No. 17 ~ Wherefore Art thou?

Published: Nov/Dec 2005
Theme: On the trail of the creative process
Cover: Detail from Hide! by Ewan Atkinson
Contributors: Christal P. Austin, Kevin Farmer, Claire Ince, Esther Jones, Nicholas Laughlin, Philip Nanton, Nerys Rudder, Edmund Shoye, Yvonne Weekes. 

Back Page Say # 17
This crazy hyphenate life
By Claire Ince

Daily Variety magazine, Hollywood’s premier trade publication, refers to those who perform multiple roles in their professional lives as “hyphenates.” The well-paid “actor-writer,” “director-producer” and “singer-actor” are common breeds, but outside of Beverly Hills more esoteric examples exist. I, for example, have been a “freelance writer-editor-story analyst”…which is pretty standard in New York for someone trying to get the single-word profession “screenwriter.”

That was until a few months after September 11, 2001. By May the following year, I had lost all my hyphens and become unemployable as new restrictions made the arduous job of being an international worker in America even tougher. So I quit and came home to Barbados.

Once back, I started a production company and spent two years developing a television show, Run’bout. The process was akin to being stabbed repeatedly in the heart with a fork. Our production team had to deal with a largely apathetic TV station, slow sponsorship response and a lack of financing.

Run’bout’s development was so unusually painful because no one knew what to do with a hyphenate show, a programme that bridged elements of game show and reality TV. The Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation was used to monolithic programmes. Why couldn’t Run’bout be like an interview show or a cooking show? And why did the people on it have to speak dialect?

Run’bout was lucky. At the last minute, when the show was about to be shelved, out title sponsor came on board. And once Run’bout hit television screens, it found an audience.

Doing a second season should have been a given. The truth is there’s not enough interest in financing local television productions to the tune of what they really cost. Currently, I have in development a documentary about cricket in Barbados for World Cup 2007. So far, I have no takers and am, once again, two years out of pocket thanks to my development. Maybe local producers ought to start their titles with one word to which all others are daisy-chained: any word that suggests we need to have our heads examined. 

—Claire Ince, a New York-based Barbadian writer, was the 2003 recipient of a Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Award for her collection Rehearsal and Other Stories.