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Acing the Interview

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TURNING LEMONS...: Ayana Harper-Manswell

TURNING LEMONS...: Ayana Harper-Manswell

Ayana Harper-Manswell epitomises the saying that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

She is the winner of the 2021 trnidad + tobago film festival ((ttff//21) People’s Choice Award for her submission, The Interview. The talented filmmaker has not missed a beat since her recent success as she is currently pursuing a degree in Post-Production in Toronto, Canada.

Harper-Manswell, in an online interview with the Kitcharee on Thursday, shared what it took to produce the winning film and spoke about some of her upcoming projects.

She said, “Over the summer (2020), I took a theatre class, and one of the assignments was to direct a two-part documentary. I actually shot something totally different for class, and it ended up not working at all. I lost my sound, one of my cameras stopped recording midway through. It was a disaster. So now, I had a deadline and no project. After panicking for about a day, it came to me: why not make a documentary - about making a documentary. And that’s how The Interview was born.”

Harper-Manswell credits her father, John Harper, who featured in the film contributing to its overall success. With no formal acting experience, Harper-Manswell said her father did not take many directions from her and mostly ad-libbed.

The Interview, she says, reflects her diverse background and interests. The film portrays the challenges of a budding filmmaker as she struggles to find the right interviewee for her short documentary. The four-minute film received the most votes from ttff/21 audiences. The results came on the last day of festival screenings on September 28.

Harper-Manswell, who has a mixed heritage, was born in Paris, France, to her Trinidadian parents, John and Karen Harper.

She says she is deeply connected to her Trinidadian roots and the land of her birth. Apart from English, Harper-Manswell speaks French and a little bit of Spanish.

She said, “In 2012, I did my undergrad in Mass Communications, with a minor in French at the American University of Paris. In 2014, I got my Master’s at EICAR, the international film school in Paris, where I majored in Editing and minored in Screenwriting.”

For the People’s Choice Award winner, British director Steve McQueen and actress, writer, and producer Issa Rae are her favourites.

She said, “I absolutely feel like everything he has done has been gold. Shame is one of my favourite movies, influenced by the French New Wave. It is also one of my favourite periods in film.

Issa Rae because she shows the power of a story and the importance of a good script depicted in series such as Awkward Black Girl and Insecure.”

“Most of what I write are short films because those are my favourite. I think it takes true mastery to connect with an audience in 15 minutes or less.

Most of the time, I’d say I write ‘slice of life’ stories.

If someone watched my short films, they’d feel like they just walked into someone’s life for a day.”

Harper-Manswell is currently working on a few short films and a documentary with Trinidadian filmmaker Thais Ramos and Rhian Vialva, another local filmmaker based in Brussels.

Persons interested in watching the short film can click the following link: https://storyplay.tv/the-interview-short-film-g/

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