News day / Mark spoke with Sunday Newsday about her project and issues facing the industry.

She said her latest endeavour, X&Y, came out of her background in Gender Studies and is about the dynamics of the sexes, sex, sexuality and dating.

“Topical issues that will never be resolved,” she explained.

Mark said she understands what an audience wants and creates content that people want to see, adding that the show is relatable and there are people who are opinionated.

She described it as a reality/ social commentary series with a cast of up and coming local people, including television personalities, actors and thespians.

She said the show will insert fun facts based on research information and pointed out that she has three female roommates and a lot of male friends and learned about how people see relationships and sexuality.

She recalled that she was on holiday with her sister and friends in Tobago and the talk came up again and she needed to do a show on it.

Her creative juices flow at odd hours, waking her up in the middle of the night when she would write more than 30 pages of script.

“Is like I get possessed.” The concept of X&Y “just came to me”.

The show is being produced by CTV with Mark as creator and producer/writer.

She said there are aspects of other shows like the MTV series Girl Code, but X&Y will be a little more serious, though with “a lot of kicks” from a Trini cultural perspective.

The show went from an idea in February to ready for airing next month.

“I don’t play,” she stressed.

For while other people procrastinate a lot in the arts, she is somewhat “hasty”.

She added that she needs to learn patience because if she cannot execute a project in a timely fashion she gets “bored”.

On the cast members, she chose two people she worked with before: former Miss World TT Sarah Jane Waddell and actor Chris Smith.

Waddell spent time researching things she did not know about and Smith had a great work ethic, she said.

“I work with good people who will deliver,” she added.

She believes the cast are personalities that people should know, adding that some were more articulate and educated than others and they were racially diverse.

They range in ages 23-40, which she described as “child bearing age”, with no experties in sex. Just real people expressing themselves.

A few clips of the show have been aired on Facebook and Mark described the response as “overwhelmingly positive”.

“People are excited about the show.” She said a lot of cast members have a social media following and the videos are being shared.

The format of the show will be people will be skillfully edited with different views and perspectives expressed.

Fun facts as well as pop ups and animations will be used.

The structure of the show will be similar to VH1’s Best Week Ever.

BACK TO THE APARTMENT She said that The Apartment, which is intended to be a pilot for a television series, was a “huge success” regarding the impact and people on the street recognise her from the show and the behind the scenes special.

She reported, however, that it was not a commercial success and the little money made from showing it at MovieTowne was used to clear finances.

She said the project was owing her $43,000 as individual investor and producer and lot of her personal savings, time and effort went into it.

Mark explained that she chose to pay off the cast and crew as opposed to paying off herself.

“There are many producers who I know are still owing staff.

Right now there is a local producer of a well-respected series that owes me $11,500.

“That is one of the industry.

Poor funding which leads to greed and selfishness and bad choices and producers getting bad reputations,” she added.

“I have no regrets because I chose to do The Apartment. No one forced me.

“But it was a lesson learnt, good and bad.” Mark stressed that narrative content is incredibly expensive and some people had unrealistic expectations.

She reported that she applied to more than 50 local sponsors but the show was released in a time with a lot of talk about recession and people were cautious about funding.

She said the industry itself has challenges and red tape and they were still closing off finances. She said the feedback she received was that it was one of the most organised and honest work seen on a project.

She explained that she did not want to take any more funds for the continuation of the show until the first project had been closed off.

She reported that the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company has a cash back rebate system where if a project employs primarily local cast and crew and she has submitted for the rebate.

“It would be good to see the hard work pay off,” she added.

She said, however, that even with the rebate the project would not be able to pay her off but she added that she knew what she was getting into and views it as a sacrifice.

She said the project was at a “wait and see” point. She stressed that you have to be strategic and understand how to navigate the industry. She said that actors want the opportunity to act and their passion and drive is there but you have to be ethical and honest in business.

EXPLOITATION AND GREED Mark said that she loves this industry and “it is who I am”.

She pointed that her aunt who raised her from the age of nine always wanted her to be a lawyer but entertainment, culture and the arts are “the essence of who I am”.

She said it was difficult to put your heart and soul into a project and get disappointed or be disappointed by people that you grow up looking up to. She stressed that while there are some genuine people there is also a lot of greed.

She lamented that locally there is no industry standard, rates or guild, like the United States Screen Actors Guild, and some feel that talent is “disposable”.

“If talent leaves crapaud smoke your pipe,” she stressed.

She said that international producers would come to this country and be told that they can pay the talent “whatever” and this creates a lack of confidence in the local industry and it will not be seen as credible but as “disposable banana republic actors”.

She stressed that when corporate sponsors give money it must be used ethically otherwise local film makers will not be taken seriously.

She also advised that creative organisations need training and knowledge and need to hear the voices of practitioners.

“A lot of choices being made but they do not understand the sector,” she added.

She said that every year there is a strategic plan and research for the industry but it is “a wastage of resources”.

She recalled growing up in the 1980s there were shows like Party Time, Party Flava, Calabash Alley and Westwood Park. She lamented that with the country going on 54 years of Independence we are still having problems to create our own content and when there was just one television station, TTT, there was a “deluge of content”. She said that currently people are struggling to make one film or get $50,000 for a film and with that money are expected to make magic.

She said there was exploitation in the industry and she did not know of any actor locally who had been paid what they deserve for a commercial or print ad.

She said her stylist on The Apartment, Jodie-Marie Williams, volunteered to work for free because she wanted more experience and to contribute to a project she believes in.

She described her as “hard working” and “wonderful” and predicted that she will go very far.

To improve the industry she stressed the need for an active organisation with its own building, staff and resources. She also advised that there needs to be investment both from corporate and government agencies.

Mark called for foreign screen writers to help develop the local industry and this is what was done in Australia. She said that in this country we revel in mediocrity and we are “66 per cent” but she would “rather fail than be mediocre”.

Returning to the upcoming show she said X&Y will be very relatable, features “good looking people” and the music is also quite good. She said it is a mixture of fun, intellect and humour.

The show will be 10 episodes with each running for half an hour. It will premiere in CTV on August 10 at 8.30 pm.

For more information on X&Y you can check out their page on Facebook


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