If you were one of the viewers who voted Buck: The Man Spirit a winner at the recently concluded 2012 Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival, thank Jurassic Park. It was watching this 1993 Hollywood blockbuster that inspired little Steven Taylor, then seven years old and growing up in La Canoa, Santa Cruz, to become a special-effects artist and film director. Taylor's 35-minute dramatic film won People's Choice for Best Local Short, an award announced at the festival's awards ceremony on September 30 at the National Academy for Performing Arts (Napa). Though Buck was a group project with two other students for the UWI BA in film production capstone course, it is Taylor who has been getting all the attention. He wrote, directed, edited and marketed the film, in addition to co-producing it with his fellow students B Clint Gregoire and Kivonne Ramsarwak.
The film "was an avenue for me to do some special effects and do some directing," Taylor said. Having studied for a year in Toronto at the Complections International Academy of Make-Up Artistry, Taylor has been working as an effects makeup artist while doing a double major in film production and film studies. Taylor did the gory special effects makeup for the film, and made the animatronic title character-the buck, a mythical creature that grants wealth to the one who feeds it, but at a terrible price.
Some might dispute that "mythical" tag; bucks or bacoos, as they are known in Guyana, are widely believed to exist, according to Taylor's research. In an interview a few days after copping the People's Choice award, Taylor said, "I spoke to some Guyanese people who didn't even want to say their names, they just wrote them on a piece of paper. "Once it exists in the human mind it's real." He wrote the script as a feature but had to cut it down because of time and budget constraints. And though the main character Audi (played by veteran actor Errol Sitahal) is partly based on Taylor's dad, a taxi driver like Audi, Taylor said the story is fictional. He was walking home from HiLo when he ran into some Guyanese construction workers with a bag of tools. "What if they had a buck in that bag?" he recalled thinking.
Buck isn't his first film; he submitted The Other Side of Campus, another short, to the 2010 festival; the following year he did another dramatic short, Brushstrokes, but didn't submit it. All his films so far have been dark and full of menace-for example, Brushstrokes, which also stars Sitahal, is about a con man who gets a grisly comeuppance. But Taylor, now 24, comes across as friendly, confident and self-assured, the opposite of his desperate, sinister characters. Set to graduate this year, he plans to go to Los Angeles this week to scout schools for his master's degree and to network with industry professionals. Taylor is unsure whether he wants to continue his career in Trinidad and Tobago.
"It's a decision-making year for me," he said.