This week we have a conversation with Judith Falloon-Reid, the co-producer and screenplay writer of Jamaica’s first Gospel Movie, Just Another Friday. The film recently won the award for Best Jamaican Feature Film at the International Reggae Film Festival. Along with her husband, Michael Brown, they own and operate BarriVision Productions, the company that partnered with Jamaica Youth for Christ to produce the movie. Judith has over 30 years professional writing experience in a wide range of genres, from poetry and plays to news reporting and books. Judith is a marketing consultant, television producer, published author of four books, Time and Seasons, Full Circle, Here’s a Hundred Dollars…Buy Yourself a Life! and Are Mirrors Cleaner in Paradise? Here is our conversation with Judith
Q: Tell us about your background and how did you get started in film making?
I have spent all my life in creative industries. From as early as high school I was always involved in choirs, drama, dance and poetry. This paved the way for many exciting twists and turns that led to where I am today. I studied both marketing and public relations while working in the hotel industry and came in contact with a lot of interesting people. But I would have to say my years at the Jamaica Tourist Board, 1987-94, were a prime learning ground for everything and anything including video and television production. Working as a marketing representative gave me the opportunity to learn from film crews, radio crews and other media personnel who came to Jamaica to do movies, documentaries, photo shoots etc. When I migrated to the USA in 1994, I harnessed all my natural talents into a Christian Theatre Company movement, ByHisWord Theater Company, and for several years we did performance ministry and I was co-opted as a member of the cast of the radio soap opera Neighbors which aired on WAVS. It all came together when Michael Brown, owner of BarriVision Productions and producer of Neighbors re-connected in 2008 to develop Gospel Rhythms, my first television programme. The rest is history.
Q: Tell us about the film Just Another Friday and the message of the film?
The main message of Just Another Friday is that tomorrow is promised to no-one so it’s important to live every day as though it’s your last one and make sure you’re life is right with God. Sub themes emerge though such as the neglect and misery so many women in stagnant marriages feel and loving people to God is far more effective than beating them over the head with the Bible and threatening hell.
The movie was adapted from one of my first plays, written in the late nineties and performed by several groups over the years including 2010 in Jamaica by Acts 12, the Jamaica Youth for Christ drama ministry. It was adapted to a Jamaican scene and characters added to extend the length and Jamaican flair. The response was overwhelming and it was therefore decided to revise it for screen.
Leon, the main character, is a 19-year old college student whose main focus in life is partying and being a playboy. He is caught between his studious, over-zealous Christian sister, his miserable mother whose own emotional distress is painfully revealed and a complacent father. His best friend, John, the local Don’s right hand man, tries to lead Leon down the path to the lucrative life of crime, but Leon has other plans for his life. When his aunt and her family arrives from Boston for the holidays, he rekindles his friendship with his cousin Kelly and learns that she has amended her wayward ways and chosen the Christian life. As Good Friday evening draws near and the family readies themselves for church, Leon and his friends head for the beach and a party. They quickly learn that although “Fridays are made to party,” per Leon, this particular Friday was not Just Another Friday.
Q: Why did you make the film and how did the story come about?
As I grow older and see more and more of the morals, faith beliefs and fundamental civil behaviours become eroded and tossed aside as unnecessary, I realize the need to reach people and especially young people with the reminder that there are no promises made on the length of our lives. As a Christian I believe that everyone needs to come to an understanding of God and to develop a personal relationship with God before it’s too late. Too many of our young people are dying unexpectedly without God in their lives. It was also a direct response to so many Christians I know who can quote scriptures and be Bible beaters but don’t follow that up with acts of love.
Q: Tell us about some of the talented actors in the film?
All the actors are members of the Jamaica Youth for Christ drama ministry, Acts 12. Although they are all first timers to film, some are singers or theatre actors.
Andrew Jones, who plays John, has a wealth of onstage theatre experience to his credit.
Deneese Wright, who plays Celia, the aunt is a popular Gospel singer.
