King Of Soca, Machel Montano, Talks About His New Movie

And yes, I’m still a bit excited at the fact that not only have I already seen the movie, and watched him perform live, but I also got to interview him as well!

However, I wasn’t the only one that got to interview him, and he wasn’t the only one we got to interview. There were a few other bloggers there. As well as the lead female and movie director, which is why this interview is so long. But I’ve highlighted the important parts, in case you’re a skimmer. (You’re welcome.)

Let’s jump right in …

Deanna (Owner of DysChick): Were you a fan [of Machel Montano’s music] prior [to accepting the role as his co-star]?

Natalie Perera (Bazodee Co-star):  I was familiar with soca and Machel from Nottingham Carnival. But I don’t think we’re getting enough of soca in London. I think we need more. So when I did get into it, I was fully into it and I can’t really like do a gym session without it. I would be sitting here very heavy if not for you. (Referring to Machel Montano)

I was familiar with soca and Machel from Nottingham Carnival. But I don’t think we’re getting enough of soca in London.

So yea, I’m a fan now and very excited by it. I think I will always be a fan. I’m always trying to get [others into it]. Like I have had people play the music in my gym. And people are like, “what is that, you need to play it more”. I go to a weight lifting gym. I’m not a weight lifter, but these guys need inspiration. They need something that makes them wanna move and give them energy. It does that and it really makes you wanna move.

I don’t know if people are going to be able to sit down in the film.

It’s not really the hardest music to get into. It was challenging to get my mouth around the words cause you can hear my accent. I think I frustrated you a little bit. (Speaking to Machel)

I love how she said, get her mouth around the words.

Machel Montano (King of Soca, Bazodee Star) : I love how she said “get her mouth around the words”. Cause you have to wrap that English accent around the Caribbean.

Natalie: It’s like, have you seen Whiplash? I went to see Whiplash, and I was like oh my goodness that’s me and Machel!

But he had the best intentions.

Deanna: So he kind of coached you through it? Getting you familiar with the vibe and all that?

Natalie: Yea.

Machel: It’s so funny, the songs with her singing, we had to mix the music and listen to her vocals and you hear me in the back saying “do it again”, but she loved it. *laughs*

Natalie: I [did] love it. I’m definitely a new fan and I think we need more of it in the UK. That would be excellent.

Deanna: So you’re not getting exposed to a lot of music there?

Natalie: Because I have involvement here, I have been able to know things. Like through your Instagram, (referring to Machel Montano’s Instagram). I’m constantly putting your name through like iTunes [and] I’ve got friends now, [that] I’ve made and I’m like what is the new songs out? That way I can find a way to keep up. But otherwise it’s a bit more difficult in London.

Machel Montano in Bazodee movie
L-R: Machel Montano, Natalie Perera, Todd Kessler, at our interview.

Alysia (Founding Editor of Rewind and Come Again): I was able to see the film when it was premiered in Trinidad last year. So that was a great time.

Machel: Thank you

Alysia: What I like most about the film is that it focuses on indo-Caribbean culture. Not just the black Caribbean culture. Most people only know about the black experience in the Caribbean. So I want to know from each of you: how did you prepare yourselves to present that point of view of the Caribbean that a lot of people aren’t aware of?

Todd Kessler (Bazodee Director): The first note is that the film has changed since you saw it, we added scenes and edited scenes. We worked a lot on the music and the sound [and] we added like seven minutes to the movie. [Then] we went back and [added] some stuff, that we wanted to add so that’s part of it.

Wait, what was the question?

*everyone laughs*

Alysia: How did you prepare to present the indo-Caribbean culture as supposed to the black Caribbean culture, which is what’s usually presented to the world?

Todd: From my point of view, we went down there and listened to everyone. We did a lot of scouting before hand and most of the crew, at least 80 percent of the crew, was local. So when we went to shoot in a bar or whatever, they’d say ok this is what’s gonna be there you know, so we emerged ourselves and those who were foreign [into it].

