Sun | Dec 16, 2018

5 Questions with Aisha Porter-Christie

Published:Friday | February 2, 2018 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Gleaner Writer
Aisha Porter-Christie
From left:James Frain (who plays villainous 'Ferdinand' in Orphan Black), Aisha Porter-Christie and Maria Doyle Kennedy (who plays matriarchal Siobhan).
Graeme Manson (creator of Orphan Black) and Aisha Porter-Christie.

Have you tuned in to the Jamaican film industry activity lately? What do you think of the JAMPRO-led film-focused initiatives?

I admit I am not as tuned in to new developments in the industry as I'd like to be. That said, I believe any effort made by JAMPRO to encourage and support local filmmakers and to provide incentive to international productions is to be commended. Real progress, however, will require radical change and a bigger investment in Jamaican stories. Broadcasters should attempt to prioritise and purchase locally-scripted content over American shows, and effort should be made to get local film festivals to the same level as those in Trinidad and the Bahamas.

Have you considered lending your participation to the local film industry?

One of my short films, Lost Boy, was set in Jamaica and shot with local cast and crew. The process was both frustrating and wonderful but that's the case with any low-budget, self-funded film. There is never enough time and never enough money, but I believe the talent in Jamaica is top-notch. I would be excited to work with that crew again (in particular Garreth Daley from GD Films) on future projects.

Are there any particular directors you would love to lead the production of your work?

I would love to work with directors of colour, in particular Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler. Both are fantastic visual storytellers who have graduated from the independent-film world, but have still managed to retain a sense of integrity prioritising substance over flash. Selma, is a wonderfully emotional, truly beautiful film, and the training montage from Creed, still gives me goosebumps.

Can you share one of your favourite Orphan Black episodes or scenes? Shadowhunters as well?

Orphan Black is a phenomenal show, and I'm a huge fangirl, so I have many favourite scenes, including several moments from my own episode. If I had to choose one, though, I would say the teaser of the very first episode is my favourite where our troubled protagonist Sarah steps off a train and spots her doppelganger standing on the platform. The two lock eyes for a moment, and frozen in shock, Sarah watches as her other self jumps in front of an oncoming train. It's the moment she first discovers she's a clone, and yet... she's more concerned about stealing the dead woman's money and building a new life for herself than she is about uncovering the mystery. She is the most reluctant of all herose, and I love it.

As for Shadowhunters, my favorite scenes and episodes are actually from the upcoming season which (unfortunately) I'm not allowed to spoil. The show really grew in season two, and I think season three will be even better, expanding on the already rich mythology and deepening the bonds between characters. I also adore anything with magic, cool action scenes, and young-adult romance so it's very hard to choose.

Do you have any advice for aspiring screenwriters?

First study the craft. That doesn't necessarily mean going the expensive route of film school, as sometimes you can learn as much from watching films, reading screenplays and textbooks, as you can from sitting in a class. That said, as a Jamaican with the desire to work internationally, I personally found the experience of attending film school in the US invaluable, as it provided me with a solid network of collaborators and mentors who helped me gain a foothold in the industry.

Next write, write, and keep on writing until you find your voice and perfect your style. Keep writing, even if no one is paying you to do it. Write what inspires you, write what intrigues you, write what keeps you up at night. Limited finances are always a deterrent, so if you can, find a job that allows you the time to write on the side. If it's your dream and you know you have the talent, then make sure you give it your very best shot.

Finally network as much as possible and always have a good attitude. Success in this industry (particularly in North America) is as much about who you know and who likes you as it is about talent. Enter screenwriting competitions to get your work read and to get your name out there. This is sometimes the best way for a young writer to attract a manager or an agent. Doors in Hollywood rarely open unless you have representation.