Barbadian writer, Shakirah Bourne, has done what most screenplay writers only dream of doing, and many more don't even dare to dream: written and shot a full-length, feature film on her own soil.
Like most writers, she was scribbling as far back as she can remember, but only began taking it seriously around 2009, after graduating from UWI Cave Hill with a degree in Management and Psychology. Ironically, at the same time that her hunger for writing deepened, she had just started her first real job...which cut her writing time down almost to nothing."I was miserable. I quit my job, and since then I've worked for myself." A brave move, at a time when quitting your day job to try to make a living off of writing is a risk on par with cliff-diving. But Bourne knew the time was right. "I don't have any kids; I didn't have any major financial responsibilities. If ever there was a time to do something crazy, it was then."
But the crazy move paid off. She began to get work, mainly producing copy for magazines and short educational scripts. Within a year she went off to Scotland to do a Masters' degree in Arts and Cultural Management, and upon her return immersed herself in the tricky task of harnessing and monetising cultural talent on her island. There are a lot of people and small companies out there who have valuable talents, she explains, "They just don't know how to go about marketing themselves."
But the economy made it hard, and the low monetary value that clients place on such services was frustrating. "They were interested, but as soon as we got to the point of talking about money...." Bourne wipes her hand across her forehead ruefully, leaving the rest unsaid.She couldn't resist the lure of the screen, and wasn't about to sit around cooling her heels waiting for a miracle to propel her own writing into the public eye. "I talked to this guy; he told me he's had his screenplay for 15 years! I can't do that...I'm real impatient!"She and a few other young artistes came together–a videographer/director, a producer and a few others, and formed Let's Do This Filmz. Together they decided that, do or die, they were producing their own home-grown Bajan movie, and getting it out there. "We needed a film that was easy to make, entertaining, and reflective of the Caribbean."
The first step, writing the screenplay itself, was relatively easy. Bourne remembers watching the popular American film, Friday, featuring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker, and observing how effective and captivating the story could be, while confined to a single location and a small cast. "I took out all the elements I loved, and came up with a raw slice of Barbadian life."The movie, called Payday, had to be done on a budget that wasn't even big enough to qualify as shoestring. How did they pull it off? Through ingenuity, persuasion, begging, and the kindness of strangers. "We shot it all on one street," she remembers, in Bayfield, St. Philip, to be precise, and everyone on the street took part...with true West Indian aplomb.
"We knocked on doors and asked, 'We're shooting a movie. Can we use your house?' And they welcomed us with open arms. They helped us find props. One guy was going to work, he gave us his house keys and told us to lock up after." A woman let the cast and crew of 29 use her bathroom. Others promised breadfruit, coconuts and fish to feed the cast. "They were always there. We couldn't have done this without them." As she relates the story, Bourne is overwhelmed by emotion.
While she did have seasoned actors, the cast also comprised actors who turned up to audition with more enthusiasm than experience. "You'd never believe they were first-time actors," she says. She laughs when she recounts the story of being confronted in a bar by a man pretending to be drunk, just to get a laugh out of everyone. She hired him on the spot to play the role of the drug-addled vagrant, Flintstone. There were also musicians, writers and poets thrown into the mix.
Reflecting upon her fantastic journey over the past few months, she is overwhelmed by how much can be achieved if everyone wants the same thing, and believes they can touch what's out of their reach if they only stand tall enough. "Once you're committed, and you really want something, you try your best at it. And that's really what's important."Before her first film has even hit the cinemas, Bourne is already planning a second, also due for release this year. You can find trailers and moving posters on their YouTube Channel at LetsDo This Filmz. Payday is due for release this summer.