finally here at home I must comment on the latest development – I do not support the fact that we are now consolidating all of our creative industries to function under one umbrella organization. TTFC has worked so hard to establish all that it has, and those persons at TTFC have put in the time to really understand the local film industry, which is so different than the other industries, such as fashion for example.  I feel that consolidating them all under one roof is only going to dilute the impact that each will have and that is frustrating as we are only now really beginning to see strides in the local film industry.

LH: What are you working on now? Anything in the pipeline? If so, how will the workshops specifically help the development of the project(s)?  

AH: I am presently working on building two studios. One will be a soundproof film studio approximately 1200 square feet with 18ft high ceilings. The second studio I am calling more of a life styles studio, as it will be more for stills but will be able to host exhibitions and other events. I am planning the space as a collaborative or collective space for filmmakers and photographers — an alternative and contemporary space where ideas, artist, photographers, and filmmakers will be able to interact and work. Splice Studios will be launched and branded in 2013!


Abigail Hadeed is a natural visual storyteller known mostly for her striking photography. Born in Trinidad, The West Indies, in 1963, she has produced substantial archives of artwork spanning more than two decades.

“My work comes from an instinctive place. I am drawn to people and situations that appear to be at a crossroads, facing a painful past and uncertain future – that transformative moment, which is “inbetween” realities — my response intuitive and spontaneous, so that the subject and all of life’s untamed variables inform the image as much as I do.”


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.