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On Set with OBX3

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On set life can be a bit chaotic sometimes. Most days, we wake up before the sun even bothers to peek out and head off to a mix of ­workers shuffling around to make sure the shoot runs smoothly. After about 12 hours of work, we pack up, head home and the next morning, we do it all over again for weeks, maybe months, with some breaks. In the electric department, we spend our days and nights scrambling to make the Director of Photography’s vision work, waiting for the scene to unfold, picking it down and scrambling again to make the next scene happen. It sounds crazy, but it’s what we love to do. We know that when we get the DP’s nod approval, that we killed it. It was lit, we might say.

 

Days like this were no different on the set of Outer Banks season 3. For 18 days, they used Barbados once again as the backdrop for the Netflix hit American action-adventure mystery teen drama, created by Josh Pate, Jonas Pate, and Shannon Burke. Our team worked hand-in-hand with the lighting and grip department and made their job that much easier, by providing the equipment and crew they needed on home soil, so they didn’t have to worry about it.

 

It’s not often that I find myself on a professional set in Barbados, but when they are here, I’m in creative heaven, because they understand what I do and why it’s so important. The electric department provides light and power on set, which can be anything from batteries, lights and generators to electrical safety. At night we create the look and feel of the scene so that the DP’s vision becomes a reality. On screen, lighting is just as important as any other element of film, because it helps to create visual moods, emotions, atmosphere, and a sense of meaning for the audience. It’s what made me fall in love with lighting in the first place.    

 

There aren’t many of us gaffers in the Caribbean, so working under the direction of gaffer Jamie Baglio was the perfect chance for us to learn something new. The added bonus was getting to work with the new Vortex series of lights. Fresh off the market, using these waterproof, wireless lights, was any gaffer’s dream come true. My favourite lighting experience to date with them was on the final day, where shot at Bottom Bay in St. Philip (you’ll have to watch the next season of OBX to see it). Each time OBX comes here, for me and my team it’s a new chance to learn new skills that can be shared with others like us in the region. It was also a great chance to build deeper bonds with Netflix and professionals worldwide.

 

The biggest success coming out of this two year process of networking and working with  OBX, was that 13 Degrees North and Dark2Darker, a lighting company from Charleston, South Carolina, have built a solid working relationship. We’ve become one big lighting family.

 

With Dark2Darker as our newest affiliate it gives us a chance to learn more about the fast changing film arena, to make production here faster and get access to state of the art equipment here. It lets the Film and TV world know that Barbados has the people and equipment here needed to make what they want happen, pushing us that much closer to being a hub for shooting.

It’s a dream come true knowing that we were able to create that level of trust between us and build up their confidence in Barbados. 

 

This is a major win for our country, another step in the journey to seeing the local film and television industry standing on its own, punching above its weight.

 

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Capturing the Shot

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“Did you see that? How did they do that?”

 

Have you ever asked any of these questions after seeing a photo or a scene from a movie?

 

Well, the most basic answers to these questions 95% of the time are planning, patience and practice. Yes, we have the other 5% called luck; but whether its explosions, car crashes, animals in the wild, beautiful sunsets or sunrises; pre-production and planning are critical. It can sometimes take weeks, months or even years to get the ideas and the right team together to achieve that one special moment where you make your audience go “WOW!”

 

Other times capturing a moment, can involve being in isolation, missing your loved ones, and going back to nature to get that specific image. For example, that cub in Yellow Stone Park, or that great white shark off the coast of Africa which you have been waiting on for months.

 

Audiences most of the time don’t know what went into getting that perfect shot; the many tears that have been shed, the many meals that have been missed, or the many birthday parties that went unattended.

 

From where we sit at 13 Degrees North (of the equator);absolutely nothing beats patience and taking the time to make sure you get the best out of every frame. That is the utmost important skill every photographer or director of photography must possess because as the old saying goes, ‘taking time is not laziness’.

 

You can climb the highest mountain, swing 50 ft in the air from a telescopic boom (crane), create the world’s biggest explosion onscreen or simply capture the turn of a head; but know that, one moment in time, that one frame, requires all the attention to detail and patience. So, breathe deeply, take your time and capture that shot.

