AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Mikayla Almandoz and I am a volunteer with the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival which ends tomorrow, Tuesday 15 September.
I come from Palmiste, San Fernando. Born and bred a South girl.
I’ve lived in the same house all my entire life and all my family is, like, two minutes away.
I’m the youngest of three siblings, an older twin, Rebecca, and an older brother, Michael.
Rebecca and I are not alike in any way. She does football & sciences, I’ve always done arts, dance & theatre.
My dad is Alex. My mom was born Rachael Weston.
I was baptised Anglican and went to Catholic school, but my family are kind of Christmas churchgoers.
And as we got older, even that slowed down.
I believe there is “something out there that can look out for me”. But I’m not sure what it might be.
I don’t lose sleep over whether there’s an afterlife – although I did love Ricky Gervais’ series Afterlife on Netflix. It’s so smart!
The one thing you can be sure about is this life. You’re here now. Take everything in the moment, enjoy what you can.
I don’t follow any religious doctrine. Be kind; be happy; be brave; those are my commandments.
I graduated with a BA in acting this year after three years at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts.
Of course, I have to be a supporter of Liverpool.
It was no surprise I wanted to get into drama. I was always the little drama queen. I absolutely have the “look at me!” gene.
After form five at St Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando, I was 16 and, somehow, convinced my parents to let me go to Walnut Hill School for the Arts, an American performing arts boarding school.
I’d started dancing at six and have been a performer since. I did international dance exams every year until I was, like, 16. I got to advanced intermediate level – or was it intermediate advanced?
Boston was culture shock. So many times, people would watch me and then, when they heard me talk, they were, like, “You are Trinidadian?” I definitely broke some people’s expectations.
I was there for two years before going to England for three.
I saw the Trump election live in 2016, in my senior year.
Arts school is very liberal, and, the day after he was elected, it felt like a ghost town. Everybody was silent, disappointed, confused as to what it meant for the country and the world.
We have to hope it won’t happen again this November. He has that little hard core of people who don’t care but, hopefully, enough people have seen enough. And will just vote him out.
I did acting training for both stage and screen, film and theatre.
I was in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. We were in rehearsal for our last senior show in Liverpool before covid hit and I had to come back home.
I hope to go back. I got some interest in a management agency representing me.
Mainly because I haven’t been in the country for Carnival for the past five years, I’ve played mas only once. My hope was that 2021 was going to be my Carnival…but then covid!
I love everything about Carnival, from its history to fetes. I wrote my university dissertation on its performance aspect!
I love soca! I think it’s the best music for any kind of mood you’re in.
Happy? Sad? Soca! It just does everything.
Kes is one of my favourites. Nailah Blackman as well. I listened to English music at university – the Killers and so on – but I always came back to soca.
I volunteered to work for the film festival because I saw a few films from last year and really wanted to be part of it.
And to break the monotony of lockdown.
My parents say lockdown reminded them of the 1990 coup.
Since the end of July, I’ve been in the Jerningham Avenue office.
I’ve been mainly assisting the education co-ordinator, helping out with q+as, contacting directors, scheduling.
I helped pack goodie bags for directors.
I’ve helped organise merch, ordered T-shirts, followed up on e-mails, planned workshop events.
I also worked with BC Pires on the admin side of the Youth Jury.
It’s been a really good opportunity to help people.
Usually my day runs Monday-Friday, 10 am-6 pm, in the office. At crunch time, the two weeks before the festival and the festival itself, days get longer.
The best thing about volunteering for the festival was getting to understand the amount of hard work that goes into it. I knew it wasn’t an easy process but I didn’t know it was this hard.
I’d never done much in the back end or organisation of the film industry. It was great to get the understanding of so many different pieces of the puzzle.
Despite BC Pires doing his best to get me to say it, the worst part of the job was not working with BC Pires.
Actually, there has not been a worst part. It’s all been a learning process and all of it, the better or the worse, has been good.
As a people, we have so much potential, and I’m hoping for better, moving forward. Whether it’s the political aspect, economically, or just as a people. So much has come out
recently, with the election, people’s ways of thinking and acting – but I have faith in us to move forward and be better.
To me, a Trini, is an energy that should not be ignored.
To me, Trinidad and Tobago is everything. It’s home, it’s family. It’s good and bad. It’s all of it.
BC Pires has been an informal friend of the TTFF since 2006, the mentor to the festival’s Youth Jury since 2015 and served as a full member of the festival’s programming committee this year.
Read the full version of this feature on Saturday at www.BCPires.com