Empowerment through entertainment

Empowerment through entertainment

RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 24, 2020

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Belle Castle, near Hector's River in Portland, is a quiet community. Far removed from bustling industry, the younger residents of the community struggle to find means of employment.

It is against this background that stage actor Ricky Rowe has stepped in to assist the younger members of the community using the entertainment industry as a means of a livelihood and ultimately economic empowerment.

He has launched a project which seeks to build a cadre of professionals in the areas of acting, production management as well as cameramen from the residents of Belle Castle.

“I was born and raised in Portland and I have always wanted to do something to give back to my community. Each time I come back here the young people are always asking me to do something for them. But the truth is I really didn't know what I could do.”

Then he got it. Rowe thought to himself, Why not use what he knows best, the theatre, to create a movement within the people of his community. So he wrote a script, but noted that a play would be too costly to mount and the logistics of staging the production were prohibitive.

“I realised that it would be better to make a short film. The young people are into social media. It's a much better way to get the project out there and so much more people can see it, compared to a play. And Cock Fight was born.”

Cock Fight is the name Rowe and his team have given to a 13-part series, the first episode was uploaded to the group's YouTube channel on May 8, with a second set to be ready in a few weeks. The production uses drama to discuss some of the issues affecting the community.

“Right now we have about seven young people involved in the project. Five are working as actors, there is one young lady who is into production management and others are interested in working behind the camera. For this first episode we are looking at the motor bikes in the community. These are popular among the younger residents of Belle Castle, but the older members of the community are not into it because they say it is too loud. So we have used comedy to look at this issue,” Rowe shared.

“We are using entertainment to empower these young people and so far it has gone down really well with the young people. They can't wait to start filming the other episodes, everyone is pleased. I am also looking at the bigger picture as this activity gives them an opportunity to channel their energy... and we all know that the devil finds work for idle hands,” he added.

Rowe also uses his contacts within the entertainment industry to be resource persons for his emerging group. They have benefited from the knowledge of Sean Drisdale who is the drama facilitator at the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission and the first episode was shot by the team from Kapra House, a Corporate Area-based production company.

“Portland can be called Jamaica's film capital. Over the years a number of major productions have been shot on location in our parish. Errol Flynn came here many years ago and did not leave. the latest James Bond film was recently shot here. So I want to build a team of professionals so that they can earn from film and entertainment in Portland. We also want to show off the beautiful scenery, show that other side of Jamaica. Once we develop our production it is something we could look to pitch to a Netflix or something like that. The sky is the limit and I just want to help my young people to realise these dreams,” said Rowe.


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