Natalie: I think from my perspective, a lot of it was asking a lot of questions, [especially] to the crew. Everyone from the crew had heritage from so many different places and that’s one of the wonderful things about Trinidad and Tobago. It’s so hugely diverse and yet everyone is [still] Trinidadian.

That’s one of the wonderful things about Trinidad and Tobago. It’s so hugely diverse and yet everyone is [still] Trinidadian.

I’m also an island girl, [but I’m] Indian and so I used that kind of feeling of not being an Indian from where people think you’re from … I’m not from India, I have heritage from Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka food is different, it’s music is different from Indian music, the languages are different. The music has a calypso base and [there’s] lots of Portuguese and Dutch influence to it so in that way I think I was quite familiar with that kind of culture of the island Indian person. Of course it’s different in Trinidad as it is anywhere else and I was asking a lot of questions.

I was determined to make a film that was authentic.

Todd: I was determined to make a film that was authentic. There’s a lot of hollywood films and a lot of big studio films that have come out and I know there is one that took place in Hawaii that [had] a lot of criticism that they were not authentic and we tried 100 percent to make every character and every thing about it be real, so im proud of that.

Machel: That was the word I was gonna start with you know. Being authentic was something from the first day we sat down at the table, [that] we decided was gonna be our main focus in the movie and that authenticity will go back to the story. You know you ask about us preparing for this indo-Carribean presentation. But we really and truly went clear in and answered what this project means. And what it was about. Them being fans of Machel Montano music and being smitten by some of these songs that had the themes of unity. Like one of the songs in the movie, Real Unity, where there’s Natalie singing and myself singing. It’s an Indian and African coming together.

“We really didn’t have to prepare you know, we just had to go out there and shoot what was real.” – Machel Montano

So being authentic and really writing about a movie about the themes of unity that happened in Trinidad you know. We really didn’t have to prepare you know, we just had to go out there and shoot what was real. The cast, as they say, were such a mix of people. Indians, Africans, Rastas, Chinese, Whites … we had such a great cast and this is just talking about Trinis themselves.

I think as Natalie said, what is important about this film is the Caribbean’s take on unity, you know?

.With the different cities like New York, where they bring a lot of people from all over to live here. But you still see China Town, and Little Italy and Little Korea. They tend to stay in their pockets in Trinidad and Tobago … that island life. But the island is so small that all of our cultures get pushed into each other and fold into each other. Woven into each other so we start having this sort of food that’s different from the main land, and we have this music that’s different from the main land.

And it’s about being crammed into a tiny space and having no choice but to unite. So that unity was something that was important about this film. This was something that was meaningful for me, for this film coming out of Trinidad and Tobago, you know the music of soca which is really about the blend of the Indo and the African and occasionally the Serbians and the Chinese and the different races that we have in Trinidad so it was just easy to be authentic and shoot what was right in front of us.

I noticed that Christians were celebrating Eid, Hindus where celebrating Christmas, Muslims where celebrating Devoli.

Natalie: I think, if I could add … the other thing I found really interesting, is from a tourists perspective, I noticed so many things when I was there and I noticed that Christians were celebrating Eid, Hindus where celebrating Christmas, Muslims where celebrating Devoli, and it was a very new thing for me to see, because in London that just doesn’t happen, not where I live anyway.

And I have never really ever seen that before, so that was very exciting for me to see, and so I kinda linked it to the story. There’s absolutely no message about religion, [in the movie], it’s just one kind of … it’s just very united, very um, warm and [there’s a] sense of harmony to it. And I think that’s very reflective on the way the country’s going.

Machel Montano in Bazodee movie

Shaye Wyllie (Editor-in-Chief of Vicious Quipster): So first I wanna say that it’s funny you said it took you a while to get the accent, because I’m actually Caribbean. My brother went to the army and to London and so now they’ve adopted the London accent and when I talk to them you can hear the mix of the Caribbean and the London fighting so I understand how it was hard for you. *laughs*

Shaye: But since you were working with a well-known soca artist, and the fact that he wasn’t an actor, he was a soca artist and he’s really big from where he’s from and around the world, were you nervous? Did it make it easier or harder to act?

