AS TOLD TO BC PIRES
My name is Akkel Lee Charles and I made Get Free, which BC Pires says is the best horror movie ever shot in Trinidad.
I gave myself the middle name "Lee." After two of my biggest influences, Spike Lee, the filmmaker, and Stan Lee, of Marvel Comics.
I lived three years in Tobago, because my mom is from there, but everything other than that was in the community of Laventille. Morvant, St Paul Street and Upper Wharton Street. I say the “community” of Laventille because people think we’re so disbanded. Laventille has the cuss-outs the bacchanal, the whatever, but we live so close to each other, and everybody know everybody (so) you have to be family-oriented. It easy to know when somebody is not from the area.
People automatically say, “You could at least meet we by the cathedral because we don’t want to come up in (Laventille!)” They’s make it seem like it have a special gunman and a special criminal waiting for you specifically as you enter the area to take your lights.
But Laventille is a regular place with regular human beings. Normal things happen in normal life just like in any other area. I appreciate where I from, both the good and the bad.
It has its faults.
If BC Pires says Jeffrey Alleyne’s Welcome to Warlock shows youths running up and down the Hill shooting at one another, I say he was presenting a reality a lot of people know.
But Laventille (has) a lot of personalities (not just loudmouths). Wide personalities, loud, soft, medium.
I don’t draw “guns-guns-guns-guns” from Laventille. I would pull for characters and characterisation (in films). I wouldn’t run with the cliche.
I’m the eldest of three sisters, one brother.
I want to have a family down the line but, if I could have one now, I’d take it now. They say, “When children come, money does come after.”
I wouldn’t mind if I could enter some small goal seven-a-side competitions now.
But let we just say I haven’t found any mother material as yet.
I was raised in a Seventh Day Adventist home. But not a very strict one. We would end the Sabbath with Family Night: watch a movie and eat a lot of snacks.
My grandmother had
boxes of Nigerian movies. I would sit down and watch four-parts with her. Morning to night, every single day.
My grandmother aways tell me, “If is one thing about God, He’s slow, but He’s sure.” So, yes, I believe in a powerful God capable of intervention in human affairs. I pray.
But I never question people who don’t.
Everybody has their own experiences. I had a girl in my life who never believed in God and it was never really anything.
The only thing I might change about how our parents raised us is that we grew up vegetarian.
Now we grown, is not as before. We don’t have to hide to eat (KFC).
Primary school was Morvant Government, Scarborough Methodist. Then Woodbrook Secondary, finished at Signal Hill.
My performing arts teacher told me I was really good. But I would run and hide at lunchtime.
One day, just walking unaware, thinking she had probably given up the chase, I feel a hand on my back: “You coming up to the drama room today!”
It was my first time acting and I won Best Supporting Actor in the Tobago Drama Festival. I had originally lined up my CXC subjects to do law but theatre and drama education (led to an) encounter that caused my love for film..
I have a soft spot in my heart for Adalia Melville, even though we don’t have a good relationship now. If I didn’t meet she, who knows what I would be doing?
I was going to become an actor. I spot this girl in the class. Nice dougla, nice flowing hair, nice body, nice everything. We began to talk and stuff.
I would not need help but I would say I needed help with homework, just to have phone conversations with her. She would “help me” with homework.
But I don’t think she knows up to today that the homework she was “helping” me with was already completed!
Adalia and I made a series together, Carina & Major, (about) young relationships. It got, like, 4K views a week and 1K likes and ran for three seasons and one episode, because the relationship ended by then.
But by that time, I was well into loving film and wanted to do the film degree. Which I haven’t finished yet.
I will always appreciate Adalia for (getting me into film)].
If BC Pires asks how Get Free came about, I say, one word: “Tabanca”. I don’t want to go into too much detail but it was a real testing phase. Every day, mean things were coming my way but I was just remaining cool. I couldn’t help but compare it to men out there killing women. Why breakups could lead to murder? Why I able to control myself (but other men can’t). I wanted to take that negative energy of jealousy and put it into something positive.
I shot Get Free in one day. On a real makeshift camera, a Canon Something-Someting. The focus wasn’t good.
And I did sound on a Samsung S7.n
I couldn’t get the location I wanted.
Johnette Brown, the female lead, got the role the day before we shot because the first girl I cast kinda bailed on me.
But I didn’t call off the shoot. I wasn’t studying the limitations. I just wanted to get the work out. I’m actually trying to create my own style, Two v One, two actors, one location.
If BC Pires asks how I managed the onscreen tension so well in Get Free, I reply I always try to outdo myself. And I always enjoy myself.
But I can’t tell you today that I knew I was going and choose that song or that shot since day before yesterday. (What you see onscreen) just comes out of the excitement and enjoyment of doing film. Probably it’s not until I watch it or somebody say, “That was real whatever,” that (I realise). It’s never anything intentional. Never.
I don’t want to flaunt but, if BC Pires says I’m a natural, well, then, yeah.
I can’t tell you I knew Get Free was going to be so impactful. I have people calling me crying about it.
Get Free had a lot, a lot of problems around it. I could tell you a thousand things I would like to improve.
My dad always told us, since we small, that a problem wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t have a solution.
From the time I have a problem, my mind is quick on the ball, to solve the problem one-time.
A Trini is everything, yes. A convergence that nobody could explain.
But you have to love them. Few people away don’t love a Trini.
To me, Trinidad and Tobago is my creative playground.
We’re made up of so much things that you don’t think could happen next, that actually do happen next. Almost like your favourite movie! For real.
When you’re thinking, “I never see this happen yet” – come to Trinidad. You bound to see it! Somebody mighta think we lying ten years ago but, thanks to social media, you could just log online and see why my answer is correct.
Read the full version of this feature on Saturday at www.BCPires.com