TT-BORN, New York-based producer, writer and actor Paul Pryce won two major awards for his original television series Serpent’s Mouth –from the Caribbean Tales Incubator Film Lab, The Big Pitch– at the recently concluded Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
Pryce’s pitch for Serpent’s Mouth was voted Best Pitch by the judges and received the People’s Choice Award from an audience of media and industry professionals at the event.
The actor in Marvel’s Jessica Jones series is back home for the TT Film Festival. Of his accomplishment with Serpent’s Mouth, Pryce told Newsday, “It was a great honour to achieve that. It was a good experience just being in Canada with other Caribbean filmmakers, very special and just to win the awards was the cherry on top.”
He said coming out of the event, there is an opportunity to go forward and have a partnership with international telecommunications provider Flow.
The Film Lab allows Caribbean producers to pitch their television projects to industry insiders during the Breakfast at TIFF series, held on September 9.
Serpent’s Mouth, a television adaptation of Pryce’s 14-minute, proof-of-concept short film titled The Deliverer, received universal praise at its world premiere on September 15 at TIFF. The Serpent’s Mouth will premiere at the TTFF today at 6 pm and screen again on Monday at 8.30 pm at MovieTowne, Port of Spain.
Pryce expects to turn it into a feature film next year, and eventually a long form television series which will have the title The Serpent’s Mouth and not The Deliverer.
The Deliverer was written and produced by Pryce, who also appears in the leading role, and also features local actors Marvin Ishmael, Michael Cherrie, Leslie-Ann Lavine and Evelyn Caesar-Munroe with radio personality Sterling Henderson doing voice-over work.
The film is about a fisherman who is on a hunger strike protesting a corrupt government that’s threatening to destroy his village to make way for an industrial complex of some kind, and the villagers have walked away from him and he is about to lose his land. But after rescuing a drug runner off the coast of Venezuela, the drug runner brokers a deal with the fisherman to traffic cocaine from Venezuela to Trinidad to raise bribe money to pay off the government to save the village.
The trailer for the short film is riveting. Pryce insists the plot is based on true stories, real events and real people, adding that it was ten years in the making.
“Initially it started off as an investigation on Dole Chadee and his life and times and his history in Trinidad. And then that brought me in contact with a lot of different people, and then when the whole re-route movement was happening with Wayne Kublalsingh, and his hunger strike against the government, that also had me re-imagining this story, in terms of these two very different men from very different philosophies; one a very noble humble man with protesting power and this other guy who is actually a hero in his own right but at a very opposite end of things, these two men coming together to fight the common enemy which is a corrupt government force.”
Lisa Wickham is the film’s co-producer, with Jessica Munroe as the associate producer and Ron Morales, who came to Trinidad from the US, to direct the pilot. Morales is expected back in TT to join Pryce in pitching the film again to other producers at TTFF’s Caribbean Film Mart this weekend at the LOFTT Gallery, Rosalino Street, Woodbrook.
This is Pryce’s third film, the first, was a thriller named Come Out Come Out shot by Morales last year and premiered at the Cannes Festival in France. The other, Between Us, is a romance drama which was shot both in NY and South Korea with a South Korean film team. Pryce said that film has also been doing the festival circuits.
“So this is like my third film and it’s been great because the script has been making the rounds at a lot of film competitions, our film labs have been getting incredible responses also. It was a finalist at Sundance in 2017. Last year we did the principal photography but all the edits and post production were completed this year.”
Pryce said when he leaves next week, he heads to Montreal, Canada, for another festival where The Deliverer will be screened. It would premiere in Quebec and Pryce will also be on a panel there talking about his experience and filmmaking in the Caribbean region. Then in November, he may go to Los Angeles where The Deliverer is going to have its US premiere at a festival called ARPA. “I’m thinking about it,” he says.
ARPA Film Festival is one of the oldest international film festivals for independent cinema hosted annually in Los Angeles.
Pryce, who has been in the film business for 12 years, said his immediate goal is to make The Deliverer into a feature film, with shooting starting in 2019, and with a laugh, said his long-term goal is to conquer the world.
However, he said seriously, “I would love to have a studio in the region, or partner with other filmmakers to create our own studio here that will really generate and crank out high-level Caribbean content. So my long-term plan is to be based here and have studios here, have post productions here and just really be churning out television and film content locally like you have in India, North America, Canada and Africa. I feel like we could totally be doing that too.
“It would be so great to turn on your television and see everything shot in Trinidad or Jamaica or wherever in the Caribbean and it’s all like your stories, your people, your accent, your language, it’s not all American stuff.
With a background in business and marketing, Pryce spent four years obtaining his undergraduate degree.
He said his parents, Ken Pryce (deceased criminologist) and Nicole Taylor (French lecturer) were professors at UWI so he had no choice in the matter but was fine with it because he loved school.
After finishing high school, Pryce got into modelling and fashion very much by accident as he put it. “While at UWI, what I would do is travel to Europe or to the US to model and do that whole fashion thing during breaks, but come back and do school. And through that modelling experience I got exposed to acting and that world.”
Pryce fans will no doubt recall when as a former model he came to international attention on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1999 when he won the title of Oprah’s Sexiest Caribbean Man in a competition judged by Winfrey herself along with other celebrities. But he has since moved on to much bigger things.
After leaving UWI, he worked for a daily newspaper but soon left for an advertising agency as an account executive while still modelling a little before deciding to pursue acting. He wanted more. He wanted to see the world and wanted to be more creative so he gravitated towards the arts. At that time too, he also had a marketing company, Scarlett Project, that did events and parties, as well as produce plays and programmes for young people.
“Producing was something I was always doing at some level. I had a theatre company that was also producing theatre here when I went on to graduate school in Connecticut. While at Yale, I would come back in the summers and do Caribbean plays in Trinidad. And at Yale, while pursuing my Masters in Fine Arts and Acting (MFA), I brought Peter Minshall to Yale to do a talk to students which was great and he was a big hit, as always. So, I’ve always had this kind of working (with) local arts and being involved in as much as I can, but also knowing that unfortunately, I needed to be abroad to kind of have access to being able to go to a school like Yale and have those relationships and those connections.
Pryce, who graduated from Yale in 2013, was also in class with Tobagonian Winston Duke of Black Panther fame. He expressed the wish to have the Panther star at some time involved in his films.
Pryce vows to be a part of getting local filmmaking to stand on its own. He said, “It is part of coming back and making content that is here. I’m going to UTT and to UWI on Thursday (yesterday) and Friday to show the film and talk to the young filmmakers and actors there, and I have been talking to UTT about doing a resident artiste so I can come back and teach, because I do a fair amount of teaching acting in the US as well. So I would love to come back and teach but I need that support as well, with an institution whereby I can arrange to be here for a month or so, to do what has to be done.”