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Comics artist to bring T&T dystopia to TV

Sunday, August 9, 2015
Caryl “Trini” Jacobs voices Tarsin. Images courtesy: Ville Ventures Films

In the year 2018, civil war breaks out. A massive bomb has been launched on T&T, with disastrous outcome. That’s the scenario in Black Land, an upcoming TV series that is the brainchild of Ancil Harris. Dystopian future visions of T&T are all comic book enthusiast and burgeoning television producer Harris thinks about.

Over the past four years, Harris has been exploring the darker recesses of the local imagination. He has two upcoming television projects, Tarsin and Black Land.

Tarsin will be a five-part miniseries created for television. The project is still in production and casting has been confirmed with soca songstress Caryl “Trini” Jacobs signed on to voice the main heroine, and dancer/choreographer Jilla Cato confirmed to perform as Tarsin on screen doing all live action stunts as well as body acting.

“I have been doing comics since the age of six,” said Harris in a recent interview. “I published my first comic book, RAZOR, in 2005. It was available at Ishmael M Khan and Mohammed Bookstores. I launched a company in 2010 named Ville Ventures Films.” 

Harris manages the company and works alongside a small but passionate group of young T&T creatives collaborating to make local television and film content for the modern island audience. Both upcoming projects incorporate his love of comics as well as television.

“Four years ago I had an idea to do a motion comic based on a super hero living in Trinidad so I got inspiration from a Spider-Woman motion comic. One day I saw it online and was impressed by it so I had the idea of doing a motion comic myself.”

As Wikipedia explains, “A motion comic (or animated comic) is a form of film content which combines elements of print comic books and animation. Individual comic book panels are expanded into full motion picture format, while sound effects, voice acting, and animation are added to the original artwork.”

The heroine of Harris’ imagination is Tarsin, a superhero from the city of Port-of-Spain who stands for justice. The setting is a bleak future T&T, where crime and criminal activity have taken a turn for the chaotic. Her origin story begins with the character Nicole Baker, a hard-working, daredevil T&T police detective who is fighting against the insurmountable rise in illegal activities, gangs and violence.

The synopsis reads: "When a truck carrying a rare chemical-mechanical fluid called 'Tarsilin' crashes into young detective Nicole Baker she is exposed to the substance. The result is that her body begins to transform from organic material into highly advanced machine technology. Now she fights against the person that is responsible for this substance and for the fate of T&T."

Three others involved in the project are Vechenko Noel, who is responsible for recording the voice-over work and for producing the musical score, Adrian Beauche of Cirus Media Ltd, who does all the special effects, and Clifton Harris, who creates all the line art and posters.

Black Land is the second project from Ville Ventures Films. It is done in an innovative film style created by Harris, used exclusively in the Black Land thee-part TV mini-series. The new film style, which is yet unnamed, comprises a mixture of 1940s comic art, spoken word, animation, motion graphics, and live action. 

A similar approach was made by the creators of Frank Miller's Sin City, which was critically acclaimed for its innovative cinematography. Sin City’s colour processing rendered the film in sharp black and white but added or retained colouring for selected objects, as Wikipedia puts it.

Ville Ventures Black Land takes the film comic idea further by squeezing the look of live action and animation even closer together. While Sin City left its actors mostly unanimated and instead superimposed them on to green screen animated and motion graphic environments, the effect applied to Black Land consumes all its actors, scene environments and action sequences using a custom black/blue cartoon-like filter along with motion graphic-styled additions.

Creative director on the series Roland George said, "This new art style is different and we hope it spreads worldwide. Our official first test using the format is Black Land and so far we have received lots of good feedback about its look."

Black Land looks at T&T in the year 2018. A civil war wipes out a large portion of the country’s citizens and, in the following calm, few survivors remain. The survivors are citizens struggling to keep on living, and form an underground resistance fighting to expose the cause of the war and expose the hidden political agendas at play.

The official soundtrack for Black Land will be done in partnership with local rock group Cabezon the Band. On Black Land’s TV release Cabezon will issue the track, Liberty, along with an official music video made in conjunction with Ville Ventures Films. Cover art for the miniseries and the Cabezon single were also designed by Clifton Harris.

As director and producer of both projects, Ancil Harris is seeking local television distribution for Tarsin and Black Land. He also intends to look at online and regional distributors and will also consider a DVD release, he said. Black Land is expected to be completed this year, and Tarsin is expected to be released by mid-2016.

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