It was not until she wasn’t able to do it, that Shakirah Bourne realized screenwriting was the career path she was supposed to take.
The young film-maker told Bajan Vibes that she is now living her dream, and does not regret quitting her then job at Marcus Evans to pursue film full-time. Writing for her comes naturally.
“I was always writing. I would enter NIFCA; I would always write short stories. But I never thought that I could make a living from it. But it was only after I could not do it that I realized I wanted to do it.
“It’s after I got my first job in 2007 and that kept me so busy that I was only doing it as a hobby. After a year I was so miserable, that I quit; and I have been writing since then,” Shakirah said.
She continued: “I always liked writing, but the thing is in Barbados you don’t really think that you want to do it as a career; you just know that you like it. So when I decided to quit the job, that’s the only thing I could do.
“I wrote copy for magazines and stuff; so I started doing that sort of thing. That’s how I got into it; but my main love was always short fiction and short stories. It’s just I couldn’t make any money from it. Just the occasional prize you would win.”
But fast-forward to the present day. Shakirah now has two produced films under her belt – Payday and Two Smart, both of which have done extremely well – and has already completed filming for the Next Payday.
She explained that producing the first Payday was rough, but it paved the way for her other films.
“We had no money when we shot Payday. We had no costumes; we were begging people. We ran out of money to pay for food; and it was the community who came together; and were like, ‘We can roast breadfruit for y’all’ . . . . Brought bread and cheese; and that was our lunch.
“Unfortunately, the movie name Payday; so the other newspaper had Shakirah Gets Payday, making people think we were making real money. The truth is, we made enough to pay off our expenses.
“Yes it was in Olympus for 13 weeks; but it’s not all our money. It also gave us enough of a start that we could begin planning for Two Smart. It was not a big, big pay-off,” the outspoken Shakirah said.
But where there was lack in financial benefit, according to Shakirah, it was made up for in exposure of the film.
“The next time we approached people about sponsorship, or using a location, they were a lot more willing, because they saw we could actually get it done. So that’s how Payday was beneficial,” she added.
Her next movie Two Smart made for smoother sailing, and she is still reaping the “benefits”.
“I will be going to Amsterdam in two weeks for a festival. They are focusing on Caribbean authors; so they invited me to come down. Unfortunately it’s at the same time as the Canadian premiere of Two Smart . . . so I will be missing [the latter],” she said.
This is not Shakirah’s first international invitation. She recently returned from a South African trip which she said was a wonderful experience and eye-opener.
“A lot of Bajan film-makers went down to South Africa to a ‘film-mart’, which is a distribution market for people who are looking for black and African content to show in Africa. So we were able to go, meet other film-makers, link up with other distributors who were interested in Caribbean content . . . . I had a lot of opportunities; but I have to follow up and see where it goes.
“It was good because I realized that even though I am now starting, they are facing some of the same problems I am, in terms of funding and getting distribution,” she said, adding: “They stress on the importance of authentic stories, which is something I always try to do.”
Shakirah is not just big on her films, but on her short story writing as well – which she always believed was her strength.
“I had all these stories always on my computer. So when I performed, people were always asking me where I could get the work and I couldn’t tell them, and I just decided to put them all in a collection and I wrote some more specifically for the collection and put it online. I didn’t even bother to look for a publisher because
I just wanted to get them out there. The response has been really good so far – better than I expected,” she said.
In fact, the response has been so good, that she has plans on writing a novel.
“God knows when that is going to happen, but I used the book as a marketing vehicle for the novel. I really want the book to be in schools and everything.”
Now her main focus is on Next Payday, which is supposed to come out very soon. For Shakirah the feeling of her success from last April until now is nothing short of phenomenal.
“I’m not sure . . . it happened so fast. I didn’t have time to process it until I was watching them with someone later on in the theatre. We just finished Next Payday. The trailer should be out soon. We have so many other things planned,” she said.
Shakirah is quite excited that film is taking off in her “little island of Barbados”.
“Film in Barbados is getting better. Mainly because people are doing more and getting better. You have to just do it. We have to keep pushing out films and it will start to make money, and as soon as that happens people will take interest . . . . At any given point in time there is always a local movie in the cinema now. Three years ago that was not the case. More
and more people are interested.”
However, she said: “It’s not as good as it could be. But if you tell someone now that you make movies, it’s not as ridiculous and strange. If more and more pay an interest then we will grow.”