 

(By Kirk Dawson)

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Give Them What They Want (Part 2)

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Who has your Money

 

If you’re in business, then you know that someone somewhere out there holds in their possession your future riches. It could be a client, customer, investor or funding agency. If you’re in business, you also know that it’s not just about who has your money but it’s also about what you are going to do to get that money…legally of course. 

 

Last month we covered the client/customer part of this. This time around we will focus of the investor/funding agency and it’s the same sentiment. Give them what they want. We have yet to be in a real investor/investee relationship, but we have had our share of seeking funding from agencies and here is what we have found. 

 

You have to work for your money even if it appears to be free. Grant funds are a great way to seek additional capital to move your business forward, but the application process can be a tedious one; and depending on the amount of money that the grant disburses, that process becomes even more tedious. The forms are long and the agencies ask for a lot of information because they want to ensure that you have fleshed out all the elements of your plan or strategy. If you can’t do this then you are not ready to move forward and should re-tweak your strategy for the next grant period. 

 

Your application has to make sense and must align with the theme/function of the grant. If the funding agency is issuing grants for persons to build aquariums maybe you should not apply to build a supermarket. 

 

Put all your ducks in a row. This is a re-iteration of the first two points. Funding agencies are very clear about what they want to see from you. They literally spell it out in all the documentation. They also itemise exactly what additional elements they need. Each application sent in goes through a points system, just like at school so it is important that you follow the instructions.’ 

 

If you are unsure about any element, ask for help. It may seem that due to the “difficulty” of the applications, that funding agencies secretly are trying to keep the money to themselves. However, the truth is that if the monies allocated for a grant are not used then, not only has the agency failed because they were not able to affect change or give assistance as promised but the funds are no longer made available. Most agencies therefore, give some level of assistance when it comes to filling out your application. They are not going to do the work for you but they can offer case studies, sample applications and assess persons who may be able to answer your questions should you get stumped at a particular section of the application form. It is beyond wise to use these resources. 

 

Seek help from persons around you as well. As the saying says, “no man is an island” and this cannot be truer than when you are applying for funding. Sometimes as you work your way through an application you realise that there are things being requested that you have never done or prepared yourself e.g. financial statements, sales forecast, action timelines, etc. If you are not experienced in preparing these things, then it would help if you seek out a partnership (if you are not able to afford it upfront) with someone who has this expertise. 

 

Be prepared for the work to continue even after you are awarded your grant. The work with the funding agency does not stop when you are awarded the grant. There will still be reports that have to be hand delivered on how you are spending the funds and how the funding has helped you achieve success and further your business. These reports dictate whether you are given further disbursements. To not hand them in would be a breach of contract and would have a negative impact of your company’s reputation. 

 

The grant funding process is somewhat cookie cutter if we really are to be honest, but it becomes a task when we realise that the process is also like baking a million cookies on a tight deadline. What helps is not only having a great product but also being prepared and being meticulous in making sure that you are checking all the boxes. If you do that then there really should be no reason why you should be denied. And if you are, it is within your right to try to find out where your application went wrong so you can be prepared to give them what they want the next time around. 

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Give Them What They Want (Part 1)

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“Clients are never happy.” 

Who has heard this before?

 

As a business owner, especially in a service- based creative company, not only have I heard this but I’ve probably made this statement at some point in time. It’s hard when you think you are giving your all and putting in the extra effort only to be told what you are doing isn’t good enough. 

 

But if we really think about it, the truth is that the formula to having a happy client is not a hard one. You simply have to give them what they want. 

I can hear your thoughts as you read this, “Clients never know what they want.” 

And again, this is another myth we have about clients. It’s an excuse that wraps its arms around us when we feel frustrated by the criticism. It’s not us, it’s them. But they do know what they want even if it only starts with just knowing that they need your assistance. Your client comes to you to provide a specific service and if your business is worth its sauce you should not be there to just deliver a service but to also be a guiding light to your client. You are the expert (this is why they called you) so as such they look to you to educate them on all the possibilities available to them (through you) and how these offerings can work for them. 

