Hello readers, this blog post is a treat from a guest blogger. Life is about learning and this blog post is about life. Happy reading!
October 3 was my last day at my full-time job. I was there for over 2 years (yay!) making it the longest job I have ever had. That being said, leaving that job was the happiest day of my adult life. Sure I was doing what I love – production. So even though I was working in TV and I always said I would never work in Television and my salary was pitiful, I was really thankful to develop my skills and spend some time learning about the media landscape in Jamaica through hands on work instead of hearsay and news. Unfortunately my stint there, confirmed my initial doubts about a career in TV in JA – the TV industry hasn’t figured out how to make money from narrative programming. Competition shows with voting aspects do well, because there is a fool proof way to get back one’s investment – voting, texts cost money.
Additionally, sponsors can be on location peddling their goods and services to hopefuls and their family, friends and fans and for most live shows a cover is charged to the public for entering the venue. But a narrative programme doesn’t come wrapped in any of these elements and so sponsorship and investors are non-existent, and you can’t blame them. Even the riskiest investor has a threshold and with no one (that I know of) successfully – financial success – taking a narrative TV programme to market, it is extremely difficult to convince a potential investor that you have figured out how to guarantee a return on their investment. “History often repeats itself” is an adage for a reason. And the film industry doesn’t seem to be doing any better either. As a filmmaker, I see a definite lack of well-written stories. There are a lot of good ideas and cool concepts but the knowledge of genre conventions, placement of turns in acts and the basic idea of conflict seems to be missing from most films originating from our shores. I am guilty of this too, specifically in my last short where I chose a gimmick to tell a story instead of actually developing characters and expressing something a little deeper than a magic elevator or parallel worlds. It fed my need to create something with a small budget and in one location, but it was worlds away from my first short in terms of story and characters with depth. The point is that it starts with a truth – a universal truth, something that everyone can relate to whether or not they’ve actually experienced it. And then lots of devoted time spent on crafting a screenplay that captures, extrapolates, distills, refines and clarifies this universal truth visually. In my opinion, we are not here yet, most films are trying to open up the market, put Jamaica on the map, solidify a distribution route and with too much focus on the end result, there can be a lack of preparation, which shows up on the screen and if what is on the screen is bad, then the dream of longevity and distribution is dead. Sure some films are remembered for just how bad they were, but we’re such a small country and an even smaller industry I just don’t get why we can’t get it together and put in the work in scriptwriting to at least give the features a chance.
Which brings me back to where I started – resigning from my job. That TV station is very small – a microcosm, if you will, of the Jamaican media landscape. And boy, it aint pretty. The negativity, mistrust, badmind and sabotage were rampant. After incident upon incident of ‘strange’ happenings, I wrote myself a reminder “The staff at … are not to be trusted” This does not mean that they were not good people. I don’t think that anyone is inherently good or bad, we just are. A mix of everything, depending on our experiences and expectations we act and react in different ways. Theirs was a very reactive culture in which every decision was done to guard oneself from possible audit, scandal or unemployment. I believed that one only worried about those things if they were doing things that would, if exposed, bring about negative consequences. Bwoy, I was naive – everybody was engaged in some activity that was not level. Moreover, you can’t be on a team or family (as they liked to call themselves) if you can’t be honest, open and communicative. If every action is not only reactive but secretive because you don’t trust the people you work with then how can you move forward together and be successful. If I refuse to help you write the script and you only give me a third of the budget and the editor says s/he’s not responsible for sound and the cam op says s/he’s only putting up one light and we need three and the talent isn’t allowed on the compound and the studio key is locked in an office and the CEO has cancelled the shoot without telling anyone, how do we expect to get anything done well?
My experience has shown me that a TV practitioners’ community does not exist and that present practitioners are only looking out for themselves and their pockets with great detriment to the industry. But I am an outsider looking in, maybe from within the view is different. There may be reasons and histories that have created these tensions and cultures…
So I wasn’t surprised when I got chickV, the colloquial term for the chikungunya virus on the Monday after my resignation. Believing that the body, mind and spirit are all connected, two years of negativity, strife, misinformation and professional undermining and blocking wears on a person’s psyche leaving one vulnerable to disease and I did get a rhatid chickV attack! I went to the cinema with my cousin and during intermission (yep, we still have intermissions. Every time I go to the cinema, I hope that this will be the film that doesn’t break at a seemingly arbitrary spot, but alas…) I realized that something never right. I felt feverish, with a headache that was quickly entering migraine territory and my back and neck were achy. When the movie ended, I could barely get up – my knees were stiff and inflamed. As I write this, I am still a little achy and it is 49 days (7 weeks) post that night at the movies.
It’s an epidemic. I can’t think of one person who didn’t get it or lives with someone who did. Strangely, it’s spread by the same mosquito that spreads dengue, which therefore means that the same rules apply: diminish the possibility of mosquito breeding and don’t get bit. It’s like if you’re in the zombie apocalypse, you’ll try to keep moving, staying away from herds of walkers and most importantly not getting bit by a zombie or guess what … you’ll be infected! The first case of chickV in the region was reported in 2013, but I had never heard of the viral disease until this year. Further, news reports state that the government of JA has been preparing for a possible chickV epidemic since 2012. So why were we so unprepared and why was there so little information, even among doctors?
Sure it’s a relatively new disease. According to WHO, it was first described in an outbreak in Tanzania in 1952, but that’s 62 years of information from which a plan could have been developed to limit the spread of chickV… c’mon! The Minister of Health has himself apologized for the handling of the outbreak, but that is too little too late. Makes me wonder; what are grounds for resignation? Persons at the heads of organizations can misuse funds, victimize and abuse staff, hire inept but obedient managers, fail to inform the public they serve… and the list goes on, yet they persist.
I, on the other hand, spend a few days of what should have been my vacation at another media organization and I am not only instructed to resign, but when I decline, the powers make policy changes to force me out. Wow, what an experience. A part of me wishes I cared enough to research the histories and tensions, but I have realized that life…LIFE is so much grander than ego, that spending it trying to learn more about how the ego operates would take me away from spirit/soul, now, air, light, breath – all that is and isn’t and everything in-between, and then what would be the point? Which brings me to the last item in the title – Self-care.
It’s interesting that even in writing, I leave it for last. Yes, we exist in a society, a community and we should take care of each other and blah blah blah (insert generic pal quote), but before one can even think of helping someone else, s/he, you, me…I have to be at my best, which means that I must help me and take care of me first. If I was taking care of myself, I would have left that job 2 weeks after I started because I knew it would have been detrimental to my health. I actually got chronically ill while working there, a disease for which I still take medicine. Most of the people who work there have high blood pressure and/or some other disease that when traced is linked to being in oppressive, negative spaces. But I was not listening, not present, not taking care of myself and so I tuned out my judgement, my intuition, inner voice, whatever you call it, and continued to place myself in a toxic environment that ultimately has left me feeling like less of myself. I didn’t realize that “I feel like less of myself,” until I wrote it just then and that makes me sad. I think I owe myself an apology. I’ve always been able to roll with the obstacles that life brings and I’ve always been able to overcome them, and I thought that I surmounted this and did a good job because I lasted so long. I think it is definitely time to remind myself of the things that build me up, I have been in this world in which everything breaks me down and wears me down. I know I’ve thought that you have to de-construct to construct, but perhaps I need to take all that is now and use as a foundation to build and grow, because I need to be fortified enough to go into these situations without losing parts of myself. I guess, it’s a process – life is a process and I am in it!