Bajan/UK film collab wins UK award
It was the best night of her life for A Caribbean Dream producer Melissa Simmonds, as the film won Best Drama at the National UK Film Awards last Wednesday.
This will be the film’s fourth award as it won Best Film Feature at London Independent Film Festival, Best Produced Screenplay at Los Angeles Independent Film Festival and International Film at Charlotte Black Film Festival in 2017.
Simmonds collaborated with Barbadian writer Shakirah Bourne who directed the 2015 film. A Caribbean Dream is the reworking of the Shakespeare fairytale A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set in a modern day Barbados.
The producer noted that the winning film was in the same category as Oscar winners Three Billboards and I am not a Witch. This proved that independent cinema was still alive, along with the power of social media, she added.
The elated London/Barbados based producer shared her accomplishment via Facebook commenting on the cultural synergy which resulted in the film’s winning formula.
“Without executives Christian Roberts [ex owner of Lone Star] and Keith Morris believing in the original ideas of adaptation it would not have got off the ground and of course there was a lot of team work in shoot once we had Bourne’s great script but I am convinced there was an energy larger than life, supporting us on this determined journey, helping us overcome tropical rains and earthquakes at one point; it feels like the universe has conspired to bring Barbadians and Brits together and recognized our team work ,” Simmonds said.
One of the major themes of the Shakespeare based film was the focus on mixed coupling. The producer pointed out that the world is fragile and polarized and said it was always her aim to put across the simple but profound message of people uniting.
Another noteable aspect of the film was mysticism which materialized on film through the creative lighting of the set and beautiful backdrop of the grounds of Fustic House.
Simmonds ensured the right lighting team was hired to make this happen, so Barbadians Roger Moore, Kirk Dawson, Bruce Batson, Tharreo Dear,Teddy Calderon and Peter Lewis worked with British Director of Photography Robin Whenary and Director Bourne to accomplish this beautifully.
“I knew I had insisted on the right lighting team and producers are never popular especially when they know what they want to be seen on the screen,” she said.
Passion for film and Barbados
A hands-on Simmonds was also responsible for several other aspects of the film’s production. For A Caribbean Dream, she raised all the money, found the main location, selected the cast and its visual style working with Leandro Soto and all of the art department, wardrobe and make up team, to achieve the right look.
“Its about obsessive attention to detail,” said Simmonds. “So even all our extras were thoroughly checked for the right color schemes.
“Ironically when I first approached Bourne in 2014 she was not sure it would work . . . . But I convinced her through auditions that the Barbadian accent lent itself to the rhythm of Shakespeare. There were several ideas she then had to work with – Hippolyta and Theseus being returning nationals; The Lovers ending up in mixed race couplings; Bottom being played by a woman and all the Mechanicals being turned to Fishermen as well as Titania coming out of water and fighting for her changeling son during Crop Over.
“The casting was in place as I was very familiar with the actors like Patrick Foster, Jherad Alleyne and Keshia Pope from running Gale Theatre of London and Barbados from 2007 to 2012.”
Beyond the Dream
The producer acknowledged that the film has gone further than she had dreamed of, but her driving force was to put the Barbadian talent on a bigger platform and that’s the dream come true for her.