Film writing pays off
After only six months as a film-maker, it’s already looking like “pay day” for Shakirah Bourne.
Shakirah is the script writer for the local hit PayDay which has been showing at the Olympus Cinemas for the past five weeks, sometimes to sold-out crowds.
This petite film-maker, script-writer, storyteller, is not only thrilled with the success of the film which has been viewed at the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival and in Canada, she is equally over the moon with her recent big win of the Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC) Focus Pitch Prize at the 2013 Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival.
Trinidad asked film-makers all over the world with Caribbean origins to submit an idea for a feature film and from there ten people were selected to attend the festival and a workshop with a prestigious filmmaker. This year it was Julia Solomonoff, an award-winning Argentinian writer, director and producer.
The list was whittled down to five to pitch their ideas to a public jury and a panel of esteemed judges – all from Hollywood.
The best pitch with the best idea to be developed would win TT$20 000 towards the development of the film.
Shakirah was surprised – and still is – that she was chosen as one of the ten and eventually won against some heavyweights in film.
“I tell people I am not sure how I got in. I was up against people with over 20 years in the business,” she recalled, with a glint in her eye.
Shakirah pitched her “baby” One Way Ticket, an idea that was floating around in her mind for some years.
“I have always wanted to do a story about winning a lottery ticket and how that would impact on people. I did research, and most people who won lotteries say they wish they never won … because their lives changed for the worse and I found that so fascinating because everyone dreams about winning the lottery,” she explained.
Her storyline centres on seven strangers whose lives become entwined because of a single winning lottery ticket.
With an all-Bajan pitch of her idea, characters and setting, which she thought went “horribly wrong” before the judging panel and audience, Shakirah secured her one-way ticket to the top prize and to her dream.
“This is what our company [Let’s Do This Filmz] is trying to do; We are trying to take Barbadian productions to the world. There is a market for it. Everyone wants something different. They love our language, they love how we act, they love us as a people, so we are trying to get that to the screen”.
Shakirah, however, noted that funding was lacking and she believes Government and corporate Barbados need to step in and offer support. She has been writing full-time since 2009, but was introduced to screenwriting quite by chance.
“Short fiction is my husband, screenwriting is my outside lover” is her popular refrain.
“I am a short story writer. To make money to live, I branched off into writing for magazines, and doing copywriting and editing and writing scripts for ads. I was a writer all my life, I only became a film maker to make PayDay because I realized that being a writer was not enough to make a movie in this climate. You need to wear multiple labels”.
Shakirah wrote the script for PayDay, but had a mandate to fulfil. The film had to be easy to shoot, cheap, set in one location and funny.
“I came up with setting a story in one neighbourhood, one street. I went into communities and observed people in the communities and that’s why it is so real”.
It took Shakirah six months to write the script. It was then filmed in April in Bayfield, St Philip.
PayDay is unapologetically Bajan.
The film’s success has caught her offguard since there is some less than flattering language and the use of “women who aren’t exactly role models”.
“Our biggest obstacle right now is people getting over the stigma of Barbadian movies. People have this view that because it is low-budget and Barbadian, it is a bad film and is poor quality.”
Rather PayDay may soon be filmed in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, Britain as well as another Caribbean island. “These people would not invite PayDay to be part of their festivals if it was not of a certain standard”.
There are other projects.
She said the film Two Smart, a psychological thriller, will be in production this year. She will also be working on One Way Ticket.