Thursday, 15 March 2012

THROUGH THE LENS: Mykal Cushnie embraces the bigger picture

SHARP FOCUS: “We need more filmmakers who are passionate about the business.”

The notion that each new experience presents an opportunity to learn and grow is one that isn’t foreign to Mykal Cushnie. In fact, it’s a concept that the increasingly popular videographer and director/editor wholeheartedly subscribes to. Take, for instance, his work with the hit fashion reality series Mission Catwalk, which is about enter its second season. “For me, [the show] is a great learning process because, for one, it’s easily one of the biggest projects I’ve ever worked on. It really pushes me to do my best,” the New York Film Academy alum admits. “As director and editor for the show, the hours can be long and hard, but it’s a lot of fun.”

What’s the status on the upcoming season? “Well, we’ve finished shooting, so now it’s down to the editing,” the 31-year-old tells TALLAWAH.

Never one to pigeon-hole himself, Cushnie’s exploits in the local film and television industries over the years have seen him shooting TV ads, music videos, documentaries, buzzworthy cable shows like Centric’s Splash and award-winning films like Storm Saulter’s Better Mus’ Come. Asked to identify some filmmakers whose work he admires, Cuhsnie reels off a who’s who of Hollywood royalty, like Quentin Tarantino, Michael Mann and Clint Eastwood. “I like how the camera moves when they tell their story,” he points out. “It really engages the audience.”

Casting a keen eye over the current Jamaican film industry, Cushnie, who runs the Kingston-based DSE Media, observes, “It’s a small industry so the people that are in it have a big responsibility on their back, a big load. So we need more filmmakers and writers who are passionate about the business.”

The countless projects that have called on Cushnie’s knack for stunning visuals and eye for detail include Kimala Bennett’s forthcoming Combing through the Roots: The Politics of Hair in Jamaica. “It’s a documentary on hair as it relates to social status,” Cushnie tells me. “The stories of these women are very interesting, and the documentary is something that spans over a 30-year period. So it’s interesting to see how much we have grown as a people and our perceptions.”

In spite of the stellar body of work he has produced from behind the camera, Cushnie is quick to reveal that his greatest achievement is of a somewhat personal nature. “My biggest accomplishment is making my mother proud, seeing her son be successful at something that he loves. Turning what was a hobby into a career, a viable income source and a legitimate business,” he shares. “Work-wise, I’ve had a lot of great projects, and I learned from all of them. All of them helped to build character and are pieces of a greater puzzle.”

So where does he see himself in ten years’ time? “Probably on a beach somewhere just chilling. Maybe writing a book or taking pictures or making videos for fun not for work. But I think whatever is supposed to happen will manifest itself.”

Looking ahead to Mission Catwalk’s well-anticipated March 27 return, Cushnie suggests that the new season is poised to outperform last year’s breakout season. “I think the addition of designers from across the Caribbean is a very good move, and the experience of the crew has come in handy because we are doing it for a second time so we definitely would have learned from last season,” says Cushnie. “But I think the best thing about the show now is the inclusion of Caribbean designers because it shows that Mission Catwalk has grown from just a Jamaican fashion reality show to having people from the region come here to be a part of it. So now it’s a melting pot of cultures, and that makes for a more interesting series.”

TRIPLE THREAT: Cushnie, Keneea Linton-George (left) and Sonia Davidson attend the Mission Catwalk 2012 launch in Kingston.

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