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Winning the 2015 T&T Smartphone Film Festival was a surprise to Ayesha Jordan. Her first place entry, Good Ole Days, was not her first stab at the competition. Jordan, 33, also submitted to the 2014 cycle, but was unsuccessful. The loss was not discouraging for the Mayaro-born-and-bred filmmaker and mother, however. In fact, losing pushed her to work even harder at the craft.
“I make films because it’s a creative challenge and competitions and festivals are a way for me to continuously push myself to create better work,” said Jordan during a recent interview at Mayaro Cable TV (MCTV) where she is a multimedia specialist.
In addition to a cash award, new mobile devices, a trophy and training workshop, Jordan’s prize includes submission of her film into the Toronto Smartphone Film Festival—one of the largest festivals of this kind in the world. The international exposure is a particularly exciting part of the win, according to Jordan, who has been quietly gaining accolades and honing her skills not only as a director but also as an actress, artist and writer for the past eight years.
Jordan has studied photography and film at UWI Open Campus and the Digital Film Institute. Her shorts have been screened twice at the T&T Film Festival. She has also studied acting and script writing with Tony Hall and participated in directing workshops with Chris Brownie.
In Good Ole Days, Jordan tells the story of a past generation of Trinidadian lifestyle. The film is a flashback as a grandmother answers her granddaughter’s questions about childhood. Jordan plays the grandmother and the mother in the past, while her three children expertly take up numerous roles as the granddaughter and young grandmother.
“The film came from my reminiscing about growing up and the way we’ve lost our value systems and discipline (in Trinidad),” said Jordan who explained that she had many responsibilities growing up, such as tending to goats before school. She said many aspects of the lifestyle depicted in the film are still alive in Mayaro, but seem to be slowly fading away.
“In the countryside, we still go outside to cook sometimes and the fruit trees are always there for us to pick from; in the village everybody looks out for one another, but a lot of children are really wrapped up in technology. They’re not taking time to observe their environment or get to know people properly.”
Discipline is a major theme in the film and also a way of life for Jordan. To complete her entry, Jordan had to balance work, family and filming—a rotation to which she has become extremely accustomed.
“In order to keep myself inspired, I know that I have to do things outside of work. So I have to make time to do things that I’m really passionate about. When I get home I make sure to get into my personal zone and create. I have a lot of late nights after I settle my children when it’s me time—usually sometime between 10 pm and 4 am—I’m up late writing and editing.”
Good Ole Days took approximately one week to complete using a fourth Generation iPod Touch on a $400 budget. Jordan built a special stand for the iPod to assist with shooting, but the device fell so many times during production that the screen eventually shattered. In addition to camerawork, Jordan also wrote the script and did her own voiceovers and editing using Adobe Premier Pro. And if that wasn’t enough, Jordan also drew folklore characters which were used as stills in the film.
The judges described Good Ole Days as “unique and creative” adding that the story was well told and the actors “excelled in performance,” according to FilmTT, the festival administrators. This year’s panel of judges comprised of Christopher Anthony Din Chong, Sonja Dumas, Mandisa Pantin and Marvin Ishmael.
Although entries into this year’s festival decreased by about 13 per cent, FilmTT general manager Jamil Agard believes the festival is an incubator for quality local content. At the Smartphone Film Festival award ceremony, he said, “The 25 (entries) that we received this year illustrate the continued popularity of this initiative. In fact, I expect that many of the first-timers in this year’s Smartphone Film Festival will be among those who will crew the next wave of T&T based productions.”
And Agard may have a good point. Last year’s first and second place winners, Robert Evelyn and Rishma Hansil respectively, have been able to use their wins to help propel their careers. Evelyn directed the recently released local drama, The Apartment, and Hansil is currently in the UK earning a Master’s degree in media and film.
So what’s next for Jordan? She plans to continue writing and studying in preparation for a feature film. The festival victory has helped her to seal her identity as a filmmaker and connect all her creative energies. “I’ve only recently started identifying myself as a filmmaker because of the exposure and interest in my work. People are actually asking about my other projects. Now, every talent that I have is tying into my filmmaking and I’m learning how to put it all together.”
To keep up with Jordan and view some of her short films, like her Facebook page: Ayesha Jordan Productions.
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