Published on May 19th, 2014 | by Melody Cade0
Christopher Guinness – Director, Animator
By Palette Magazine
Christopher Guinness is an animator, art director and director from Trinidad and Tobago. He is a multi-award winner in the Caribbean advertising and animation circuit. Christopher owns and operates a design, film and animation agency, Bepperton Entertainment, and has served as the President of the Caribbean Advertising Federation. He has won over 70 awards locally, regionally and internationally. He spoke to me about his career in entertainment and media.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: Sheridan College. It’s an art and film school in southern Ontario, right outside of Toronto.
Q: What was your process for choosing a college/university? Why Canada? Did
you look at schools in the US or UK?
A: I looked at schools with strong reputations in the area of study. Sheridan had a long history with producing great animators along with their connection to Disney and a few Oscar winners as alumni. I also considered cal arts in California who have a similar reputation but were more costly.
Q: What career were you working towards while in school?
A: Something within the animation and film field. College was an exploration of the various disciplines, seeing which fit best and of course was the most interesting and engaging on a personal level.
Q: How did you transition from graphic artist to animation to art direction?
A: They share a lot of the same principles in terms of design, communicating an idea clearly and attractively. It’s natural moving from one to the next.
Q: How did you get into advertising?
A: I got offered a job by the creative director of McCann Erickson.
Q: What made you want to direct?
A: I always wanted to translate my own stories to film. It seemed like an impossible feat at one point forcing me to stick to comics and short animations. But then the coming of the DSLR age and the drastic drop in the price of equipment and availability of information and education online made making aesthetic film for fringe film-makers very possible.
Q: What’s your industry like in Trinidad?
A: It’s alive and well in the advertising and music video industry. Cinema and television are still in the infant stage and slowly growing. However, there is a new breed of film-makers coming into their own whom I believe will shape Caribbean Cinema into a recognized genre the way the Koreans have their films.
Q: What are the resources like there?
A: Not bad but far from great. We have no sound stage and our equipment isn’t the latest and greatest that can be found in Hollywood. Still the human resource is strong, a solid base of hungry individuals doing great things with the little they have to work with. Culturally and location wise, we have a strong unique aesthetic which is underrepresented in Cinema and is just waiting to be exploited.
On the education front, there are film and animation programs in university and colleges available but are still new and taking form. We also have film festivals, small grants for film projects and a great tax incentive for foreign crews looking to shoot within the twin islands.
Q: What kind of stories do you want to tell? What do you think is missing from
the Cinematic landscape that the Caribbean can offer?
A: Stories that connect to our emotions, that uplift, that offer insight and create discussion. Simply our Caribbean voice translated to cinema is what’s missing. We’ve found the way through our music, through Bob Marley and Reggae and I might take shit for this but recently through Rihanna offering a Caribbean flava to pop music along with countless others. People love it.
So far Caribbean cinema is still an infant, not secure in its own identity yet and awkwardly trying to be like something else. But we will find our way and embrace what makes the Caribbean itself so attractive to many around the world, that unique vibe translated to cinema.
Q: Is advertising the best way to go if you are interested in working within media in the Caribbean?
A: If you are looking for continuous work that can lead to a very healthy bank account, yes. It’s where the money is. If you are looking to be intellectually stimulated, to apply your craft and push the boundaries of your creativity, well, don’t hold your breath.