Tue | Dec 1, 2020

Sevana takes on film – but behind the camera

Published:Wednesday | September 18, 2019 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Staff Reporter

We know Sevana for her effortless slurs, impressive vocal range and her thoughtful, insightful and usually quite personal music. We also know her for taking a few turns in front of the lens, whether modelling, in her music videos or as the lead in a (very) mini series [ Losing Patience, 2017]. Now, we need to get to know the singer as a filmmaker. Last week, she celebrated the première of the short film, Fear. For this project, Sevana’s camera-friendly face is nowhere to be seen, but her real name, Anna-Sharé Blake, rolls in the credits, beside the title, ‘assistant director’.

Fear is the second instalment of a three-part, short-film series, which is made complete with The Just And The Blind and About Face. Sevana explained that the original plan was to shoot Fear in Haiti, home to script-writer Marc Bamuthi Joseph, who is also the vice-president and artistic director of social impact at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. It didn’t work out, so the films’ director, Yoram Savion, came to Jamaica. A chance meeting between Sevana and the director sparked a kinship.

The pair’s creative collaboration began with visuals to accompany Sevana’s music, until he shared an idea that pushed her to action. Finding herself inspired by the project, Sevana made moves to help him connect with the local film community. “I already had interest in film. I had done some work behind the scenes on my music videos and I’ve been in front of the camera. So we started talking about a project that he would like to work on, but he didn’t exactly know how to approach the Jamaican film fraternity to get them involved. He wanted to work with a Jamaican cast and crew,” she told The Gleaner.

So she offered a hand. “He was talking to me about finding a production manager, a casting director, music ... just Jamaican talent.” Since the local creative space is her playground, Sevana knew exactly where to start.

She reached out to Gabrielle Blackwood, past president of the Jamaica Film and Television Association, who joined the team as director of photography. She recruited production manager Natalie Nash, along with production assistant Sheldon Reid, and multimedia and theatre specialist and playwright Maya Wilkinson. Within 48 hours of connecting with Wilkinson, the film had a full cast. Sevana also reached out to filmmaker Donisha Prendergast, who facilitated clearances that allowed a theatre scene to be filmed at the Bob Marley Museum. “He didn’t expect me to dive in as deeply as I did,” she admitted. All the same, her enthusiasm and effectiveness made Savion invite her to be the film’s assistant director.

“I had a brief moment, when doubts came flooding. But I remembered a conversation on Women’s Day last March. Women were saying if they turned down the things they were offered that were outside their comfort zones, they wouldn’t realise their full purpose,” she said.

Overcoming the doubt

Tucking the doubt deep, Sevana was on set helping to cut scenes, and organising crew times. “And it was the week of Reggae Sumfest, so I had interviews and rehearsals. I even didn’t make it to set one day,” she said, with a tinge of guilt.

Besides popping-eyes at the songstress taking on a brand new role, Sevana hopes the public will engage in the messages that the film communicates. “The bigger part of the story is that Joseph is on a mission to save black sons. There is the threat of black men being incarcerated and killed all over the world. There are black men and women who have to catch up, in terms of wealth progression and access to education, or just not having the basic tools we need. That’s the whole point. This piece is a small part of a bigger vision to educate, because knowledge is never politically neutral. Teaching, through visual art, is a way of reaching people who need that knowledge, so we can improve society as a whole,” she explained.