You use some unconventional methods to publicize for the film. You staged a protest at one point?
I was getting these t-shirts printed for Fashion’s Night Out here in Jamaica with the title of the film on them. I gave a few to a friend of mine and she said, “So what, you’re just gonna have a bunch of people down there making noise?” And I was like, “I don’t know, maybe…” then it just escalated into a full-on protest idea. We got kids from the Edna Manley Drama School and gave them shirts and placards and they caused a lot of noise. Police didn’t know what to do because they thought it was a real protest, people thought we were protesting about politics. It felt real. There is also this graffiti popping up all over the place. It feels like a real movement. I’ve been working with artists to develop posters that are open and original and now people are responding with their own thing.
What was it like filming in the communities?
Honestly, community relations is key in Jamaica. You can’t really go to a city office and get a permit and show up and shoot because the “Big Man” is who you must talk to. We learned that in Better Mus’ Come early, but if you know how to work that it can save you a lot of money. We hired a lot of the community to be extras, security and personal assistants and that is one way of avoiding conflict. When you give someone in these communities something to do, they’re down because you’re giving them pretty cool work and they feel like they’re part of the movement. Because of that, a lot of people in the Sandy Park community, where we mostly worked, are looking into film and working as personal assistants in art departments, shooting their own videos because they have been through the whole film with us.
Better Mus’ Come feels like a new generation of film in Jamaica, a step away from the Shottas era of Jamaican film.
I think things are starting to shift and the best way to do that is to develop the productivity to turn out more content. I’m doing this project called New Caribbean Cinema with other young directors that involves communal filmmaking. A group of us, all different experts, are shooting eight different films for free over a day and half each. Most of the equipment has been donated. We just pay for what is absolutely necessary and make high quality film.
What message do you want people to walk away with after this film?
I think with Better Mus’ Come I’ve tried to make people realize this whole situation in society where crime is aloud to fester and fester to the point where you have to be extreme about it and just go annihilate the situation isn’t new. It happens in small ways every year. You’re not giving these kids any options, anything to work with, so when they decided that they’re going to get bad, they get bad. And when they get worse and cross the line, anyone hanging out with them or around is just going to get [makes explosion noise]. If the police had some morality to stand up on, it might help their policing efforts, but when you see people getting beaten by guys in uniform, people just wanna buss their gone off because they think “the State gives me no options, has no respect for me, and looks down on me because I’m poor.” Meanwhile the wealthy are having these extravagant functions. As a filmmaker, you don’t separate yourself from anyone. The big picture is always more important. I’m not saying that a film can change it all, but I’m hoping that people will process it. It may be a startling way in which people have to analyze themselves.