Trinidad and Tobago’s very own anime video is up for international awards. The A Better Tomorrow music video features vocals by calypsonian Terri Lyons. The song was written by Mark Loquan and the video was written and produced by Gerelle Forbes. Dixie Ann Archer-McBain and Everard J McBain of GemGfx are responsible for the animation.
The video has been selected for consideration for over four international awards including the Munich Music Video Awards and the Euro Music Video Song Awards where it made it to the final stages but did not win. Considerations still in progress are the International Music Video Awards and International Sound Video Awards.
The video takes influence from Japanese-styled animation featuring Lyons as an animated superhero engaged in battle.
Speaking with the Newsday, Lyons said, “The video is about most of the times in life where we are our own worst enemies and we have to fight our own inner demons first before we could attack anything else.
“For a better tomorrow you have to work on yourself. A lot of us would point fingers and say ‘this person needs to stop doing this’ and ‘that person needs to stop that’ in order for certain things to happen. But we within ourselves have things to work on in order for everything to fall into place.”
The video’s battle takes place during Carnival and features the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, the Temple in the Sea in Waterloo and the National Academy for Performing Arts (NAPA), Port of Spain.
The main character features Lyons with an afro which she said was of particular importance to her as that is her preferred hairstyle especially during the Carnival season.
On the concept of the video Lyons said, “We used animation because we are trying to bring the younger crowd back to calypso, so I stay away from political topics.”
Forbes said, “The Better Tomorrow video was based on nation building and some sense of patriotism; and more importantly, now because we are in a pandemic, a sense of hope.”
Forbes explained the journey to where the video is now was a lengthy one.
She said Loquan brought the song to her in 2020 following the George Floyd incident in the US and the killing of three men by police in Second Caledonia, Morvant.
“When the protest happened, within those weeks it made his writing and the song carry a whole weight.”
She said originally there were plans for a normal music video with a dark theme.
“It was too dark and didn't compliment the music well so I made some adjustments and it still wasn’t working. Then the plan was to have Terri in a vehicle going down to Mayaro following the road and have that as a metaphor of people’s journey in life. That’s when the Prime Minister said ‘Lockdown.’ So we couldn’t shoot that anymore and of course everyone’s safety was the priority.”
Forbes said they decided to stick with the same concept using a green screen but that too did not feel right.
“The animator ended up losing his roof to heavy rains which resulted in his computer and the footage being destroyed.
“When we re-grouped we discussed what was happening with everyone right now because we wrote stories based on what was happening six months prior and now everybody is in a different place.
“Everybody is now at a place of evaluating themselves.”
Forbes, who is also a teacher of a youth group called Dynamic Young Adults, said during one of her online sessions with her students she had a conversation that lasted about four hours on connecting your intentions and actions to meet your objectives. This led her to realise the same class she had with her students was the story she wanted to tell with the video.
When it comes to the video’s message, she said, “The hard truth is: a better tomorrow requires personal work. It’s shadow work; you have to have a quiet conversation with yourself about your intentions and actions.”
When it came to writing the storyline she said, “I did not have to worry about writing for a certain class or demographic because everybody is wanting the same thing. We all want better. That’s why the entity in the video asks ‘Are you ready to do the work?’”
Forbes said the idea to do the video as a Japanese-styled animation came from one of her students, 18-year-old Mickile Brathwaite.
“One of the things I like most about this anime world is I have friends since university who are into the same anime shows as my students.”
After consulting her student she sought out an animation company and after extensive searching she found Dixie Ann and Everard McBain of GemGfx. The animation video took six months to produce.
She said in the end the production team was made up of the animators, Brathwaite, Loquan and herself.
When the video was released in February Loquan and Everard began submitting the video to be considered for awards. Forbes admitted to not knowing how aggressive they were with the video submissions for considerations until responses started coming in saying the video made it to the next round of evaluation.
On emotions around the video and it being up for consideration for a slew of international awards Lyons said, “You will do a lot of things in your life not expecting certain things to reach that far. You always go for greatness but then when it happens you’re like ‘What? Really?’ Because I am from this little, simple island and we’ve been here doing our thing and these people have been there doing animation for so many years. But sometimes it just takes one right moment with the right set of people to get it in order for something to materialise properly so I’m just grateful.”
Lyons said at first she thought it would be a normal video but then Forbes came up with the idea of an animation video. She admitted to being left out of the loop for some time but when she was presented with the video via a Zoom conference she instantly fell in love with it.
“When they said animation I wasn’t thinking to this level. Normally when we do animation here in TT it’s usually just one thing repeating within three seconds of a movement where the mouth doesn’t move without so much action or details.
“From start to finish nothing was repeated, it was like a movie. It was a movie. So when I saw it that wasn't what I expected.”
Comparing it to a video game, she said, “Right now a lot of the children in TT are gaming and the video looks like that. It looks like a video game. It looks like you are playing a game and could pick me as a character with a control to play.”
When Lyons found out the video was up for award she was shocked but wondered what the competition was.
“I hope it gets the recognition it’s supposed to get, it’s about time.”
Both Lyons' and Forbes’ favourite part of the video is a scene where the superhero is standing on top of the NAPA building.
Lyons said, “It gave me a hero- Wonder Woman vibe. I told myself ‘Terri all your life you’ve been watching Marvel movies never did I think I would be Wonder Woman standing on top of NAPA.’”
On creating a sequel Lyons said, “I hope something is done like a series on a local station or even pay-per-view.”