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Five Lessons I Learned While Teaching at UWI - Storm Saulter

Storm Saulter

Filmmaker Storm Saulter, the vision behind Better Mus Come and co-founder of New Caribbean Cinema is in the final round of his tenure as Filmmaker in Residence at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Saulter has been teaching a course in screenwriting and starting May 27, 2015, the department of Literatures in Englishe will be staging a four-week workshop on writing short film. 

Yet, while college is often a space to brush up on your lyming skills, teaching is often a great learning experience. So Susumba asked Saulter to share five lessons he has learnt while teaching at the UWI. 

  1. The Value of Obsession:
    Working with my students over the past semester has really deepened my understanding of the power of obsession and it's importance as a driving force for writers. We all have our obsessions and when you come across people who really want to express their ideas like say screenwriters, it becomes clear how much their obsessions dictate their individual points of view morally and otherwise. 
    It doesn't matter what kind of genre, time period, or subject matter the writer wants to explore, their obsessions will inevitably infiltrate the actions of their characters for the better or worse. Digging into our obsessions and harnessing them as an engine for creativity is an essential practice for writers and this is how truly original voices emerge even within pre-existing genres of filmmaking and storytelling in general. Jamaican's are apparently quite obsessed with epic sci-fi fantasies, violently rough sex, and split personality disorders. 

  2. College- the non-film version:
    I never went to a traditional university (went to film school instead) but it's something I always wished i'd had a chance to experience as a student. I'd kind of imagined it as some idealized version of dorm room life with endless partying and the occasional epic philosophical argument at some campus hot spot surrounded by cheering co-eds. Clearly movies have made an impression on me.  

    The epic philosophical battles did play out however, except the "hot spot" was a tiny classroom with a busted A/C that was literally hot.  Our conversations within that space were eye-opening. Our group really put their ideas into a circle and everyone played a role in picking apart and rebuilding each others stories. We also spent a lot of time discussing our roles as filmmakers within our own society and how to use the tools of cinema to disrupt, question, challenge, and ultimately advance our people. 

  3. Writing - a Great Frontier:
    Students in university are really at an interesting place in life. They are no longer in the structured world of high school and they for the most part have not fully moved into the structured world of a working "life". It is the opportune moment for them to manifest the life that they want to lead. I discovered some amazing screenwriting talent while teaching at UWI and I truly hope that my work there has encouraged them to start that journey. We need writers. We have writers. We must build them up by mentorship, collaboration, and ultimately by bringing their ideas to the screen. 

  4. The Female Voice Factor:
    Women's true voices are key to the stories we are creating. Not men writing in women's voices, but Caribbean women writing from their point of view. It is to the detriment of our larger cultural story that the male point of view has guided so much. We don't think the same way, we don't speak the same way, we don't have the same obsessions. We live in a society with outdated and false constructs about what it means to be a man or a woman. The women in my class really tore these constructs apart with the characters and stories they developed. These are the characters i'm most interested in seeing on the screen.

  5. Sir vs Prof:
    I'm not too keen on being called "sir", but "Professor" has a nice ring to it. "Prof" for short works well too.