Vanessa Clarke, who plays Sonia, the Christian sister has radio experience, sings with the University Singers and is the host of Gospel Rhythms TV Show.
Extras include Gospel artists Lubert Levy, NexChange and Blue Isteppa.
Q: The film is described as Jamaica’s first gospel film. Are you concerned that many non-christians will stay away from this film because of gospel label or do you see if as an advantage to proclaim the gospel in the arts boldly?
It was important to us that the film be labelled as a Gospel film because of the message it portrays and because we wanted the Christian community to embrace it as an evangelism tool and something they can show to their youth and communities. That said, I believe we have done a fair job with crossing over audiences and we have had rave reviews from a wide cross section including Rastas and self-proclaimed atheists. The sceptics are usually won over as well when they see the trailer and realize it’s a Gospel movie and not a movie about church. I also think that other movies such as the Fighting Temptations and Kingdom Come have paved the way for this different type of Gospel movie to emerge.
Q: Were there any specific challenges encountered being that it is a gospel film?
The main challenge we encountered was getting the major movie theatre to take it seriously and show it on their screens. “Gospel movies don’t make money” we were told. Truth is, very few local movies are taken seriously by the cinemas in Jamaica so we weren’t too fazed.
Q: Is this your first film?
Yes. I’ve done several television shows but first film.
Q: Is the movie based on a true story?
No. But it is a common story of recklessness in youth, neglected wives and overbearing Christians.
Q: How was the film received?
Everywhere we received rave reviews.
Q: The film recently won an award at the In’tl Reggae Film Festival. Is the movie being entered in any other festivals this year?
Yes. We have submitted to several other festivals and are awaiting responses.
Q: How will the movie be distributed? Are you currently working on getting it in theaters?
We are working on distribution channels including online pay-per-view such as Amazon, NetFlix etc. With regards to theatres, we did several screenings in churches in South Florida but are looking towards theatres for other regions such as Atlanta and New York.
Q: As an independent film company did you fund the movie?
The movie was crowd-funded mainly by family, friends, well wishers with a booster start from Digicel and Hope Church in Kingston.
Q: What was your biggest challenge making the film?
Funds, funds, funds.
Q: What you want the audiences to say after leaving the movie?
You gave me a lot to think about.
Q: What is your next project?
The Gift. Another movie based on another of my plays that was very well received. Filming begins in September.
Q: What advise do you have for young film makers?
Go for it! Don’t wait for everything to be perfectly in place. Submit your work to film festivals – it’s a great learning ground. Learn to barter and use product placement to provide services and goods when funding is unavailable. Most importantly, your scheduling must be tight and your actors well rehearsed to avoid delays and keep costs down.
Q: Will you be making any movies in Jamaica in the future?
Yes. The Gift begins production in September for release in 2014 and the sequel to Just Another Friday is on the books for 2015.
Q:What Jamaican movies are your favorites?
Harder They Come
Q: What are your other favorite movies?
The Usual Suspects
Q: What is your motto?
Live everyday to the fullest and live to be a blessing
Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
East Indian mango
Q: Seven day, six night, all expense paid, my vacation destination is…
Turkey – Istanbul, Ephesus & Cappadocia
Q: Thanks for the interview any closing thoughts for visitors to Jamaicans.com?
Don’t sweat the small stuff – it takes away from the enjoyment of life.
Learn more about Judith and Just Another Friday here:
About “Just Another Friday”
Set in Jamaica at Easter, this contemporary movie takes you through the conflicts between a Christian teen and her worldly brother, a husband and wife and the influences of their visiting relatives. When Leon and his friends decide to go partying on Good Friday, they realize that although Friday nights are usually made for having fun, Good Friday is not Just Another Friday.
As the teens work out their conflicts, the adults also face their own dilemmas. With the underlying theme that tomorrow is promised to no-one, Just Another Friday provides a stark reminder that old and young alike need God.