If you’re in the local filmmaking circuit, you must know Emilie Upczak. The Trinidad-based, American-born filmmaker just wrapped her debut feature, Moving Parts, a personal drama that maps the story of one woman’s journey and her integration into a new environment.
The film, which deals with the sensitive topic of human trafficking in the Caribbean, boasts a cast and crew of local and international talent. The cast features Valerie Tian, Jacqueline Chan, Kandyse McClure, Dru Castiglione, Keevan Chang On, Nickolai Salcedo, Stephen Hadeed Jr, Arnold Goindhan, Nicholas Emery, Sanjiv Budhoo and Conrad Parris.
Now that Moving Parts is in post-production, CreativeTT had the pleasure of chatting with Emilie on this passion project.
CreativeTT (CTT): What was your inspiration/motivation for making this film?
Emilie Upczak (EU): I read a newspaper article about a woman who had been deported from Trinidad nine times. The article did not dissect the larger social and economic issues surrounding her migration to T&T nor did it question who brought her here and why. She was not a person but a social ill. Around that time, I also frequented a Chinese restaurant and one day I noticed a waitress there and asked myself "where did she come from, how did she get here and who brought her here?". These two moments were the inspiration for the film.
CTT: Human trafficking is a sensitive topic. How difficult was this story to tell?
EU: It was necessary to do a lot of research and consider all points of view in order to tell this story. The film is an observation of one woman's experience, a human drama. I worked to not exploit the topic but rather to normalise the human experience. The film is a visual inquiry about migration, power dynamics, relationships and money.
CTT: How important was having female heads of depts. to making this film?
EU: The crew was made up of equal parts men and women, and the contribution made by everyone was significant. However, it was very important for me to work with women as heads of certain departments, particularly as this is a story told from a female perspective, with a female protagonist. The cinematographer, Nancy Schreiber, ASC, has worked in the film industry in the US and abroad for a number of years. Having a woman behind the camera presented the opportunity to showcase the story from a female perspective and, as it is a story about a woman and her experience, it seemed appropriate. Our producing team Annabelle Mullen (Puerto Rico) and Rhonda Chan Soo (T&T), as well as our production designer Shannon Alonso (T&T) and first assistant director Roma Zachemba (Poland) all worked together and with the entire crew to understand and implement a shared vision.
CTT: Is there anything you would like to share regarding FilmTT’s support of this film?
EU: FilmTT was the driving impetus for the film. I had developed the script in 2013 with co-writer Nicholas Emery and applied for funding from what was then the T&T Film Company. Receiving both financial and script editorial support from FilmTT allowed me to further develop the story as well as garner other financial support. Moving Parts would not have been made without the critical first endorsement made by FilmTT.
Moving Parts is scheduled for release in September 2017.
Photos courtesy Kevin Huggins.