With crowdfunding standard for independent film projects, filmmaker Sharon Lewis has turned to Indiegogo to raise financial resources to create the first Caribbean-Canadian sci-fi feature film.
The federal, provincial and municipal arts councils have committed $105,000 to the project with the understanding that Lewis matches the amount by August 1.
The Canadian television personality has raised $70,000 through private donations and tax credits and is seeking the public’s help in securing the remaining $30,000.
“If I don’t reach the target by the stipulated date, I will lose the arts councils funding commitment,” she said. “It’s that plain and simple.”
Set in a futuristic ghetto, Brown Girl in the Ring: The Prequel is a coming-of-age story.
“It’s 2048 in The Burn, a post-apocalyptic dystopia haunted by spirits from Afro-Caribbean folklore,” said Lewis, who worked part-time at Second Look Community Arts and founded Sugar’n’Spice productions that promoted work by and for women of colour. “What was once Toronto has been abandoned by the wealthy, and the poor have been walled in and left to fend for themselves. The story focuses on Ti-Jeanne who rebels against her grandmother’s mystical Caribbean teachings to run away with her first love. Haunted by warnings and predictions, Ti-Jeanne must obey her guardian spirit or someone will die.”
The Prequel is inspired by Nalo Hopkinson’s award-winning novel, Brown Girl in the Ring, which contains Afro-Caribbean cultures with folklore and magical realism themes.
Lewis said Hopkinson’s depiction of Ti-Jeanne has haunted her ever since she read the novel 17 years ago.
“Nalo is one of the most prolific science fiction writers,” said Lewis, who was born in Canada to immigrant parents from Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica. “The novel that she wrote in 1998 moved me as I identified with the lead character. She’s Canadian-Caribbean, kind of torn between two cultures and has to accept her Caribbean heritage to become the focus that she is. That was my journey until I really accepted fully all that comes with being Caribbean and rejoiced in it…It was tough to hold on and be proud of my culture. I saw Ti-Jeanne trying to do the same thing and that inspired me.”
Lewis and Jamaican-born Hopkinson – a professor at the University of California Riverside and the daughter of late poet and Share columnist, Abdur Rahman Slade Hopkinson, who died in 1993 – are close friends.
“We performed together at the Euclid Theatre and when I was the host of the CBC’s ‘counterSpin’ and ‘ZeD’, I always tried to get her work promoted on those platforms,” said Lewis, who has a political science degree from the University of Toronto and appeared on “DeGrassi: The Next Generation” as the mother of Jimmy Brooks, played by Canadian rapper, Drake.
After receiving Brazilian theatre technique training in England, Lewis committed to acting full-time.
She was hired for a principal role in the Canadian production of the off Broadway, ImperceptibleMutabilities in the Third Kingdom, and landed the lead role in Clement Virgo’s 1995 film, Rude, which was the first full length dramatic feature film directed by an Black Canadian.
Growing up in a household where she was encouraged to follow her passion provided the freedom for the award-winning writer/director to pursue an artistic career.
“It’s not always easy when you are a child of immigrants and the emphasis is on getting a steady job,” she said. “My parents were supportive. In addition, artistic blood runs through the family as I have a cousin who is a singer with the Reggae Cowboys and another one who sang with a band in New York.”