Next month Tobago-born actor Winston Duke will be featured in the highly anticipated Marvel film Black Panther. Last week a video was released featuring a group of local actors who have decided to take international exposure into their own hands.
In the video Trinbago Actors To the World, 14 actors reach out to international talent agents and speak about the number of hard working local actors with a lot of experience, the lack of material to support that talent, what they love about acting and that there is a market for Caribbean actors that the new world audiences, including Caribbean people, want to see. Since the video was posted on January 8 it has received more than 69,000 views and more than 2,600 shares.
The six-minute video was written, produced and directed by Teneille Newallo, writer of local film The Cutlass. Newallo, an actor for 15 years, told Sunday Newsday she is an actor first and foremost and it was why she started writing in the first place. One of her main priorities is to showcase local talent.
“(We have) so much that is not recognised.”
She said actors do not get enough opportunity to use their talent because there is not enough work and this is what drove her to write The Cutlass and every other screenplay. The idea for the video came about when she was trying to figure out how to get signed by an international agency. She explained it is a catch-22 situation where no one wants to sign an actor unless you have a work permit, but those who can get work permits no one wants to shell out TT $20,000 or more up front and then try to find an agency with a limited time. She stressed that actors do not make that much money.
“We not rolling in dough.”
Newallo said she is not the kind of person who waits for things to happen and she decided to do a video to draw attention to themselves and present a variety of local actors to international agencies. The video was made with no budget and the crew worked for free. The crew on the project included Joel Burke, Oliver Milne, Anthony Fung, Shannon Cockburn, Kristen Jaggan and Anthony Moore.
Newallo appears in the video together with Pauline Mark, Chris Smith, Penelope Spencer, Conrad Parris, Richard Ragoobarsingh, Cecelia Salazar, Cindy F Daniel, Rebecca M Foster, Stephen Hadeed Jr, Catherine Emmanuel (video co-producer), Roland Yearwood aka Rembunction, Arnold Goindhan, and Charlie Reed.
Newallo said she wrote the script to showcase the actors and included some of the scenes they had done as proof of their talent. The video included scenes of Salazar in the short Noka: Keeper of Worlds, Hadeed Jr in Pendulum, Mark in The Apartment: About Last Night, A Story About Wendy and Bazodee, . Emmanuelle in A Story About Wendy, Spencer in Play the Devil, Rembunction in Sally’s Way, Newallo in Noka and Dubois, Smith in Love and Family, Daniel in The Weekend, Parris in Noka, Foster and Goindhan in The Cutlass.
Asked how the participating actors were chosen Newallo explained the number one criterion was the actor was well enough known in TT as the US immigration would need to see proof of their work.
She said the second criterion is the actors have always been working hard at their craft and they cannot see themselves doing anything else. She pointed out the group includes some local icons like Spencer and Ragoobarsingh.
“People that Caribbean people want to see succeed.”
Newallo said the video is a call to action to the Caribbean and the Caribbean Diaspora and she called on people to share the video as much as possible.
“Show the international agencies we have an audience that wants to see us on-screen.”
She said with all the shares and likes of the video there may be an agent brave enough to be at the forefront of something new.
On the local industry she said a combination of hard work by various people has gotten it to where it is and the time is right for it to break out both in front of and behind the camera. She said because actors cannot get work they have to do a lot of other things such as voice work, commercials, stage or freelance writing to pay the bills.
“Unless we do something about it, it will stay the same. (We have) so much talent bubbling at the surface ready to explode. Ready to go to the international level.”
Actor Penelope Spencer described Trinbago Actors to the World as an excellent initiative by Newallo.
“As an actor you have thoughts that you want to get out of Trinidad but you don’t know how.”
Spencer’s dream is to talk to with US media icon Oprah Winfrey about getting Caribbean movies and shows on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN).
“All over world there are Caribbean people. It would be good for people to see their stories in their new homes. They living in England or the south of France and they can get reconnected with home.”
Spencer, who has been acting for more than 25 years, said as an actor locally you are limited and she had to venture into directing, writing and casting, to be able to make real money.
“It’s a struggle to be an actor alone in this country.”
She said there were actors doing an “eight to four” job, selling popcorn or doing woodwork to supplement their income or otherwise would starve.
“Most actors dream is that they could just act alone. So with this initiative I am praying actors could act and do the work they love to do.”
Actor Chris Smith said any initiative that affords him more opportunities to act and build our industry he would gladly be involved in.
In terms of local opportunities, Smith said he was fortunate that following the Machel Montano film Bazodee and other projects he has built a reputation. Smith, however, said he does not take this for granted and for him to continue to get opportunities he needs more work.
“I do have a wife and my career as an actor helps to support her and the family that we are building. I see the initiative as a way to help develop my career and other worthy and awesome people that I work with.”
Smith said there was not enough happening locally and they have to go beyond this market, which this initiative will do. He also believes it will go full circle and lead to more local projects.
Associate producer on the video Pauline Mark, who has been acting for 14 years, said she was really honoured and humbled to be included in the video and considered one of the actors with the talent and potential to work internationally.
She said the only thing she enjoys doing is acting and it is painful not being able to do what you love. She hopes to be able to work internationally including Europe and the US.
“There is hope. Something big is going to happen soon.”
Actor Conrad Parris says the initiative could be the opening of a door not just for the actors showcased but for waves of Trinbagonian and Caribbean actors to come.
“I believe this could bring us much closer to telling our unique stories on a broader platform, as well as giving some insight into the versatility of the talent we possess.”
Parris described the adaptability of local actors as the greatest attraction.
“We have an innate ability to physically tell stories as people, adopting accents and our physical characteristics in our everyday conversation. Combine that with our cosmopolitan outlook and our skill and experience, and there’s a total package. We could be anybody!”
In the video he said if one local actor gets work from this initiative they will all be happy. To like and share the video you can go to the Facebook page Trinbago Actors to the World.