Paul Pryce: Raising the Bar on Caribbean Filmmaking

Paul Pryce: Raising the Bar on Caribbean Filmmaking

Paul Pryce

Paul Pryce’s new film The Deliverer is about to raise the bar on the Caribbean movie industry, says Lisa Wickham, the film’s producer and one of the region’s leaders in building the sector.

The Deliverer, a 14-minute proof of concept film which Pryce plans to turn into a full feature, is now making the rounds of the international film festival circuit. It tells the story of a desperate fisherman who in his protests of a corrupt government’s plan to destroy his village, makes a perilous deal that can either save his home or signal the beginning of the end for him and his community.

“The Deliverer opens up the conversation on crime, corruption and several issues affecting the Caribbean today. It is an ambitious attempt to come face to face with these issues while still being dramatic and entertaining. It will certainly change the paradigm of how local films get made,” Wickham says of the project. “Paul has written a very interesting script that will certainly place demands on cast and crew. From my experience this augurs well for the industry as once accomplished, it inevitably raises the bar.”

This is high praise for Pryce who before 2005 had no real interest in filmmaking. He came to regional and international attention, after being chosen by Oprah as the Caribbean’s Sexiest Man in 1999. While taking advantage of his winnings, which included modeling work in New York City, Pryce got turned on to the idea of shifting his focus from the runway to the stage.

Paul Pryce: Raising the Bar on Caribbean Filmmaking

“That experience was formative because I had just started fashion modelling in Trinidad more for fun than anything else, but that quickly landed me in front of Oprah within a month or so of being in fashion. It was a whirlwind. I found myself in New York shooting a spread of VIBE magazine and going on go-sees at modelling agencies and photographers,” shares Paul.

At the same time, he was booking gigs with Calvin French at Boss Models. He was completing an undergraduate degree in Business Management at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus in Trinidad and flying between New York and Paris for work.

“Modelling exposed me to a whole new world of entertainment and it was through that experience that I discovered my love for acting, something up until that point I hadn’t done much of at all.”

Recognizing a new door was opening with his expanded connections in New York, Paul enrolled in the Yale School of Drama, to pursue an MFA in Acting.  “I went to Yale because it is the best school for acting and theatre. I wanted to learn and be among the best in the field in order to grow as an artist. Also, they offered scholarships to those selected into the program. It was a no-brainer.”

By the time the director went off to do his master’s the Caribbean had produced cult classics such as Third World Cop and Shottas out of Jamaica, The Sweetest Mango from Antigua & Barbuda, and The Mystic Masseur, from Trinidad & Tobago/UK which was an adaption of V.S. Naipaul’s book. The region was more popular for location shooting for Hollywood blockbusters and less about homegrown movies.

“There wasn’t much happening in terms of local filmmaking to the extent that it is now. My decision to leave Trinidad was to experience the world and to pursue something that was very limited back home at the time. Now there is a robust industry happening, with extremely talented filmmakers, a wonderful film festival and much more of a focus on film being an economic driver for the country. It’s an exciting time indeed.”

Pryce says he is “impressed with Storm Saulter and what he is making as a filmmaker out of Jamaica.”  He is also keeping an eye on the good work that Maria Govan out of The Bahamas is doing. Frances-Ann Solomon and her pioneering work not only as a filmmaker but as a visionary for distribution of Caribbean film, is also someone he admires.

Now, Trinidad & Tobago and the wider region are producing sports films and romantic comedies, which are usually easier to market and show the Caribbean in the best light. With The Deliverer, Pryce who wrote and stars in the film is showing the darker side of the Caribbean beyond the sea, sun, and sand.

“This story has been in development for almost 10 years. I was researching the life of Dole Chadee, a notorious drug lord from Trinidad and a murder he had committed that ultimately brought he and his crew down, suffering the deathly fate of capital punishment. There was rumor of political involvement with Chadee and fear that he would talk exposing many high-ranking politicians involved in illegal activity thus prompting his hasty demise.

“This captivated me and prompted my writing the script. But also, there were protests against the government for a highway project that would have displaced villagers off their land. This was another major catalyst for my story. The Caribbean is plagued by political malfeasance and crime, two scourges that have bankrupted the region and stymied our progress for generations. I wanted to create a work of art that tackled these issues by drawing on events that have happened.

“I think we as a people feel numb to corruption and crime, in that we feel that we are powerless to affect any real change and my hope if that my film sparks a dialogue perhaps even an outrage that makes us as a Caribbean community ask ourselves why are we allowing these leaders and thugs to exploit us and destroy our beautiful community.”

When asked why he felt he was the best one to tell the story, his response was simply “Why not me?”

“I think that’s the thing. Why not any one of us stand up and take responsibility for what is happening and doing what we can with the tools we have to be the change we want to see?’

This passion and desire to be part of the change is part of the reason Wickham took on the producer role with the new film. “Paul is extremely dedicated and committed and most importantly ethical with integrity and so it shows in his work and the way in which he relates with his cast, crew, and people in general. He works longer, drives the team and really demands excellence, which is why I enjoy working with him.”

Paul Pryce: Raising the Bar on Caribbean Filmmaking

Ron Morales (L)

Pryce tapped Ron Morales, an award-winning film director he had worked with on his first shirt film Come out Come Out, to make The Deliverer. He then pulled from his network of talented and seasoned actors from Trinidad and abroad to cast Michael Cherrie, Evelyn Caesar-Munroe, Leslie-Ann Lavine and Marvin Ishmael. Voice over work is done by Sterling Henderson.

The filmmaker has his work cut out for him. In 2010, Paul established a theatre company called Scarlett Project, dedicated to the production and creation of West Indian art and theatre. Scarlett Project has produced the Caribbean plays Smile Orange and Rum and Coca Cola to date. He continues to teach acting in New York and will be spending considerable time to ready The Deliverer for a full feature. Pryce recently won the pitch competition at Caribbean Tales Film Festival in Toronto, Canada. The film will be turned into a 10-episode television series called Serpent’s Mouth, which is the name of the perilous sea between Trinidad and Venezuela that the fisherman must traverse to save his home.

“Where there is a will, there is a way,” Pryce says of the work ahead.

“I want to tell relevant stories to time, space and to the subjects of which I write about. I want to make powerful stories that entertain while rousing the spirits of our emotions and burst the synapses of our minds. Not just for Caribbean audiences but audiences anywhere in the world. I believe The Deliverer achieves that.”

Check out the movie website here (thdeliverermovie.com) and follow their Facebook page here… Follow on Fb https://www.facebook.com/thedeliverermovie/

You can see The Deliverer at these upcoming events:

Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival – September 21, 2018 – https://ttfilmfestival.com/
Montreal International Film Festival – September 29, – http://montrealblackfilm.com/en/movie/the-deliverer-2/
Arpa International Film Festival – Nov 2-4, Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood

Previously published by Nerissa Golden

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