UWI’s Michelle Serieux: New Dynamo in Caribbean Film
UWI’s Michelle Serieux: New Dynamo in Caribbean Film
St Lucian born Michelle Serieux-the dynamo, the dreamer, the creative genius, views herself first as a performer, and secondly as a film-maker; producer-writer-director. As an undergrad on Seacole Hall, UWI Mona, I had the privilege of having ‘Mich’ as my Resident Advisor; it is from this experience that she became elevated to creative royalty in my estimation. Her energy and vibe was one which engulfed the room and called its occupants to become a part of and share visions. ‘Mich’ always had a vision, an idea, a dream and concept which she brought to life. And her latest vision is New Caribbean Cinema.
What is New Caribbean Cinema? In a nutshell, it is “a series of short films which when put together, will be released as one feature length film, with multiple approaches to story-telling from the different directors who will have helmed its content.” As their website proudly proclaims, it’s the “new wave and new style” of new directors on the Jamaican and Caribbean film scene, committed to producing great work, by any means necessary (www.newcaribbeancinema.com).
Michelle views her role in the Caribbean film industry as creating “not just a movement but a genre-a way of creating work in the Caribbean that would reflect a philosophy and a particular style of filmmaking ...something that could define us.” Together with Storm Saulter, a graduate of The Los Angeles Film School, she formed ‘New Caribbean Cinema’ as they were very concerned about the lack of recent work coming out of Jamaica and the Caribbean and are committed to using the available resources to practice and improve on their craft and produce good work.
New Caribbean Cinema is however more than just a short film series. It is really a “collective of young Caribbean filmmakers who have come together to create a body of work that represents ourselves as individual artists but which, when put together, makes a statement about the issues on our minds as a collective with a particular worldview and experience of life.” She notes, “New Caribbean Cinema is a collaborative effort to pump new breath into the Caribbean film scene by creating, creating, creating: using the resources available to us with the hope that out of this will emerge a creative style that is indigenous to us, our region, our side of the world.” The aim is to empower themselves as filmmakers, combine their passions and encourage others to do the same to increase film production in the Caribbean.
The plan is to release the films they have been working on this summer. They have had test screenings of two of the films in Jamaica and in St. Lucia as well as in Trinidad and Tobago and the response has been amazing. New Caribbean Cinema was recently featured on the cover of the Caribbean Beat magazine and that has also promoted the company. Mich is also busy with multiple short form projects and two feature length projects that she is keeping close to her chest-at least for the time being. In the music video realm, the most fulfilling project to date has been producing the Tarrus Riley video ‘Shakka Zulu Pickney’. She admits “work like that makes me really happy because of the nature of the message. Often people compromise the ‘message’, but it is when you have the freedom to impart the essence that you feel like you are really producing art, work that says something to humanity. I feel that any artist must always ask themselves ‘what is it that I have to say’ and in the case of this video, the positive message was a sentiment shared by all involved on the project and that energy can be felt in the final product.”
Michelle regards Derek Walcott with whom she worked on a number of theatrical productions before and during her tenure at the University as her mentor. At the UWI, her cadre of artistic mentors expanded to include “Franklyn ‘Chappie’ St. Juste, John Maxwell, Aggrey Brown, Marjan de Bruin and Yvette Rowe”. She noted that they “all took more than a passing interest in my capabilities.” As with many UWI graduates, hall life played an important role in her development. Michelle recounts that the forward thinking and progressive leadership of Nadeen Spence, then Resident Advisor and later Student Services Manager of The AZ Preston Hall helped her to come into her own creativity. Preston Hall is known as a ‘cultural mecca’ on the Mona Campus and the environment there, she says, definitely helped nurture the creative spirits who passed through.
She lists her most memorable moment in her field to date as “really and truly working on the feature film Better Mus Come. I was working as the Continuity Supervisor and one ridiculously hot day when we were shooting a scene in Sandy Park, someone turned on their sound system and the music of Tarrus Riley came blaring through the zinc roof tops and the dusty lanes. I remember just how blessed I felt to be on my first real Caribbean, Jamaican, home-grown film-set and to be able to make a living from doing something I truly love.”
When asked about her vision for the Creative, Artistic and Film Industry in the Caribbean, Mich’s reply is passionate; “My vision is that my children will be able to fully engage themselves in creative endeavours without ever having to worry about a plan B; that if my son decides he is going to be a writer, then he can spend all of his time writing, without having to worry about being able to pay the bills with this kind of work; that if my daughter decides she wants to direct and produce a sketch comedy show, she will be able to find the right talent right here in Jamaica or the Caribbean and will get the financial support to get it on the air, because there will exist a certified institute here to train actors in all areas of their craft, so that all the essential ingredients to make these creative ideas manifest are there waiting to ‘jump into the pot’ and produce some good food: economic, creative and socio political ‘food’. The potential is all here but it is now time to ‘actualise’. She believes that the UWI and CARIMAC have a role to play in this vision. She feels there needs to be a more proactive approach to helping young minds make the transition to becoming creative entrepreneurs. “We need to encourage young minds to be bold, be brave and to dare to challenge the traditions and to find new ways to operate.” She believes that UWI graduates must continue to make strides in all fields with vision and determination and the acknowledgement of responsibility for change and development “forever etched in our minds, as we are the ‘Light Rising from the West’.”
By Lacey-Ann Bartley