When somebody is a huge star and you’re in their presence, you know you’re in the presence of a huge star, do you know what I mean? – Natalie Perera

Natalie: I was nervous. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. When somebody is a huge star and you’re in their presence, you know you’re in the presence of a huge star, do you know what I mean? But that’s just the way it is. I always saw it as … ok now you need to step up your game. It gives you an opportunity as an artist to stretch yourself and really go [hard] … you need to like … you need to make this work, you need to make this happen, you need to get this right, and so to a certain extent, I think it’s a good thing, to aim high.

I was really excited to work with Todd as well.

At the end of the day he is an Emmy nominated director and I was [a fan]. I’ve seen Keith (a movie Todd previously directed) and I love Keith and again that is intimidating when somebody who you’ve watched their work or you know that they’re a huge star. [But] you’re either gonna get squashed down or go [hard] … I wanna sit in the middle [of that].

Todd: Also I’d like to say that Natalie didn’t have time to be nervous with us, because it was so labor intensive and she is in every scene so it was [hard for her to]. We were, you know, on a small budget, so we were really, really moving so I don’t know … you need time to sit and worry.

Machel: That’s what I was telling them this morning, when you said don’t worry about acting lessons just do your best (referring to Todd), but to actually come there and on carnival time period and shoot this movie you had no time to flinch or be nervous because there were a hundred and fifty people with cameras set and ready to go. You had to step up and Natalie was probably the one who was honest the most. Was it good enough? Should we do it again? Let’s do this over, you know … and we really pushed through, so I think the nerves really went out the door.

Natalie: They had to.

Machel Montano in Bazodee movie

Mikelah (Owner of Style and Vibes): I guess this is for everyone at the table … in terms of the music and the story line, why was it important to do it like a Bollywood [movie]? In terms of how it came across.

Natalie: I think this film is completely unique … in that the music is soca and it’s Machel’s music. It’s [also] set in the Caribbean. I think it’s a musical dramedy (drama-comedy). Would everyone agree with that?

Machel & Todd: Yep.

Natalie: It’s a musical dramedy, that features a lot of Indian … me. *laughs*

The word Bollywood has been thrown around, [but] really this film is not a Bollywood film. Stylistically as a director, I did not [want that] … – Todd Kessler

Todd: The word Bollywood has been thrown around, [but] really this film is not a Bollywood film. Stylistically as a director, I did not [want that], I worked against that format and tried to create a new format … my own format of a musical, and of course soca music is not Bollywood so we don’t think of it as Bollywood at all. We know the press are like [well what is it?] and all you guys are searching for what to call it and we don’t know what to call it, cause we made it up.

Natalie: It’s a dramedy.

Machel: She just hit the nail on the head. And the point about it is, this is so new you know, we had Kabir Bedi coming in here as a Bollywood star and he was really smitten by this experience and this movie. He said to me, this is what Bollywood needs, something that’s different you know.

I think this is the testimony to what Trinidad and Tobago is, it’s so unique.

It’s an island with 50 percent Africans and Indians and they living side by side and celebrating each others cultures. Just to add to what Natalie said, the story is about soca music. About Machel music. Sometimes we’d see her, an Indian girl, who embraces soca dressed up in her Indian clothes, getting ready for a wedding or party. But she will be singing soca so it might tend to look like a Bollywood film. Early in the game we knew that this has nothing to do with Bollywood, and this would be very new to even all the audiences, you know.

Todd: The performances and the characters are very real and grounded in everyday occurrences and that’s where we started, so there is music but the whole cast doesn’t get up and start dancing and singing the songs, [they] are much more personal and organic.

Natalie: It’s only us, (referring to Machel and herself), who sing.

Machel: And some of the questions I’ve been asked … like how do we choose the songs and, uh, one of the reporters said how [they] were watching the movie and dancing in [their] room and people are gonna be dancing and I said I give kudos to Clair Ince (the writer) for writing this movie and choosing these songs because I would not have gone in there thinking she would choose some of my songs that she chose.