 
So, what if they come to you with a vague idea? You are the creator and your love for the act of creation alone should be bolstered when a vague idea that you can build upon comes along. Remember, they have come to you to perform a task they know that they themselves cannot achieve. 

 

“My clients are never satisfied. No matter what I do there is always a complaint.” 

 

But guess what, you are the right person to make it right. If you have put in the work and the client comes back with a complaint, doesn’t acknowledging and adhering to their feedback make them happy? They have trusted you with their project and trust that you can get it to the highest standard for them. I know that sometimes client feedback could come packed with certain misconceptions of your craft which can lead to tense communication. But before getting to uptight again remember that you are the educator and that is something they want/need from you as the expert. This is you, providing a service that goes above and beyond and one that allows your client to know that they are important to you and that you care about their own business. 

 

AND THAT MAKES FOR A HAPPY CLIENT! 

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Light At The End of The Tunnel (When Projects Seem Never-ending)

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It probably happens to us all. We are awarded with the project of our dreams. Excitement tumbles in quickly followed by panic, “This is the job of a lifetime, you can’t mess it up.” 

 

But have no fear because this job was entrusted to you which means that the universe without a doubt believes that you are the only one who can get this done. The whole universe is on your side… also, there’s the harsh truth which is you have no choice. From the time the project was handed to you the engine was already running and the proverbial ship had sailed so you better sit back and enjoy the ride.

  

So off you go. You start your planning, crossing all your T’s and dotting all your I’s. You know that shit happens and that shit is going to happen, what with Murphy’s Law and all. But, if you plan well enough then the blows that come your way when you actually carry out the job will be easier to take. Most blows that is. You see the hardest blow in the creative field especially when it comes to production (outside of being told your product is rubbish) is when a project is delayed. 

 

A delayed project or a project that is stalled for a while means that possibly more money is going to be spent which most likely means that the budget has been blown but apart from that also means that momentum is going to be lost and your crew and probably even you will become restless. All of a sudden your shiny gem of a project looks dull no matter how much you twist and turn it in the light. 

So, what can we do to keep the spirits up when you hit a snag in a project? How do we keep the light shining and the vision alive? I suggest three things: 

 

REMEMBER 

 

Remember how you got where you are. Not the immediate situation of the snag but that of being rewarded the project itself. Now this goes deeper than the euphoria associated with winning the contract, this goes to the reason behind going for the contract in the first place. What motivated you to see this project and say to yourself I can do this? Was it your passion, your drive? Did you have something to prove to yourself? Was it a challenge? The thing in remembering is that it takes you back to your badass self. Back to the person who thought “Yeah I could do this.” And chances are this snag does not make the initial reason less important, the snag should motivate you to push through. 

 

DIG DEEP 

 

In pushing through this is where you have to dig deep. Imagine starting a race only for the finish line to be moved just as you were about to cross it. When you come to a roadblock it’s easy to just call it quits. But remember you were made for this job. You were carefully chosen by your client (and the universe) to carry out this particular project. This is the moment you reach inward and work those mental muscles, the ones that house determination and resilience, the ones that reassure you that if you got to the finish line before, it’s only a couple more steps to get to it again. The muscles that stay if you stop now, you are dead in the water and you haven’t achieved your final goal or desired outcome. 

 

VISUALISE THE OUTCOME

 

There is a reason why brides stick to their diets before the big day. It’s because they have seen in their mind’s eye the desired outcome. They see themselves walking down the aisle surrounded by smiling faces, all smiling because the bride is stunning. It hasn’t happened yet but these brides have visualised the outcome so they stay on their path no matter how difficult it might be to skip dessert. When you hit a snag you have to be like a bride. Start to visualise the desired outcome whether it be the beauty of the project when it’s done, the satisfaction of creating something spectacular or the final payment you are to receive. Think of all the pots of gold at the end of the rainbow that will be yours and share these visions with your team because they are going to need a little motivation as well. 

