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Tanya Vital's Blog

Monday, 31 October 2011

Top Sket

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Sket: "Short for Sketel. Caribbean term for Super Ho" (Whore)

Sketel: "Caribbean Creole word for a class-less, tasteless, loose girl, who characteristically displays slutty, animalistic or beast like qualities."


With the new Film Sket due to come out in cinemas and Top Boy about to launch this evening I think it’s time I wrote this piece.

There’s been a lot of hype on Twitter and other Social Networking sites and it’s clear the audience are in 1 of 2 camps. You’re either in the camp of “Yes we love it, can’t wait to watch them both, how excellent”. Or you’re in the camp of “Why oh why do the media and Film Industry keep churning out these negative misrepresentations of our youth, with no counterbalancing alternatives”.
As an Actor my ‘World’ is very small. I know people that have worked in and on both productions. I know one of the leads in Sket and I know someone who worked on the Production of Top Boy. The problem is this. I know that both of these people are hard workers. They take their job seriously, they have both worked in this industry a long time and they are both excellent at their job. So when anticipating what’s to come from both productions I know that they will have been made to the highest quality and will both have the best Acting. But how constructive is it?

As an Actor there is a difficult decision to be made when taking parts. This is not Hollywood and most of us are not yet in a position to pick and choose our roles. We have to take what we are given and if the Tax Man is on your ass or the rents due, you better take whatever you can, be it the role of a prostitute or a gang member and you better smile and like it. That old saying “fake it till you make it” is definitely an unspoken understanding in the Acting world. For career progression, Actors (including me),  most definitely take what they can and act to their best ability, to eventually make a name for themselves so that they can then pick and choose roles more carefully.  But how constructive is it?


I think there was a need for ‘urban’ (hate that word) cinema. There was a need for gritty, ‘street’ drama. There was a yearning, definitely from my neck of the woods, to see people like us on screen. To see places like ours and to see lives like people we knew and then the flood came. We were inundated with gang crime, ‘urban’ life, drugs, violence, sex, poverty, guns, slang, addiction, more sex, disease, rebellion, hate, anger, more sex and we eat it up fast like a Sunday roast.
We loved it, we yearned for it, it was fresh, it was funny, it was ‘in your face’, it was shocking, and it was - depending on your background – our everyday life!! So we fed and they fed us and we fed until we got fat and the film industry got rich. But how constructive was it?

As an Actor your damn right the best roles are the horrible, mean, nasty, gritty roles. Who wants to be the romantic lead? Boring! So even I am not sure I could have turned down a role in either production. A) My Bank Manager wouldn’t allow it and B) no gonna lie – it would have been fun! But how constructive would it have been?
To break the illusion of cinema for just a quick minute. MOST of the Actors are not from the background they’re portraying. They’ve never been in a gang, they are middle class and never lived on an estate. They talk fairly posh normally and have never sold drugs, their body or anything else. Again it’s ACTING – PLAY. And most of the time they play it very well! But nonetheless it’s playing a fictional life very removed from their own or anyone else’s for that matter. The writers – not always, but often – are also middle class. Never actually experienced this kind of lifestyle themselves, but do a great job in research and produce sometimes brilliant pieces of heightened reality – drama.  But to what end?

Usually there is a storyline where the protagonist is in a world of hell. They have to assert themselves in some way, end up losing everything and learning a lesson and moving on. Many young people can relate to that and a positive end message leaves the audience fulfilled. But how true to life is this positive ending?
These past few years young people, especially the lower classes, have been demonised, targeted and stricken off by the Government and the Media. I’m no sociologist but I would say that this has in turn lead to the old self fulfilling prophecy thing. I don’t know, was it the chicken or the egg? Did our kids become bad 1st or were they pushed? Either way this constant barrage of negative representations in the media can’t be helping. Do I contribute to this as an Actor by taking roles that are negative representations? Probably. Is my bank balance at a level where I can take the moral high ground and refuse roles? Absolutely not! We all have to work, were all just trying to get by.


As an Actor my life is complete when I act so whatever the role I guess I’m going to be happy as long as I play it authentically and I’m sure the Actors in Sket and Top Boy feel the same. Is there blame to be dealt? Yes I guess so, on ALL sides. Actors could choose better. Writers could write more positively. Production companies could commission other types of writing. Audiences could demand other things and educate children on the difference between real life and screen life. I think we all have a part to play.

1 comment:

  1. Food For thought...Our prime purpose in this life is to help, guide, love others and ourselves. And if you can't help others, at least don't hurt them.
    More Than Ever – Young People Need Positive Role Models..

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