Nadean Rawlins intrigued by ‘Traytown’ - Makes debut as film producer
What started out as a film about a powerful woman involved in politics and a scandalous love triangle, is already looking to morph into a series, despite the fact that funding for the project is still actively being sought. But producer Nadean Rawlins, who is living some advice she received at a producer’s workshop, is riding a wave of funding positivity that is comparable in strength only to her enthusiasm for Traytown. “I was told that you have to connect with a project to do it well, and this project has become a part of me,” said Rawlins, whose excitement at her debut as producer on the film, is summed up in six words and a lot of exclamation marks, “If mi excited one more time!!!”
The award-winning actress embarked on her film-making quest two years ago, a path she dreamt about taking for many years. “In February 2020, we did principal photography on my first (short) film project that I produced and I co-directed with Gareth Cobran. Despite COVID, we made it through post production and we are finally done! Traytown had its world premiere at the TT Film Festival on September 12,” she shouted. Written by Letay Williams, Traytown is a compelling mix of politics, woman power and a scandalous love triangle. “We meet Aria — married, politically ambitious and with no qualms about using her family’s powerful name to elevate her campaign for member of parliament of Traytown. Aria’s public mask begins to crack as she grapples with unpopularity in Traytown, along with the double life she lives by having a torrid love affair with a woman. Aria must choose between her heart and the seat in Traytown,” the synopsis states.
Rawlins recalls watching Williams making her pitch and her own excitement at listening. “There she was, nerves on end, pitching her story. The story was intrigue, and having it happen in Jamaica was like holding up a mirror. People like people’s business – woman in politics, married, having an affair with a woman. I wanted to be a part of this,” she shared with The Sunday Gleaner. So she went up to Williams afterwards and told her exactly that, and Rawlins has since been involved in varying degrees in every step of the process – from screen writing to production.
She is particularly pleased that Aspire Fund Management stepped in with their special grant of $500,000 that allowed the team to create Traytown’s proof of concept in February, and is confidently hopeful of securing the US$20,000 needed to do the 30-minute pilot for the series. “As an emerging film-maker, the advice from practitioners in the field was ‘start small and make a proof of concept that shows the communities and the characters in 13 minutes’. It started as a film and then we saw a series staring at us. This is when we were editing in the heights of COVID,” she said.
Series are definitely in vogue, and the producers are thinking something along the lines of a Scandal, but the goal is to keep the production as Jamaican as possible. “We want this to be a mainly Jamaican cast and producers, but we are not opposed to collaborations,” she said. “Jovi Rockwell is our lead actress, and since she is also an entertainer, we asked her to do an original song for the production. We want to associate this project with a product and we chose music.”
Reggae singer Jovi Rockwell, who broke into the live music scene in Los Angeles and has worked with the likes of Ne-Yo, Shaggy, Mr Vegas and Major Lazer, makes her acting debut in Traytown. “Thanks for believing in me! You guys are amazing! It was my absolute pleasure working alongside such talented and authentic [people],” she posted on social media in September.
The team has a goal to shoot Traytown by 2022 and has launched a Kickstarter account to assist in securing the resources to make that happen – equipment, locations, cast and crew among other areas. “People were asking if we had tried to secured funding, so we decided to try Kickstarter. At least, when we are faced with that question we can say ‘Yes’. But the main objective of bringing awareness to the project has been achieved. Professionals have pledged their services, a distribution company in the UK is willing to distribute, and the company from Trinidad, which gave us the initial funding, has asked what else we need,” Rawlins disclosed.
The film-maker is concerned that Jamaica “known mainly for its beauty, music and being home to the fastest man and woman on earth” has not yet made the international spotlight in film. “We need a breakthrough product in film and television. Madge Sinclair was our last breakthrough actress. There are many talented film practitioners in Jamaica, writers, directors, cinematographers, actors, all committed to their craft and putting in the work to ensure a space in the global film market. The Traytown team is no different,” she said.