All in all, when hit with a delay on a project a lot of the drive to finish it comes from within but here’s the good thing about pushing yourself and others around you i.e. your team/teammates take notice and that determination becomes contagious. They start to push themselves as well and suddenly there is motivation from both the inside and the outside. From that point the finish line doesn’t seem that far because you are not alone in this and you see the light at the end of tunnel becomes closer and closer. 

 

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Embracing the Unpredictable in Production

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There is a saying that goes “The only constant in life is change” and boy oh boy does that sum up the world of production in a nutshell.  

 

If we think of the fact that from the inception of a creative project; that moment when that first nugget of inspiration hits and your imagination soars; that the story forms and changes shape in your brain before you even put it on paper; then it’s a wonder why we get so frustrated and upset when we reach the production stage and we are faced with a multitude of changes. 

 

Now don’t get me wrong, in production time is money and every change especially in the production phase can cost you. So, believe me when I say that the less changes the better for your budget. But I would also say that you shouldn’t set yourself up for disenchantment and in production whether it be TV, film, video, media, theatre; you would be doing yourself a disservice if you are not or cannot learn to become adaptable. 

 

The effort to realise a creative project is a team sport and because of this every project becomes the child of every person involved. What this means is that whether you are the talent, the technical personnel or the accountant; you’ve all come together for the sake of the project and you all want it to be the best it can be. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to create a TV series, film, video or photographic work of art. So, with so many parents it stands to chance that there will be changes to how things are done along the way. And it is important to understand that, at the core, any changes made (most of the time) are done to enhance the product on a whole. 

 

At the surface level, changes are made for many reasons including budget restraints, talent fallout, time restraints, weather, etc. But the solutions found and the changes made to rectify these issues (which mostly happens under 5 minutes because of the quick pace of production and because time is money) are all done in the spirit of making this project the best it possibly can be even with the odds stacking up. 

 

As I type this, I think of projects I have worked on or have been privy to where there were tremendous challenges, which means tremendous changing and yet the team sticks together. They want to make it work and in the end it usually does. This now makes me think that production personnel must be some of the most loyal people in the world, though I know some may say they stick around for the money…. I think that’s another blog. 

 

Getting back to the matter at hand however, which is being adaptable to change, there is another side to this adaptability that rears its ugly, negative head. And that is the feeling of rejection. Sometimes in production when a change occurs it is easy to take it personally and think that this change was made because your idea wasn’t good enough or because the decision maker didn’t like you enough. As hard as it may seem when this happens you need to push those thoughts aside because due to the many reasons for change, chances are that it had nothing to do with you at all. And that unnecessary feeling of rejection can linger and cause you to under-perform in the current project or even miss out of future projects. And that is not being adaptable in any form or fashion. 

 

I can only reiterate again that in production you would be doing yourself a disservice if you are not or cannot learn to become adaptable. Go with the flow, change with the tides, allow the changes to flow over you. Creativity and creative projects call for amazing amounts of flexibility and therefore to succeed you must bend or else you break. 

 

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Embracing Your Creative Mind

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Creative individuals have always been a point of interest throughout the history of mankind. 

 

They have been praised and heralded for their massive contributions to society through invention and innovation whilst simultaneously being ridiculed and even persecuted for their abnormal lifestyle practices, unconventional ways of thinking and often awkward social skills. What is interesting about creative individuals is that they come in all forms. Some have been known to be philanderers with an insatiable desire for sex, whilst others have been virtually asexual, reclusive and extremely introverted. Some have been gregarious and amiable having engaging and charming personas whilst others have been known to be obnoxious, mean and even downright malicious. With this being said, the biggest question is what do all of these individuals have in common under the classification of ‘creative’? 

 

In the 1960s psychologist and creative researcher Frank X. Barron conducted an experiment where he assembled some of the most creative minds of his generation comprising writers, mathematicians, architects and scientists and put them to live together in an abandoned frat house in the University of California at Berkley Campus. They were monitored and studied for an undisclosed period of time by researchers whilst they casually interacted to see if any signs of creativity and mental illness could be detected. What was most interesting about the subsequent findings was that intelligence had only a modest role in the creative thinking, ergo IQ alone could not explain the creative spark. 

