Nigel Thompson has been in and around the film and creative industries for over 23 years, something in which he started to dabble when he was a teenager. “Not many people will find their calling in this lifetime, but I think I have; I think I found mine,” he says as he chats with Business Day about Artist Nation. This upcoming video project is aimed at highlighting the beauty of Trinidad and Tobago and capturing the work of local artists and artisans and how their work impacts the lives of others, all via a web-based series.
Artist Nation, six years in the making, is the literal definition of what a passion project translates into. And it could not come at a better time, Nigel points out.
“People in our country are mentally distraught and you could almost say, abused. Personally, I think that what governments have done is to move us away from that bridge between academia and art that existed in the education system before and move us to a form of pure academia. We have forced and pummelled everyone to do SEA, even those with different learning skills and in so doing, created a society that is caged and devoid of individual expression in the manner we are accustomed to and that is innate in us. When you add that issue to the media that we are exposed to daily – on TV, the images in the newspapers, the over-sexualisation of everything alongside violent music, then you can understand how we got to this place of anarchy.” Nigel intends to use the same exact tool – the media - to make a positive contribution. But it goes far beyond that. He adds, “The only way we can get back to some semblance of normalcy, minus changing the education system, is by way of the media. That’s why I have to use what I know. That is how we go forward.”
This is a field that he knows all too well – starting off in computer science when he was 17, then getting a job as a technical operator at a TV station that same year, his expertise would grow and expand through the field of IT and television and film, to the point where he began designing and building studios and digital platforms for other people. But he was equally drawn, through an elective while studying, to the more emotive side of film – the psychology of film. In the past few years, alongside his brother who is a musician and music producer, his studio team would cop a number of ADDYs and numerous other awards, but his passion for bringing positive psychology into the digital video space via cinema, remained his ultimate goal.
So, what can we expect in Artist Nation? The entirely web-based show is aired on the Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, YouTube social media networks, or as Nigel puts it, “where the minds I need to reach are.” He points out, “TV is dead, the youngsters don’t watch TV in the traditional sense anymore, they hook up their iPads or phones to a LCD monitor and watch YouTube or Netflix or Hulu, and that’s where it all is now.”
The show is comprised of 12 episodes, each about five minutes long and is streaming, on your time on the social media channels mentioned above. Despite the name, the director and producer of this series goes to lengths to point out that art is more than a painting and that the series will cover in a wider sense, creative individuals across TT.
“From Richard Rawlins and his creative uses of screen printing, to Abeo Jackson and her dancing, to the young lady I met in south Trinidad, who started doodling as a means self-therapy. The show, even in production, has brought families back together and given a different view to some youth who were involved, and that’s how I know I'm doing the right thing. I now eagerly wait to see the impact we will have telling these stories to everyone out there.”
The series, he says, will also bring a different approach to cinema and film-making in TT. “I think cinema in TT at present is soft, no one is using the medium as it should be and what it was meant for. I believe people are looking at cinema in the wrong manner, particularly when the film and cinema world has changed drastically. I’m here to hopefully change that. Film-making is more than a red carpet.”
“Whatever we do, as people who have the ability to effect change, it has to be good for the country. The onus is on us, the designer, reporter, writer, singer – it’s up to us. The politicians aren’t here for that – don't look to them – the people have the power to change things. Artist Nation is intended to show people the power that lies within them – if only they would tap into it. If they do, it will change their entire lives and everything else around them by extension,” he says passionately.