This past Tuesday, Maya Cozier’s film, Short Drop, was released on Studio Anansi Tv. The film tells the story of of Bartholomew, a retired civil servant. One day, Bartholomew takes a leisurely drive downtown, where Shanice, mistakes his car for a taxi. After much resistance, he agrees to take her to her destination. Along the way, they encounter a wide diversity of Trinidadian characters, from cross-dresser Hott Pepper to gang member Tan Tan. The unlikely band of strangers unite through this impromptu taxi ride, fulfilling Bartholomew’s fundamental desire for connection.
Watch Short Drop now:
This is Maya’s second film release on Anansi (her first was SHAN), and as before, we vybed with her on the making of the film, and some other things.
caribbeanfilm: In your own words, tell us what this film is about and why you chose to tell this story.
mc: Short Drop is a film about a retiree whose car gets mistaken for a taxi during rush hour in downtown Port-of-Spain. He puts up resistance at first, but after a young woman persists he takes her to her destination, he decides to go along with it. He has a brief stint as a taxi driver that evening picking up different people around the bustling streets of Port-of-Spain.
I was in NY at film school when I wrote the script for this film. I missed home a lot and wanted to tell a story of someone who was lonely and isolated but had the opportunity to connect with many characters who, to me, felt real and familiar having been raised in Trinidad.caribbeanfilm: Did the film turn out the way you envisioned? If yes, in what ways. If no, why not?
mc: I would not recommend shooting your first film in a moving car! I made this film as my thesis before graduating from film school. Some things turned out better than I envisioned and others not so much. I got to collaborate with very talented actors. I think they brought a fresh quality to the film that was not in the script. That really brought the film to life in a way that was better than what I envisioned. The technical challenges limited the amount of coverage we were able to get. I think I told the story I set out to film despite the challenges.
caribbeanfilm: There are quite a few actors in the film – some seasoned, others very new. How did you go about casting the film?
mc: I was not home to host an official casting call, so I cast the film from recommendations and people I knew. Albert (Bartholomew) was recommended to me by Michael Cherrie. Jeanine Lee Kim (Shanice) and Kyle Richardson (Hott Pepper) were people I knew. I went to high school with Jeanine and I met Kyle at a party in Trinidad. It was Kyle’s first time acting in a film. When I met Kyle his energy filled the whole room and I just knew that he was the character I had in mind for the film.
caribbeanfilm: What was the most challenging aspect of making the film and why was that so?
mc: We not only shot the film in a moving car but we did it with an old car that kept shutting down. Car difficulties made the shooting schedule complicated and set days were long and hard. We had a crew of troopers and everyone kept going to make the film possible.
caribbeanfilm: What do you want the audience to take away from the film?
mc: This film brings a group of people from different walks of life together in an intimate space. As a result they have no choice but to interact with each other. I want the audience to take away the message that making assumptions about people we don’t understand or consider to be “other” prevents us from finding interesting and meaningful connections.
caribbeanfilm: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a filmmaker.
mc: I started out as a dancer/model. I was on a television show called Digicel’s best dance crew where my girlfriends and I took home the award for best dance crew. At 18 I was in a Nicki Minaj video directed by Hype Williams. I had a lot of experience in front the camera as a performer. I was always interested in film but had no access to it. I would follow my girlfriends around with a little camcorder and shoot and edit all the party promo videos for events. At school I was a painter/sculptor. I knew I wanted to go to enroll at art school. I enrolled at SVA, NY and it was only there that I got my first introduction to filmmaking. The first film I made, Shan, was about a limbo dancer who toured the United States with a circus.
caribbeanfilm: If you were to pick an aspect of filmmaking – producing, writing, directing, cinematography, editing – which would be your favorite? why is that? – which do you dislike the most? and why is that?
mc: I love being able to conceptualize a film and bring the vision to life. I also love the process of working with actors. I don’t dislike any aspect but I think producing films and making magic on micro budgets can seem impossible at times.
caribbeanfilm: Currently, there is a sort of awakening in the Caribbean to filmmaking as a form of artistic expression … you are a part of this “new wave”… can you share with us your thoughts on what is currently happening and where you see this energy leading filmmakers? Is there much of a difference between what’s happening in the French Caribbean as opposed to the English and Spanish Caribbean?
mc: I think we’ve seen outsider depictions of the Caribbean for far too long. Someone without a real connection to the region will only have stereotypical images to draw from when imagining the space. I think projecting our own fantasies, hopes and stories on film allows us to take back the narrative. We’re finally seeing everyday stories told by people that live in the region or diaspora.
caribbeanfilm: Do you think there is a “Caribbean film aesthetic” being created as more and more films are being made? If so, can you describe what you’re seeing as that aesthetic?
mc: We’re some of the coolest most stylish people on the planet. I definitely think there’s an aesthetic to any film shot on location in the Caribbean. I think the surface and materiality of films are often underplayed but that surface is so important in communicating who we are and what we perceive as fun or pleasure. Style can also be politically charged and a way for expressing and asserting identity.
caribbeanfilm: What is your fav Caribbean film? What did you enjoy about it the most?
mc: My favorite Caribbean film is Dancehall Queen. While there’s a lot of style and fun in this film, it still tells a rags to riches tale that tackles some serious issues around gang violence and gender based violence.
Maya Cozier is a T+T filmmaker who studied film and video at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has written and directed several short films, including Shan, Dimebag, Dashkar and Short Drop, which was awarded the New York Women in Film and TV Grant at the Dusty Film Festival. She is currently working on her first feature film, She Paradise.