 I give kudos to Clair Ince (the writer) for writing this movie and choosing these songs

And then she started to write the story about the guy, a love story and the songs kind of related and I had to sit back for the first time and look at my music being interpreted that way and really having that effect on people’s lives. It was interesting and fun how we just started to add in more [to the] movie because it was really about this girl loving this guys music and them coming from two different worlds and the passion that she had for music and for love, was the passion he needed to love his music and it [so] happened that, that love went Bazodee and start to cross wire …

Natalie: It’s kind of got the same format as Mamma Mia … have any of you seen that? And like the story of Mamma Mia is formed around the music of Abba, it’s got that same format. The story of Bazodee is formed around your music, Machel music, so that would be the closest [comparison] and even that’s not right.

bazodee movie

Karen (Owner of Besides the music, which is especially the [most] important part, I just wanted to comment on some of the visuals, especially the cast. What was that experience like, [picking] out different casts for each scene, like what the characters wear, and what was the whole scene like, blending two different cultures [together]?

Natalie: Billy Ray was the costume designer and he did an amazing job creating costumes that both suited us and also reflected our heritage in the film. I’d say I had a say here and there, but basically what Billy said went and that’s kinda how it worked. I don’t know about you but maybe you had more of a say? (Speaking to Machel)

We just trusted him, and we weren’t sitting there complaining about what we were wearing.

Machel: I think [the] tight budget, and [with the] tight time [we had] we [just] went with Billy’s ideas. We just trusted him and we weren’t there siting up complaining about what we were wearing because it kind of worked really well and he was such a nice guy and what Natalie said … he really reflected our heritage. There was some African and some Indian in there and then there was just some loose island look and really and truly the rest of the costumes that I think was important was what was authentic to Trinidad and Tobago, the carnival costume and the mask costumes, the jewelry and the paint and the mud, everything just kind of fell into place.

Todd: Billy and the other crew members who worked on this, who were not from Trinidad, all did their homework. Billy came to me to audition for the job and had a whole book of Trinidad looks he had put together and a look for each character … he had spent a lot of time researching Trinidad and that’s how he got the job.

Shelley (Owner of Red Carpet Shelly): This question is for Machel. What made you want to get into acting and why now? Why this movie?

“When somebody comes to you and wants to make a movie with you and your music you’re not gonna run and say no.” – Machel Montano

Machel: Wow, that would take me back to the people who asked what made me want to get into singing. I always remembered my brother playing the guitar and he had to play the guitar and sing and he had no timing so he would drag me to the room and he’d say sing this and I would say ok, and my mom would say you have a great voice, you should go for vocal training and I’d say ok, and the vocal trainer said you want to join the choir and I’d say ok, and I joined the choir and they were like you want to sing in a calypso competition and I’d say ok.

One day I’m in Madison Square Garden saying ok and so that’s how I got into singing.

I mean Claire and Ancil, Claire being from Barbados and Ancil from Trinidad and Tobago, Tobago specifically … you know, they worked as a team and they came as a couple to me saying that they are big fans of [my] music and [they] wanted to shoot this movie about love and unity, using my songs and to include [my] music and [they] want [me] to act. And when somebody comes to you and wants to make a movie with you and your music you’re not gonna run and say no; I mean I said I was down but I really was scared about the fact that I had to act, you know, something I tried my whole life not to do, not to pretend, not to act.

I try to be as real as possible.

But then I read the story and when I read the story I was really interested. I mean I’m not much of a reader but I love reading spiritual texts, so when I read about Trinidad and Tobago and

my songs about the unity and this love story, I was almost feeling [like] I was looking at a Peters Sellers movie you know, The Pink Panther, with the turns and twists and things that interests me and I was sold, you know. Immediately I was aware that this is something I’d have to dedicate my time too and try to act and Todd was the one who came and say listen you’re a musician you just have to be yourself and everything will be alright.

I’ll be there with you and he made it easy for me and it really showed me that sometimes you have to push yourselves and put yourself into the scenario because I was nervous being a musician with a great crew and directors who did good and I really did my best and here I am you know, right up there next to Denzel Washington.

