High hopes for Hummingbird
Film-maker Stephanie Hazel-Lyle vies for Netflix-sponsored funding
Stephanie Hazle-Lyle

EMERGING film-maker Stephanie Hazle-Lyle's script Hummingbird is one of 19 selected by the Women in Film and Television International (WIFTI) Worldwide Pitch Competition to vie for funding, sponsored by Netflix.

Hazle-Lyle, a member of Women in Film and Television Jamaica (WIFTJA), will be pitching her project to an international panel of professionals on December 21.

She was excited at her selection.

"I'm incredibly honoured to have been selected to represent the Jamaican chapter in WIFTI's Worldwide Pitch Competition. I did not see it coming, but I was hopeful and it is encouraging to know that it's always worth taking a shot because you never know where you may land," said Hazle-Lyle.

She used the opportunity to laud producer Frank O'Neill who guided her along the way.

In giving an insight into Hummingbird, she said: "It is about finding a home abroad and, essentially, the main themes in the film are immigration and deportation. Culturally, a lot of people tend to migrate in search of better opportunities. And in the case of our main character, she stayed back in her homeland but had to face day-to-day issues, including relationship challenges, while looking forward to migrating to join her family. However, when she lands she finds there are many of the same problems from which she was running away, " the film-maker told the Jamaica Observer.

"This story is one that many people in Jamaica and globally can relate to. That's the inspiration. We want to do something that people can identify with," she continued.

Nadean Rawlins, president of WIFTJA, was elated at Hazle-Lyle's selection.

"We are truly ecstatic that we have representation at the Worldwide Pitch competition and wish Stephanie all the best! As we continue to play our part in the development of the film, television and new media in Jamaica we are confident that our representation at the WIFTI Worldwide Pitch will be a positive step in the right direction in fulfilling the organisation's objective," said Rawlins in release.

Hazel-Lyle said though she was exposed to the performing arts in her teens — through the Jamaica Musical Theatre — she didn't formally study acting or film-making.

"My journey into theatre is an unconventional one. I entered the commercial space in 2010 in the David Tulloch-directed play Paternal Instincts which also featured Denise Hunt. Since then, I've been cast in Dahlia Harris's Hell and Powder House, and Ring Games. As for film, I was part of a production team that did a short film called Unbound in 2017. The producers and directors of that show were David Johnson from Boncrek Films and Aliceia Dawkins–they were the producers. I was the executive producer on that project with Kevin Jackson and I also acted in that production. I also co-directed and co-produced Kindle: Story of a Woman on Fire with Frank O'Neill... I didn't study acting, but I was always working in that space," she continued.

Each WIFTI chapter globally was invited to submit one project for the WIFTI Worldwide Pitch. The criteria for the competition were to present a feature film project with a female or non-binary lead character, and the project should be in early script, treatment or long synopsis development stage with a female or non-binary writer and director.

BY BRIAN BONITTO Associate Editor – Auto & Entertainment bonittob@jamaicaobserver.com

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