What's the value of writing a script if you can't get it made? Making an audiovisual production is never an individual endeavor. Being produced is more challenging for creatives living in the Caribbean. Aruban screenwriter and producer, Rebecca Roos ("Poetry is an Island" and "Abo So") shares her creative process and advice for finding international co-producers.
How to produce documentaries with limited time and funds
Narrative films are my passions. However, the easiest thing for me to get done in the beginning was cultural/historical productions. To make narrative films about that would be so expensive, so I started making documentaries.
I write my script in the standard Hollywood format, and I do a lot of research. I have extensive pre-interviews with everyone I want to talk to so I have an idea of what they are going to say. Then when I write it, I can see that I need to ask things differently so that they can answer the right way.
That's how I made those 25-minute documentaries in 5 days.
How to know when a collaboration is worthwhile
On this project, I'm actually helping a colleague of mine established himself as a producer. ... What's mutually beneficial about this is that I cannot apply to Dutch media foundation grants like the Nederlands Film Fonds (which is film funding for the Netherlands), but, he can because he's based in Holland.
The trick to finding a co-producer for financial grants -- this goes for everywhere -- is finding a person who really believes in your project.
In my experience, a co-producer usually has about ten projects active. One or two of those will amount to something. If they take your project into their portfolio, it's going to compete with their other projects. That's why you're looking for people who know your island and have affinity with it.
In the case of Aruba, all of the projects are going to have a mix of either English, Dutch, Spanish, or Papiamento. Your producer should have an understanding of the culture and local limitations.
If I decided to work with an American producer, I would have to make the project interesting and also compete with other projects in their portfolio. Then for [American foundations] to give money, [our grant application] has to show the cultural relevance so that they can get a grant from their country. Everyone has to spin to the desires of whatever grant or foundation they are applying to.
What I find way more important, especially for working relationship, is how we disagree. [My co-producer and I] can always resolve issues -- even if the resolution is that we just don't see things the same way. Then we choose to go either his way or my way -- depending on who has to carry the responsibility. Five minutes later, we're drinking a beer because, you know, problem handled. It's super important to have that open, transparent relationship where you can tell each other what you think.
How to vet producers you've never met before
No. You definitely don't have to test out everyone. It's like dating: if there's a person that you want to give a chance, you should think about the project. If it is something that you're fascinated with or maybe their creative mind -- so, even though you might clash with that creative talent -- you can say, 'it's not about me. It's about this voice needs to be heard.'
Again, it's going to be a combination of things. I don't think that there's one hard set rule that you can take. You just have to follow that feeling about a person or project that tells you that this is how [your film] is going to be made.
Rebecca Roos is an Aruban screenwriter and producer. Her scripts explore the complexity of language. Her company, Roos Productions, produces documentaries, PSAs, corporate/institutional videos, and feature films. Between 2011 and 2016 she helped organize Aruba International Film Festival.