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Filmmaker in Focus: Shakirah Bourne

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Shakirah Bourne is a young filmmaker from Barbados who began her career as writer on the film Payday, a ttff/13 selection. She is also the winner of last year’s RBC Focus: Filmmakers’ Immersion pitch prize for emerging Caribbean filmmakers. She also owns a freelance writing and editing company called GetWrite!, and is a partner in the Caribbean film production company Bajans In Motion Inc.

Aurora Herrera, ttff/14 blogger, caught up with Shakirah to discuss her ttff/14 offering Two Smart, which she co-directed with Ricky Redman, a psychological thriller about a married couple (with the wife played by Bajan soca queen Alison Hids) whose van breaks down one rainy night in the middle of nowhere,

How did you come up with the concept for the film? Is it based on a true story or personal life circumstances?

I wanted to see if I could create a story in one location, with just three characters. I saw this concept executed well in the movie The Disappearance of Alice Creed and was inspired by it. This is definitely not based on a true story or any personal circumstances. I would be highly traumatised if it were.

Take me through the filming process: was it difficult to film in such a confined space?

It was extremely difficult to shoot in the space, especially since the space in the van was a lot smaller than we had initially recalled. The actually moving space (which was still obstructed by shelves and sinks) was about 9ft long, 3 ft wide, and 7 ft high. Our videographers sometimes had to stand on counters or balance through windows in order to get a shot.

One of the most challenging things to do in the small space was the fighting scenes, but luckily our behind-the-scenes photographer, Marlon James, was well-versed in fight coordination, and we were able to navigate in the area, and ensure the actors were safeguarded.

How long did the filming take?

All of principal shooting took place at night, over a period of two weeks.

How did you do your casting? Did Alison Hinds audition?

Alison Hinds contacted us when she saw Payday last year in the cinema. She loved it, and expressed a desire in working with us on a movie. The role of Madj was perfect for her. George Gill and Saran Lashley, who play Jon Smart and Desiree respectively, were selected from a casting call. George has some acting experience, although he has never been in a feature film before, and after his audition we knew that the role was his. He was passionate and committed from the beginning.

Saran impressed us with her acting skills—she memorised the lines from the script in the lobby while waiting on her audition. She is a student at the EBCCI (Errol Barrow Creative Centre for Imagination) and although she had exams, she was organised and determined to study during the day, and film at night.

I am so impressed with all of the actors, and how dedicated they were to the project.

Payday was a comedy. Why the change in genre this year?

I wanted to show that we were capable of doing different kinds of movies. Our company, Bajans In Motion Inc, has so many different ideas and scripts from all genres, and I can’t wait to share some more of our future projects.

What has been the reception been like in Barbados?

We had a great turnout for our premiere; so far everyone has been captivated by the storyline. It is the first Barbadian psychological thriller, and I think that it is competing well with the summer blockbuster movies currently showing in the cinema. Many people now think that I, as the writer, have psychological problems. Two Smart has been showing in the Olympus Theatres now for four weeks, and it is still running.

How do you think your growth as a filmmaker is reflected in this film?

Payday was shot in a week, and because of the short production time, we really weren’t able to showcase a lot of different techniques that would have required a longer set-up time. Two Smart was not only shot with better cameras, but we had a lot more time to try more shots. We even built a rainmaker to get some shots of the main characters in the rain. Since the entire movie took place at night, we really had to take time to make sure that the lighting was just right, and since there were only three characters, and a lot of the shots were close up, we had to make sure that the right emotion was always conveyed. Continuity was of utmost importance; in Payday we could have gotten away with errors since the audience is more forgiving in comedy, but really, all aspects of the filmmaking had to be improved in order to pull off this movie. I have a lot more appreciation for the technical aspects of filmmaking, and moreover, we have learnt so much from producing this movie, and applied that knowledge to our third movie, Next Payday, which will be released later this year.

What was the best moment for you while making this film?

Because we were a small crew and many people still had day jobs, we worked during the day and filmed at night, which left little time for sleeping. The main challenge in making this movie was staying awake! We were preparing to shoot a scene, and my co-director, Ricky Redman, yelled, “Quiet on set!” and *immediately* fell asleep with a loud snore. The rest of the crew and cast just stared at him in shock, unable to believe it had actually happened.

Are there any feminist undertones to the film?

I am a writer whose primary goal is to entertain the audience. A feminist perspective was not applied to Two Smart whatsoever, even though I understand how that interpretation can come about with Madj being the main breadwinner in the marriage. However, I will be dealing with this issue, along with domestic abuse towards women, in another movie called The Hotline, to be released next year.

Are you trying to make a social statement or is it just a story to you?

I’m not trying to make a social statement at all. This is a story, a movie…simple, and dark, entertainment.

There are several plot twists. Did you ever think that the story was too outrageous?

Not at all. Caribbean people would go to drastic lengths for love, money and land. I’ve heard true stories that are more unbelievable.

I feel like mental health is an issue we do not speak about in the Caribbean. What has been the feedback in terms of that issue?

Again, I was not trying to push any agenda, but I agree that it is an issue that we do not speak about in the Caribbean. From the feedback that I’ve been given, I found that a lot of people empathised with Desiree, even though acknowledging that she was psychotic. That’s the beauty of film—you never know what someone will take away from the movie or how they will react to it. One audience member told me that the movie was difficult to watch because of the messages around: parenting, relationships, having a family business, greed, neglect, child endangerment and, yes, mental illness.

Do you have anything that you would like to add?

I would like to thank all of the production crew! It was only 10 of us but we worked like 30. I would also like to thank our main sponsor, Grillicious Restaurants, who own the food van. When you watch the movie, you will see that they must really support us and believe in our project to trust us so much with their main asset!

Two Smart will be showing at ttff/14 on the dates below. Shakirah Bourne and Ricky Redman will be present at the second screening of the film.

Fri 19 Sept, 1.00pm, MovieTowne POS
Thu 25 Sept, 5.30pm, Little Carib Theatre Q+A

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Date: Mon 08 Sep, 2014
Category: ttff news and features

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