*everyone laughs*

Todd: I always found that musicians turn out to be great actors. First of all, they are great at performing, but I think even more importantly, music and writing [go hand in hand]. Music is about emotional experience and expression of emotion and that’s the core of what acting is. It’s getting inside a character and I think writing a song is like getting inside of a character and getting inside their feelings. So the two things go really well together.

I knew Machel would do a good job. It worked out great.

Machel: And I’m looking for more roles. *laughs*

Shelley: And that was my next question, will there be more?

Machel: Definitely.

Natalie: There will be more.

bazodee movie

Deanna: I know that you said that the character really speaks to you and it’s almost like a personal story in a way. There’s this part in the film where he’s talking about how nobody wants to hire a musician, (referring to Machel’s character), all they want are DJs now. Are you feeling that way as well, when you’re looking at your own soca industry?

Machel: That’s a great question because I’ve been around the block and I’ve seen the eras of music and [then] you [ask] that question. I don’t think that affects me today because I have worked to create something or produce something that is unique and people would want to come and see it. And there are times where I’d come out and perform with my DJ, and there are times where I’d perform with my dancers and full band and even theatrics.

I don’t think that affects me today because I have worked to create something or produce something that is unique. – Machel Montano

I know the difference between the [two] and I’m always very conscious about how I let that happen. Some people appreciate both the live and the DJ sets and it’s good to have a good DJ and live set but when you ask that question, you reminded me of back in the day in London and it related to what Natalie was saying. You know we always wanted to go to London and I would try to go to London and London wouldn’t want to hire the band, they would only do DJ parts and it was so upsetting and they’d hire these DJs to play these songs but it was because the expense of getting our bands over there.

The hotel and the plane ticket and it was tough and I’d really fought to get my band and my dancers to do big shows and at that time to the big halls in London sometimes taking next to nothing, sometimes staying in a hostel in Camden, you know doing really different things to make it happen.

But um, once you struggle through that process of making it happen you get to the point where if people want you bad enough and people want your show you can expand it and that’s how it was for me. So when hearing that in the movie I could relate to it and there is some amount of that happening today but let’s just say I have worked my way to be immune to that. But I know that it’s going on today with a lot of the soca artists and a lot of the soca shows.

“I have worked my way to be immune to that.” – Machel Montano

I don’t think that affects me today because I have worked to create something or produce something that is unique: I think that humans will always want to watch talented humans whether it’s in film or with music. A lot of people ask actors, are you afraid of how amazing pixels are, and all of this cartoon stuff and how realistic it’s getting.

[But] I don’t think there’s any need to be afraid of it because I think people will always want to go and appreciate a real human being that has some kind of talent, do you know what I mean? Do something live. There is nothing more exciting then that. From the artists, it’s a huge amount of adrenaline, and for the audience it’s something to actually live and look forward to.

Machel: She’s asking this question, and it’s not a very simple question, it’s actually a very deep question because there are a lot of issues you can dig deep into and we have a lot of DJs taking over soca parties and a lot of DJs becoming soca artists and being on the radio and playing their own music. All these things are the challenges you have to rise above and that’s what I had to rise above in the movie. This little guy who had his ukulele and walked in there and you know her father said you and what band?

And then he said get my CD collection.

He went for the DJ. And so we’re faced with these realities sometimes and you have to go out there and prove to people that you the human, the person with the little talent, you can make a difference because at the end of the day the love is the personal touch, the love is the live and it’s the expression.

Bazodee movie

Alysia: My question is for the director, what would you say to the people who find it a little unsettling that this American guy came in and made this Caribbean film?

Todd: I’d say look at the film, it speaks for itself. I’m proud of the work, the work that everyone did, and what I’m especially proud of is that it is 100 percent authentic. Every single actor playing a role is from that heritage and background of the role that they are playing without exception and it is the only film you’re going to see that has no white people in it. So I was behind the scenes but it is a really authentic film and it’s also a women story and I’m proud of that. ‘Cause there’s very few leading dynamic roles for women and women of color and it’s a really unique story.

