Escayg confronts less savory aspects of life in TT
By Leiselle Maraj Monday, July 16 2012
His usual visual works involve the use of computer generated imagery (CGI) but for his first foray into film, Shaun Escayg drew inspiration from the very real life situation facing many youths living in poverty in Trinidad and Tobago.
“Fish” is very raw 15 minute short that tells the story of two young petty thieves who step on the toes of hardened drug dealers and the tragic consequences of their actions. While it is relatively unknown to the wider Trinidadian public, the R-rated film is one of 50 semi-finalists selected from 15,000 submissions to the Ridley Scott Your Film Festival. While there were concerns about how the film would be perceived by international audiences, Escayg said the response to the film has been overwhelmingly good and it is mostly the American audiences voting for his film to make it to the top ten.
“This film is a new experience for them. We tend to hide this side of Trinidad from them and try to sweep it under the rug,” he explained during a recent interview with Newsday.
Ten finalists will be chosen by viewers’ votes and these films will open the prestigious Venice International Film Festival which is in its 69th year and which will be held from August 29 to September 8 in Venice, Italy. Out of these finalists, one film maker will win $500,000 to make their film a full length feature with the help of Scott Free productions which is owned by acclaimed English film director and producer, Ridley Scott. The Trinidad-born Escayg earned the admiration of director/producer extraordinaire Stephen Spielberg while working on the CGI for Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon which was released last year. He currently works at Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) under Michael Bay who directed the Transformers franchise.
Fish is his first venture on his own. “Although I traditionally do animation, I always wanted to do something with real content. I was contemplating two projects: one more like Transformers and one like this but I wanted to do this one badly,” he said.
Being from west Trinidad, the type of lifestyle portrayed in the movie is far removed from the one Escayg experienced growing up. “I drew inspiration for the film just from reading newspapers. I was also inspired by some of my friends when I was going to school in Fatima, my less fortunate friends who had to struggle to get to school and what they may have had to go through to go to a prestigious school while living in low income areas,” he said.
He has been getting mixed reviews on the film because of the very graphic content. “People do not like to talk about this kind of thing, it makes them uncomfortable. My film is not about the glorification of crime nor is it ‘poverty porn’’. We are tucked in a bubble but we need to face this reality because it is coming closer and closer to our doorstep and soon it may be too late,” he said.
Proof of this, Escayg said, is the drastic changes for the worse he witnesses every time he returns to Trinidad. “I’m not going to be popular for this film but it is my way of giving back. People wish I didn’t show the country in this light and would’ve have preferred I did something of a lighter nature. It is really sad to see people want to sweep this under a rug but things are growing worse.
When I was growing up, it was an adventure to visit other areas. I would not think twice about travelling to South or other places. These days if people get caught at the wrong street at the wrong time, it is a problem,” he explained. Escayg is already planning the full length film which would continue to follow the life of the character named Fish on his quest for redemption after events which unfold in the short. He expressed hope that the movie will draw empathy for the characters and those persons they are fashioned after who are under similar duress. “There are children growing up with no other option but crime. The characters are people who die everyday. They have desires like both characters and ambition and dreams and we as a people are not doing anything for them and that is the bigger problem. We are responsible in a way for it, even me because I left the country to pursue my career and contributed to brain drain.
This is my way of trying to
make it better. I am doing what I do best and using my film voice to air their plight,” he said.