 

What is interesting about the measurement of an individual’s IQ is that the methods used generally pander towards traditional subject areas and avenues of learning. Assessing the intelligence of a creative using said methods could often prove to be inadequate. 

 

A perfect example of this would be in the classroom setting. Creative individuals can display a wide array of inattentive behaviours due to learning disorders such as ADD, ADHD, dyslexia and dysgraphia. As a result, said individuals may be found to be disruptive, restless and in many cases incapable of concentrating for extended periods ergo missing out on vital information shared by tutors resulting in poor grades. 

 

Creative people cast into the wrong environment are plagued with gripes, woes and issues and have a very difficult time coping. They feel judged, confined and frantic to say the least. Ask any creative individual who may have had a stint in any corporate or financial institution what their experience was like and the word torture might be unanimously agreed upon. 

 

13 Degrees North understands the creative mind and we aim to create the ideal playground for the imagination in the Caribbean. We have all worked in various sectors of society where it was less about imagination and more about figures and let’s just say we are glad we found our calling. We encourage any individuals working with us to plunge deep into their creative reservoirs without hesitation and bring ideas to the fore. 

 

There is no experience like watching something that started as an idea come to fruition and manifest before your very eyes. Then there is the added reward of watching people express amazement, awe and fascination with what was once your idea. This is the unique opportunity afforded to those working in creative fields. Our ideas literally change the world. 

 

Within the film and video production sector in the Caribbean both ends of the spectrum are met. Your creative mind and the gifts you possess are not things you can turn off or abandon so embrace them and carve your niche. Seek out like-minded individuals and inspire each other. You will be envied and pitied all at once but one fact will remain, and it is that you are interesting, colourful and very unique compared to almost everyone around you. 

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All In 48 Hours…Sorta

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Two weekends ago we participated in a 48 Hour film challenge hosted by the Barbados Film and Video Association and sponsored by Deloitte. As the challenge name suggests the rules were to conceptualise, script, shoot and edit a short film in 48 hours.  

 

Under the team name “13” we partnered with Barbadian music group, AzMan along with budding filmmaker, Stockton Miller; the young and talented, Rashane Bend and our friend, Kim Roberts who helped us with transportation to create “Craftsman”. (Kim is really an accountant and this was her first film…don’t know if she’d do it again. There were early mornings, long hours but she was a trooper) 

 

We filmed for one day and edited the next running into some hiccups in the editing process. Hiccups that we, as the leading entity of this project take responsibility for. You see we did not do our homework and we did not ask the right questions of the team, the most important being, “What is your strong point?” So when we were met with challenges due to a lack of knowledge of a team member’s part we had only ourselves to blame because we broke our own rule of approaching each project with professionalism and as professionals we would have asked the right question and made the right assignments to the team.  

Due to these challenges we almost did not submit the film because we didn’t think it was up to our standard. But the truth is we had committed to the process of this challenge and with it came the possibility of these types of obstacles. And above all we had made a commitment to our team. They had given us they time and their effort and had tried to step up to the plate in areas which they knew they were not the best in. 

 

We handed in our film on time at 7:30pm on Sunday, 4 October 2015 and though we were allowed to clean up the edit for the screening (all teams were given this opportunity) we were judged on what we submitted. 

 

We came third which ain’t bad. We are happy with that as our original submission was essentially unfinished. However, we are over the moon and so very proud of our final version, edited by David Leverson. Check it out below and let us know what you think. 

 

Will we do the challenge again? We are undecided about that one but we do know that this one taught us a lot about teamwork and knowing your team. And we thank our team for the work they put in because without a team there is no film. 