I’m doubly proud and grateful that I had the opportunity to direct it.

Natalie: Todd was always concerned with authenticity and with making sure that he showcases the talent from Trinidad and Tobago, hiring a lot of the cast from there, which a lot of the other directors wouldn’t have done. But he was very concerned with doing that, along with you, but it’s obvious that you’d do that (referring to Machel). It’s not obvious that Todd would, so I can absolutely say that that was one of Todd major concerns.

Todd: There were a couple of characters in the film that had little acting experience, [some had] none actually. I hired Machel’s photographer, in what turned out to be a major role because we expanded it later. It became a pivotal role. I wanted to keep it in Trinidad. Even when we could find actors outside of Trinidad that was right for the role, either physically or age wise or whatever, we looked further and dug deeper. We found real people who I thought could act and they turned out to be some of the best.

“Why would we think an American can’t make a Caribbean movie? The right is not owned to Caribbean people … ” – Machel Montano

Machel: I also wanted to say, this is really what my music and purpose in life is about. To really address concerns like that. Like why would we think an American can’t make a Caribbean movie? Why we separate ourselves when making a movie … about the ability of making a movie. The right is not owned to Caribbean people to only make Caribbean movies.

Many great Caribbean movies have been made … and on some levels there has been actors, from many different places. I love a lot of Jamaican movies, my favorite is The Lunatic, and Paul Campbell and these actors you know, you have these actors who have been trained in England, who learned to act in the US, you know Cruz. You know the real point of this movie is the bringing of the different people together even the American we had our DP, from Turkey?

Todd: No from Hungary.

Machel: And we had such a wide cast and we even had Trinis who were White, who were Chinese, who were Black, who were Indian, you know, and that is the strength within the movie. We look at it and I remember being here before there was a director and Claire and Ancil really wanted to find a great director.

First we went to a Trinidadian director in London and we couldn’t get him.

And the search went on so it wasn’t really [looking] for an American, it was really looking for someone who was really qualified. When they found Todd, I hadn’t known Todd, I had to look Todd up. But you know, they were really excited that we had a great director come and do a great job in the film. So some people would come and see the film and say what right do you have. But what right doesn’t he have?

Todd: At that screening you were at, afterwards people came up to me, local Trinis. I had the best compliment ever. [Someone] said to me, they said, your film captured carnival better then one that’s ever been made here. So it was nice to hear that. I tried to capture the feel of the place.

Natalie: I hope more directors are interested in telling … American directors, Chinese directors, whatever … interested in telling stories and I think these stories are so very universal and the fact it got such a diverse cast, it allows it to speak to more people.

I hope more directors are interested in telling [these] stories.

Machel: And that’s the whole purpose of this movie again. It was inspired by my music and the themes of the music. Also the themes of my music in terms of the Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean where we are right now and what we have endorsed. It has brought people from all over and our cultures have crossed. We learned to live side by side. We are not the Middle East you know. We’re really like a close knit relationship and this is what this movie is about you know, for real.

This is probably the first time some people will get to see carnival and Trinidad and Tobago in a film in this modern time, you know. We haven’t seen that and this is like The Harder They Come (the movie) to reggae, this (referring to Bazodee the movie) is that to soca. You see the carnival, you see the beaches, you see the steel pan, the juvie, the mass, and I really think we really tried to do a good job of getting that done.

Machel Montano in Bazodee movie

Sanaa: While we’re on the topic of Caribbean movies. I know everyone knows the big names like Shottas and Cool Runnings. What do you think the audience is going to think of this movie? How are they are going to react?

Natalie: I think they are going to walk out happy. That’s the main thing that they are going to learn, like Anita says (referring to her characer in the movie), he makes happy music and that’s what I think. In this time, a film with such diversity, with such a positive message, and such songs like, No War, in this time, in this world, is really very relevant, universally, and it’s an important story to get out.

Todd: It’s a universal story to get out on a lot of levels. One, is that the whole races getting along level. But also it’s the story of a woman who sacrifices her own needs for the needs of her family. And that’s a universal story I think for women.

I think it’s a story that’s never been told on film before.

