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Soca queen’s struggle

Terri Lyons turns to film to tell her story

SOCA artiste and writer Terri Lyons said the film Queen of Soca shows a small part of the struggle of herself and every other female artiste in TT.

She was speaking after the premiere of the musical drama at the National Academy for the Performing Arts, Port of Spain on Thursday night as part of the TT Film Festival (TTFF) 2019 Carifesta edition.

Lyons stars as Olivia, a poor young woman whose dream of becoming a soca star clashes with the views of a religious mother, played by theatre icon Penelope Spencer. During the question-and-answer segment Lyons said while she did not grow up in church, she understood the sense of struggle faced by the character.

"I do sing. It is my career, not my hobby. It is my eight-to-four (job). (And) there is a struggle being a female in the industry.

"I showcase everyone's struggle. It is a little look into what we experience."

Asked about the transition from singing to acting, Lyons replied she is a "comic," likes to joke around and watches a lot of movies. She added that she has never taken an acting class, something she planned to change, but had a crash course in acting from Spencer.

She also said acting was part of entertainment and as a singer she still had to act and dance.

"You could put me in any movie and I will bring out the character. I have always loved acting."

Writer/director Kevin Adams said he started writing the story in 2010 and experienced many trials and tribulations. He said just as the protagonist Olivia had to overcome situations, he also had a story of overcoming obstacles and learned the importance of desire, learning and perseverance.

"I almost gave up."

He produced the short film No Soca No Life but kept working from then to the present to make the story a feature film. He recalled from 2012-2015 he wrote to "every company" in TT twice and received multiple rejections. In that time, he wrote two more feature films and a TV series pilot and his feature film Steel was being sought by French producers.

The film was one of three produced with a $250,000 Take One feature film grant provided by the Culture Ministry in association with the New World Film Centre; the others were She Paradise and Grace and Saleem. Adams said he saw the Take One grant in the newspaper and could not overstress the importance of grants, sponsorship and product placement for films. He added that the Culture Ministry and the TTFF continued to support local filmmakers.

"I urge everyone who has a dream to keep going and realise sometimes life has some other plans but it will eventually take you where you are going."

Adams thanked his mother for the vision to "send me into the unknown," his father for his faith in him, his brother for cheering him on and his sister who, whenever he called to complain, would tell him "just get it done."

He also thanked Lyons and Spencer, who featured in No Soca No Life, for believing in him a second time. Spencer was asked about returning to the character seven years later and said she always felt the story was strong and getting back was really easy. She added that she enjoyed dramatic characters in engaging, empowering storylines.

Lyons said she was glad to return before she got too old for the role.

"It is an enjoyable movie. It speaks to my life and (that of) my entire family, as the Lyons family (her father is veteran soca star Austin "SuperBlue" Lyons and her sister is soca star Fay Ann Lyons-Alvarez). I just had to be a part of this."

Film producer Christopher Ding Chong said the film was "our very story, about our people and our culture.

"It is us on the screen."

He said Queen of Soca highlighted the need for more Caribbean films.

"We need to make more Caribbean films. We need to see ourselves on the screen."

Adams said the film was not yet finished and had a "little way to go." He announced that a crowdfunding campaign would be launched in the next few weeks and urged people to support the film.

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