 

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One Time I Lost A Car

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The job of a Production Facilitation company is to ensure that the client gets all that is needed for their shoot to be a success. This could be crew, food, props, hotel accommodation, equipment, cars, you name it. The point is to create a stress-free environment for your client. You know what they need before they even tell you because that’s the service you offer; the service of peace of mind. So imagine if you are given a task to complete and your efforts somehow fall short. Your client shouldn’t have to deal with that bother because it’s your job to fix it, so you do just that… 

 

One time I lost a car. Twice. The same car. Losing a car is a big deal especially if you’re on a tight budget and schedule and you’ve already filmed said car before and need it again for continuing shots. But hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself because of course before we had even shot the car I had lost it; that was the first time. I had made arrangements with a car owner to use his car for an advertisement. I gave him the time and date of the shoot and all was well of course until that day arrived. 

 

On the shoot day with three hours before the schedule shoot start, I get a call from the car owner informing me that he has meetings all day and can’t do it. Basically he was telling me that though we had an agreement he had a job to go to and duties to fulfill and could care less of the agreement I made with my client and whether or not he was preventing me from fulfilling my own duties. Great, I was going to be fired from the production and as they say in the movies “Never work in this town again.” 

 

I’m being overly dramatic really. Though I was annoyed and frustrated I had to figure something out because that’s part of why they pay me. My client doesn’t care where the car comes from, if the owner is unavailable to deliver the car, whether I had breakfast that morning…all they care about is that the car is on location at the time it is scheduled to be there with a tank full of gas and ready to go. It took 30 minutes, eating into the time that the vehicle should be on route to set, but I got a mutual friend who the car owner trusted to deliver the car. 

 

After that fiasco though I lost that car for good. The owner thought it was too much hassle and refused to let us have the car for another day to finish up the shots that were yet to be done. I had four days to find an identical car all while prepping for another job. So I took to calling every car dealership for new and used cars as well as all single rental company in the phonebook. Finally I got it and at a reasonable price. Once more my client didn’t care if the car was lost because it was a hassle to the owner or whether I had to work in between breaks on the other job to find a new car or what time I got to bed at night. All they cared about was that the car was on location at the time it was scheduled to be there with a full tank of gas, ready to go. 

 

My client never found out about the first time I lost the car. It’s not their problem and it’s my duty to keep them as worry-free and calm as possible. And the second time I lost it I told them immediately and assured them that I was on the job getting a replacement. When you lose a car for good that’s a big deal and it’s best to be upfront about those kind of changes. This is the reasoning behind Production Facilitation to handle your stress and give you peace of mind because you already have enough to think about. 

 

Now you should hear about the time I lost a helicopter… 

 

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We Can Do Better (Attitude)

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Why limit yourself? 
Why follow the trend? 
Why not go outside the norm? 
Think outside the box! 
Go one step further! 

 

If you do not believe you can do it, then you have no chance at all. The mind is the limit, and we all know there is no limit to the power of the mind. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it. 

 

With that said, to do better you must start thinking of doing better and it will be applied in your everyday movements. 

When we hear or use the phrase, “We can do better” or “You can do better”, it is usually in reference to people not giving of their best or achieving the highest standard possible. In this instance, however we are referring to service, the quality of your product and an all round attitude. 

 

How can we do better as a part of a Caribbean Film or Video Production Team? 

 

Here are a few simple ways: 

 

When you receive an email respond as quickly as possible. No more “I’ll get to that later.” 

If you are asked to do a task and have committed yourself to it, DO IT. 

Service to the client is of utmost importance. No is not an option, within reason, “I’ll see what I can do” is a much more positive response. 

Time management is important. Time is money! Manage all aspects of time properly. Budget over runs can be very costly. 

The all round experience for the client is important. Remember that they may be visitors too and although here for work experiencing the culture and hospitality of the island goes a long way. 

 

Service vs. Servitude 

 

In production we provide a service and the job has to be done, bottom line. 

If a hole needs to be dug then you dig it not because you are being subservient but because it increases production value and make a better looking shot. 

Garbage needs picking up, then pick it up. A clean set lends to a happier working environment. 

Doing the above mentioned does not make you a slave or put you in a position of servitude. It makes being a part of a production team more valuable and the clients experience unforgettable. These Values are some of the stepping-stones in Doing Better according to 13º North Standards. 

We set out to raise the bar in Caribbean Productions. 

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