Machel: And she said songs like No War, you know these songs were written about wars around the world. And the fighting and probably even the political wars we may have home. But in this film it’s being sung about two people who are in love and why they are fighting. Tell me what they are fighting for. I feel today in this environment of violence and people taking it themselves to go into the streets and with guns. People need that personal understanding of love.

Love for each other, to bring them that love for themselves. I mean people need to love themselves and a lot of people don’t really know [how]. I always tend to say, about the soca music, is it carries an energy. This is something that’s not tangible, you can’t see it with color. It carries this energy of togetherness. People come to my shows and they are inspired to go home and have kids or they are inspired to [do what ever they want to do]. *everyone laughs* 

“People come to my shows and they are inspired to go home and have kids.” – Machel Montano

I’m just going on what they are telling me, you know. I mean they are really inspired to do good things or go and create or go and build. Not to go and shoot up a cinema, or to go and do anything wrong. So that’s the feeling this is gonna transmit. You talk about Shotttas and Cool Runnings, great movies.

One of the guys who interviewed me today said hey Machel, I was really shocked that this movie had no violence, no sex, no cussing. You know and we were really listening it over like, really, we didn’t cuss? *whispers* shit! *everyone laughs* … and you know I was like really, how do you make a movie today without that? I feel that this is what we wanted! This is representative of soca music, it’s happy [and] it’s peaceful.

I was really shocked that this movie had no violence, no sex, no cussing …

Natalie: I think people will fall in love with Trinidad and Tobago when they watch this movie for sure … the same way I did.

Bazodee movie

Mikelah: In terms of the Caribbean film industry. With so many media being presented everyday from the internet, to Netflix. How do you think that creating films like this in the Caribbean will tell the Caribbean story? Will it impact the Caribbean film making globally?

Machel: Caribbean film making is on the rise as we speak. And there is a lot of people working on the front doing a lot of films. I think this is one of the bigger budgeted [movies] and we were still on a small budget. We packed a lot of punch into a small package. We had Todd, a great director, and a lot of top guns in there and we did a story that is really about soca music, probably one of the most emerging things of our culture today, because you know right now if you look across the mainstream you may not recognize it at face value but soca music is [becoming more] popular.

Like Justin Bieber’s song Sorry, and Drake’s song One Dance, and Rihanna’s songs … you know

Soca is really coming to the forefront slowly and I think the timing of this movie … will expose people to a story of Trinidad and Tobago. A story of culture, and a story about how different races relate to this music. It’s going to spark a lot more interest. I’m working along side people like Wyclef and Megan Trainor. And all these different people right now tryna take this music to the corners of the globe. This movie is now a help. This movie is a different angle. It’s a window for me to actually show people what we have to offer. But even more important, what the Caribbean has to offer.

“It’s important for them to see how we view life. How some people have mortgages to pay but yet they buying carnival costumes with the money.” – Machel Montano

I think the Caribbean has again, a peace, a love, and a understanding of togetherness. That is important to help solve the problems of the world, you know. It’s important for them to see how we view life. How some people have mortgages to pay but yet they buying carnival costumes with the money. How people leaving their husbands to be with soca artists, breaking up the marriages.

*everyone laughs*

(This was a reference to his character in the movie.) But really getting through it and understanding that there are some levels of love and unity and peace and soothing, and this is what I think this movie is going to encourage more films to show. I was very proud to have our movie shown at the T and T Festival. Our movie was about love, peace, music and there were lots of movies about drug trafficking and murder and rape and the dark sides of life.

Yes, we accept those, but we need uplifting themes and this is what I think would really help to bring out more [of that] for the Caribbean to impact the rest of the world.

Natalie: I think it also got a lot of the juices flowing for a lot of the cast and the crew who were from Trinidad and Tobago. They were given an opportunity to be on a a bigger budget film. That’s a big opportunity and they really enjoyed it. I think a lot of them have gone on to … from what I’ve seen … have gone on to make movies and shorts and be in films and they want to make it happen. They want the careers to, you know, fly off into the sky. And I think that’s the interesting part of what happened here and in the films. It triggered something.

