Jamaican film-maker, director and screenwriter Mezan Ayoka is one step closer to realising her dream of helming her first feature film.
She emerged winner of the Best Pitch Forward initiative organised by local arts organisation Kingston Creative in collaboration with Jampro, Development Bank of Jamaica; and Inter-American Development Bank's lab which is invested in growing the local creative economy. She walked away with $400,000 which she told the Jamaica Observer will be going towards creating the proof of concept short for her film Bluefields.
“I must tell you that I did the sciences all through high school and was a chemistry major at UWI. But I have always been a writer and even while at university I would find myself drifting off during those chemistry labs and writing poetry. I finally gave in a wrote my first screenplay. It was bad, very bad. I can say that now but at least what it did was give me an entry point to where I am now. I have done a short film which has screened internationally, worked in television and established my own production company, Ayzha Productions, with the aim of bringing a different perspective on Jamaican life.” she shared.
It is this passion that she took into the Best Pitch Forward competition hoping to woo the panel with her pet project Bluefields which she described as a coming-of-age drama about a young girl who tries to escape her feelings of guilt after being involved in a tragic accident which claims the life of her best friend. She goes to live with her stern grandmother and discovers a number of truths.
“I have always been a fan of the work of Kingston Creative. I saw the Best pitch information on their Instagram page and said to myself I will definitely give this a shot. I was previously involved in an EU project aimed at creating goods and services for export and worked with Jampro's Film Lab and the British Council so I figured I didn't have anything to lose. In preparing to pitch we had these great sessions with Dmitri Dawkins of Kingston Creative where we got a chance to practice the art of pitching and to zero in on what we wanted to put to the panel. I also drew on my friends to be my audience and used them as my audience once they had some time.”
“About a week before the pitch I had a dream that I came third. I don't even know what the competition was. All I know is that I came third and I woke up from the dream and just began telling myself to thing good thoughts. On the day of the pitch I was very nervous. Once it was my turn I just swallowed my nerves and did as I had practised. I still have third place on my mind and so when third place was announced and it wasn't me I just thought I was not in the top three. So when my name was called I didn't hear it. When I finally realised I won I was extremely surprise, but thankful,” said Ayoka
With prize money she looks to take Bluefields to the next level.
“The script is ready. Of course, there may be a few changes, but if I should start shooting tomorrow at least there is something on paper. I hope we can get something done net year. As for the casting the lead character... I want someone who is unknown. A fresh face who is a little entitled, but still very down to earth. She must be able to show range,” said Ayoka.