Friday, May 2, 2008

The Reef

Last night another little slice of TnT history was made when C TV launched the new series, The Reef. For those of us who'd grown up in a Trinidad with one tv station it became another defining moment. You see, back in the day, when TTT was king, there was tons of local programming, all made by the Government owned and operated station. Many opportunities to see ourselves whether on local talent shows or soap operas or play of the month. Danielle Dieffenthaller, producer, writer and chief cook and bottle washer of the Reef referenced these things in her thank you speech while us over 35 year olds smiled and nodded in recognition. In the years since the airwaves opened up you would have thought there would have been more local programming but alas, it was not so.

As Caribbean people, Trinis have little appreciation for things local unless it is Carnival or doubles. The world knows Jamaica, Barbados but in our twin island state we have some of the greatest talent in the world,as well as beautiful scenery and spirit. We consistently fail to appreciate what we have, busily trading it out for what we perceive are the trappings of developed nation; not understanding that development also comes with understanding and acknowledgment of who you are as a people.

What feels like a hundred years ago now, a mere slip of a thing, I passionately wanted to make tv and was fortunate to have fallen into good company starting off at a little company called Banyan. I was extremely lucky and worked with some of the best in the industry then and now, including Danielle. In those days most of us were young, fresh out of school with big dreams of how we were going to change the face of tv in Trinidad and the kinds of programmes we were going to make. Even in the face of relentless opposition from the accountants, first TTT and then CCN. We worked for little money, long hours, barely seeing our families or having a life, on non-existent budgets and hard deadlines, toiling at our craft so sure were we that this was something worthwhile. It made us extremely resourceful, self sufficient people, far richer for the experience. It is exceedingly sad that many of us gave up our dreams, hopes dashed, ground down by the system, programme and station managers with no vision.

Last night, my pardner Danielle, aka Styles kept the dream alive with her production. Her not small achievement inspires awe at the guts and gumption that it took her to live the dream. It has never been an easy road and she's good enough to have made it anywhere, but Dani stuck it out and made great television, first with her Westwood Park series made on a shoestring and love and now The Reef.

What struck me most was gratitude, maybe a generation of Trinis, fed on foreign fare for far too long could finally experience something good that was home grown. With local talent, local scenery, that they could feel a sense of achievement and hope that they could succeed doing something they love. Over the twenty years have gone by since those early Banyan days, much traffic has flowed through the airwaves. Though we have two and a half tv stations devoted to local fare, we still struggle for the acceptance of our work. When will we learn? Hats off to Dani and her crew, I hope they get the recognition they so richly deserve. The rest of you had better be watching CTV on Sunday 18th May at 7:30.

1 comment:

lyricsman said...

The tradition of literate local television production is under danger of collapse as we rush to put clutter and noise on the airwaves to fill the space we never thought we would have.

Our broadcast tradition has been one of quality and people such as Styles, Timmy, Horace James as well as the Lovelace project and CPop all contributed. The defining moment in local production as you noted was Banyan which took Trinidad literally inside the people tv. Styles is one of those who is making the tv ours and something to be proud of.