|Posted by haimdatsawh on June 29, 2012 at 8:25 AM|
Promoting Guyana through film-making
June 8, 2012
By Venessa Deosaran
US-based Guyanese writer and director, Mason Richards’ deftness, combined with his talent as a storyteller, has contributed to his push to someday becoming a world renowned filmmaker, and at the same time promote his beautiful country of birth.
In an interview with Guyana Times Sunday Magazine, Richards said he was born and grew up in Georgetown. His fondest memories are playing cricket as a child at Redeemer Primary School, going to the seawall on Sundays with his family, going to the Starlight Drive-In cinema on the East Coast, and visiting the zoo. These memories would soon bring Richards back to his homeland to produce a short film that became his ticket to fame.
Richards was seven when he migrated with his family to the United States. He said they went to Brooklyn, New York, like many other Guyanese immigrants, to pursue the “American dream” and to be close to other relatives who were already there.
“Even though I was very young, I always missed the life I had in Guyana. There’s something about the Guyanese people in Guyana that’s very easy going, which is a bit of a sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle you have to do to make it and survive in America,” he disclosed.
The film director went to public schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan. For college, he earned his undergraduate degrees in English and Human and Organizational Development from Vanderbilt University. He went to Vanderbilt on a full academic-leadership scholarship through The Posse Foundation.
Recently, he earned his Master’s Degree in Film Directing from California Institute of the Arts (CAL ARTS) in Los Angeles, California.
Although busy with the arts and life in general, Richards would often visit his relatives back home. A few years back after his visit to Guyana, he came up with the idea to write the script for his film, ‘The Seawall’. The film is the story of an older Guyanese woman and her 10-year-old grandson who share a very special bond.
After receiving a visa to live in America with his mother, whom he has not seen since he was a baby, the boy wrestles with leaving his grandma behind while contemplating a new life in the United States. Meanwhile, the grandmother struggles to convince her grandson that life in America would be better as she confronts her own feelings of loneliness and abandonment in a country that she loves.
“The story is not my story. I constructed the narrative and created the characters, but I can relate to their issues being that I am Guyanese man who immigrated to the United States at a very young age. I think the story is universal and relatable to people from all nationalities,” he said.
His film, Richards revealed, is the first narrative short film of its kind to be shot entirely on location in Georgetown.
Richards working with his crew in Guyana
The cast consisted of local Guyanese non-actors and non-professionals working alongside Richards and his crew from America.
Richards said he chose to work in the film industry because he always had an interest in telling stories. As a child, he was always looking for new ways to be creative. “I feel like my career as a film director is now taking shape. I worked in the film industry in New York City and Los Angeles for a few years, and when I took the big step to attend film school and started writing my own scripts, things started to shift. I’m happy that I’m able to write and direct films about subjects that interest me and hopefully will be interesting, or at least appealing, to others on some level,” he said.
Soon Richards would be receiving an award from the City of New York and The Guyanese Consulate in celebration of Guyana Independence this year. Also, he is very thrilled to be working on a video project with the Witness Project and The Margaret Clemons Foundation. These are doing cutting-edge work with young people in Guyana.
“I’ll be back in Guyana this summer, working with youths, creating public service announcement videos about issues they care about and affect their lives. It feels great to return to Guyana for such an important cause and a globally important project. So, look out for the projects,” he said elatedly.
Richards maintains that success comes when you’re doing the thing that you truly love to do and you dedicate your time becoming proficient and the best at whatever that thing is. He said he is successful because he is happy.
He advises Guyanese youths to “dare to dream” because anything and everything is possible.
He hopes that the youths are thinking of innovative ways to make Guyana an ever better place to live.
“There is a lot of beauty in Guyana, and it is our responsibility as Guyanese to maintain, preserve and protect that beauty. The grass is not always greener on the other side.” (Taken from Guyana Times Sunday Magazine)