Saturday 14 December, 2019

'Savannah' film maker in investment talks after successful pilot

Donisha Prendergast

Donisha Prendergast

Local film production group, DSE Media, is highly optimistic following the successful debut of their narrative short film, Savannah, on Television Jamaica (TVJ) and Hype TV just over a week ago.

The team premiered the 23-minute pilot to rave reviews and have even attracted the interest of potential stakeholders. This has prompted them to postpone the online release of the project until such talks are complete. That is no small feat for DSE Media, having stretched very limited resources to complete this passion project with a 23-person, entirely local crew in three days in Breastworks, Portland, where much of the footage was shot.

The global film industry is witnessing a rise in narratives designed to instigate some level of social commentary while providing entertainment. This is reflected in Savannah’s relatable story, written by actress/activist/content creator, Donisha Prendergast, who also stars in the film. It explores relationship dynamics, long-distance love and economic instability, all common themes in the lives of many young people today.

Prendergast and her co-creator, Mykal ‘Kush Asher’ Cushnie, the film’s director, are optimistic about the future of Jamaica’s film industry, especially after sojourning to Africa to explore the scene and understand the untapped potential we can harness locally. They believe we not only have unique stories, but also a wealth of resources, talented pool of equipped, skilled writers, filmmakers and actors, and a thriving African market ready to indulge in Jamaican content.

After being commissioned to direct five made-for-television movies for MNET in Nairobi, Kenya, circa 2014 (a direct result of his networking trip to Africa), doing music videos for Sean Paul, Damian Marley and Protoje, and TV shows like Mission Catwalk and NCB Capital Quest, Kush is ready to dive into the world of network drama. Savannah is his first independently produced short film.

“We were intentional in crafting a story with a female lead because I believe the voice of the Jamaican woman is yet to really be platformed on film in a consistently positive and beautiful way. Being able to watch a Jamaican movie every Sunday evening and follow each character’s journey as their story unfolds, that’s what I want to do,” he remarked.

Actors Joel Young Sang and zBek, both new faces to the screen, brought great depth to their characters, sparking questions to be explored in future episodes alongside fellow thespians, John & Deanna McFarlane and Rachel Allen.

“We wanted to tell a simple story about young people exploring ideas of love, independence and life outside of what they know. In Jamaica, sometimes, that means dealing with situations that arise as a ripple effect of an unstable economy. Being aware of the times we are living in is key to survival,” Prendergast shared.

She has come full circle since her acting debut over a decade ago, starring in Jambiz theatre productions like Puppy Love and Cindy-Relisha & the DJ Prince, national modelling campaigns and local radio and TV commercials. After pursuing acting studies at Howard University and travelling to Africa with her grandmother, she shifted focus to behind the lens, working on music videos and documentaries. More recently, she has occupied the stage as an activist for RasTafari rights to their heritage land, Pinnacle, travelling the world to research and platform her documentary film, RasTa, A Soul’s Journey— a Canadian production by Jamaican-born executive producer, Patricia Scarlett.

Of her return to the screen for Savannah, she explained, “Deciding to act again, that’s a part of the healing... of the nation. As a creative being, I don’t want to feel limited to any expression of my art. I’m excited to continue honing it in every way possible. The mission hasn’t changed, we just continue to evolve to play a greater role in preserving humanity.”

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