Compiling images for World Film Locations: Havana

Hello all!  Exciting news to report on World Film Locations: Havana– after spending three busy, busy days working in Williamsburg with my professor, editor, and co-author, the book has come together beautifully!  Together, we compiled the book’s scene description essays (those that have already been submitted by fellow co-authors and contributors), “spotlight” essays, and graphics.  By nature of being devoted to film and visual arts, the book strongly emphasizes its images.  For every film that it features (a whopping 47 movies!), the book contains accompanying imagery, in the form of multiple still frames (screen shots, if you will) from each film.  By providing the reader with these specially selected screen grabs, the book’s graphic design adds a visual richness to the film descriptions.   In addition to contributing three original film descriptions to the book, I am in charge of selecting, formatting, and compiling the screen grabs, a responsibility- and privilege- that I am greatly enjoying.  While in Williamsburg, I worked with Troy Davis of the Swem Media Center to learn the process of taking still frames from our films.  Two software downloads, multiple lessons, and a file of mistaken screen shots later, I was in business.  The following will detail my work with the screen grabs, or as I’m deeming it, “Emma’s foray into the world of book design.”


The importance of screen shots to World Film Locations: Havana is paramount.  The book offers literary descriptions of cinema, representations of film via the written word; it is the job of the screen shots to bring those words to “visual life.”  As I’ve written in earlier posts, the description of each film is dedicated to a particular scene that features a particular location in Havana.  The authors of our scene descriptions submit their pieces to my professor (chief editor of the book) with a timecode for the specific scene they have written about.  Once submitted, I review each scene description in order to familiarize myself with how the author depicts the particular location.  I then use the corresponding timecode to locate that scene (or, more accurately, sequence) within the larger film.  Then comes the fun- and challenging- part.  I scan each scene for a few stills that show the particular location.  Simple enough, right?  Well, not completely.  What makes the written screen descriptions so compelling is their attention to the style and techniques with which the location has been represented on screen; I therefore look for screen shots that reflect these things, images that in addition to being stylized and intriguing, echo the content of their accompanying written descriptions.  This process is fascinating and probes the intersection of word and image.  When I finally find my still frames, I use VideoLAN (VLC) software to capture them.  For each film, I try to capture 8-10 stills, a pool that I will narrow down to 4-5 for the final book.


Working on this aspect of the book’s design has been a very special experience.  I can’t help but feel that the visual fate of the book lies in my hands, a feeling that motivates me to find the most powerful, most evocative, most unique images from the films.  My goal is for readers to view the book and lose themselves in Havana’s rich landscape.



And now, a preview of some of my favorite screen shots. If you’ve seen any of these films, or just feel particularly captivated by any of these images, I’d love to hear what you have to say about them!



Screen shot from Juan de los Muertos (2011) ; location: Plaza de la Revolución  (this was Cuba’s first zombie movie, and notice the play on words… Juan of the Dead, like Shuan of the Dead)


Screen shot from Chico y Rita (2010); location: Tropicana club




Screen shot from Godfather 2 (1974); location: roof of the Capri Hotel



Screen shot from Memorias del Subdesarrollo (1968); location: apartment balcony overlooking the Malecón (personal note: this is my favorite Cuban movie of all time, a testament to the greatness of post-Revolution film in Cuba… if you’ve never seen a Cuban film before, WATCH THIS! Swem has a copy)



Screen shots from Our Man in Havana (1959); location: Sloppy Joe’s Bar



  1. mmsalgadoflores says:

    You chose some great screen shots! They really seem to accomplish the “visual richness” you aimed for them to provide. I’ve never seen a post-Revolution, Cuban film, so I’ll definitely check out Memorias del Subdesarrollo and, especially, Juan de los Muertos!

  2. fabulous!! i’m inspired…

  3. George N. Teichrib says:

    Hi Emma,
    Great blog and great work. I always enjoy reading about the impression Havana (and Cuba) has on a fellow traveller. Government and economic policies aside, Havana is the most fascinating and interesting city to experience in all of the America’s.
    You have “Memories of Underdevelopment” from the godfather of Cuban cimema, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea. A suggestion for you. Watch his last two films, “Fresa Y Chocolate” and “Guantanamera”.
    BTW, all of the “Godfather Part 2″, “Cuban”scenes were filmed in the Dominican Republic. The “Capri” was actually the “Occidental El Embajador” in Santo Domingo..
    Keep up the good work. If you ever need any particular photo of Havana, a street, a building or city view, just send me an email and I would be happy to get if for you (I have been going down twice a year since 1998)

    George N. Teichrib
    Vancouver, BC, Canada