Machel: And as you said, it would trigger a lot more of the Caribbean artists that makes film. And to tell their stories and to play their music and about their art. Which I think again would be something that would contribute a lot of positivity and points of views of life for the rest of the world. How to live in harmony. I could see people, you know, making a movie about steel drums. The fact that we have been saving the environment, 150 years back then by recycling dirty oil drums into musical instruments. I can see them adopting that theme in the Middle East and using some of their oil drums.

Natalie(To Machel) You need to sit down and write that script.

*everyone laughs*

Todd : I hope this film will give people a guiding path into the Caribbean. Or in any small county where it’s difficult to pull together a film. The idea is that, sometimes the most local stories can be the most universal. There is no reason why a film from a small country can’t be a world wide success and mean something to people around the world.

“The idea is that, sometimes the most local stories can be the most universal.” – Todd Kessler

Machel: And um, as you said, I also hope that this will open up governments to cooperate. And the people of the Caribbean to support more artists. It was more difficult for us to fund. Even though we had top players like Machel Montano. It was hard to really acquire the kind of budget we wanted to spend on this. I think seeing such a great product will give a lot of the people the confidence they would need to invest more in a lot of the upcoming young artists in the Caribbean. And to tell the Caribbean story and to feel confident that film can really work as part of the economy, you know.

Machel, Lyrikal and Skinny Fabulous Bring Soca To Times Square

Karen: The whole process of rehearsing, did you all have time to maybe discuss the characters in the movie, before you began filming? Or did you feel like it would be more beneficial to have minimal rehearsal time?

Todd: Having lesser rehearsal time is [a matter] of budget, we had to get everybody together and have time to do that. We had some rehearsal time, and in order to do that it was important to talk about the characters. Also in the process of film making you end up rehearsing as you go along. The technical crew has so much work to do. Setting up the lighting, the camera, the shots. As that’s happening the directors with the actors are running through stuff. In many cases we wrote scenes and we changed scenes on the set as we were going. Because when the actors finally performed them in a real location it felt different. When you’re in the room, you say things differently and you do things differently, so it’s a very organic process.

Shelley: You all have mentioned a lot of great Caribbean movies, like Shottas. I’ve been waiting 14 years for Shottas 2. So [what] I wanna know [is], can we expect a Bazodee 2 any time soon?

Todd: I hope so.

Natalie: If you write it. *everyone laughs*

.Machel: Let’s get through number one [first]. I’m just saying, this has been a journey and I’ll never forget it. You know, this movie took ten years, since I was contacted, to get to this point and we really excited. We really excited to get this movie going and the fans are really happy. It’s a testament to staying true and believing in something. Really never giving up, you know. And the love in this movie is the most important thing. If we didn’t love what we do, we would not have such a beautiful film to show tomorrow. So I think that would definitely be something we’d love to do all over again. And if the opportunity provides itself, if we do Bazodee 2. Maybe Natalie and I would start a family. *everyone laughs*

“You know, and if the opportunity provides itself, if we do Bazodee 2, hey maybe Natalie and I would start a family.” – Machel Montano

Todd: Claire, who wrote the script, created some really wonderful characters. At the end of the movie you’ll see there is a life for all those characters. After all the people in London. Also, I wanna know what happens to those people, so I think it’s all about characters. I think that they do have a life beyond this film.

Machel Montano in Bazodee movie
L-R: Deanna, Machel Montano, Natalie Perera, Todd Kessler, Me and Alysia; (I hate Machel for making us laugh every time we took a photo. LOL That’s why I look so weird! I was trying not to laugh. LOL)

And there you have it, that’s the end of our interview. We only had about an hour, so we couldn’t ask more questions. (Although I’m pretty sure this thing is long enough, right?) Either way, it was great to actually sit down and talk to everyone about this movie. Hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as I enjoyed sitting there and talking to everyone. They were really, really wonderful! Do you have any questions about the movie or about my interview experience? Leave them in a comment below and I’ll answer them as best as I can. If not, thanks for reading!