“Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out.” Brilliantly articulated by American film director Martin Scorsese, this powerful sentiment is echoed in the creative frame of mind of photographer and film-maker Shauntel Angelica.
The young CEO of Shauntel Media House has been making waves on-screen, so Flair decided to go behind the scenes to find out more about her journey.
“I am just fascinated with telling stories that give insight into the importance of how we approach mental health in Jamaica or stories surrounding other impactful issues affecting an individual expressed in their broken heart or a story about society, evident in how cold we’ve grown,” she shared in a recent interview. Her main goal, in her depiction of these tales, is to avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes of realities for the sake of mere entertainment.
Angelica was the only child to her parents until she was almost five, when her little sister came into the picture. The family routine included school, home, and church. She particularly enjoyed her interactions and experiences in the house of God as they instilled in her morals and values that she continues to live by to this day. Life as a child was not only filled with nurture but was also oozing with passion. During her childhood, she spent a great deal of time drawing. She began playing the drums at age six and the piano and keyboard by age 10. “I took up the guitar about two years ago but didn’t have the time to remain consistent with it, and I taught myself how to crochet in high school,” she told Flair.
Additionally, she was heavily involved in a club called Junior Achievement, which became the foundation for her obsession with intertwining entrepreneurship with every aspect of her thoughts. “I often found myself brainstorming about business ideas, for example, which I do heavily in my spare time,” she said. It was almost natural for her to discover and indulge in photography and film as they are also forms of expression and arts. “I have found that I love the latter the most,” she added.
So what was this 23-year-old’s motivation to delve into this form of art? To make a statement about social issues, politics, love, hate, the possible, and the impossible. As she weighed her options, she found cinematography to be an extremely attractive field. Diving deeper into the abyss of anthropology through her studies, she was further motivated while learning more about social injustices around the world. She sealed that deal when she took a course in African diaspora film and world cinema and was introduced to brilliant film-makers such as Wong Kar Wai, Kathleen Collins, and Haile Gerima, who all challenged the linear narrative of Hollywood. She was hungry for more. “I stay true to ensuring what I put on screen remains authentic to the reality of the diaspora, which can be fuelled by my own experiences,” she said.
The young entrepreneur’s most memorable project is her first short film, Caterpillar Heart. The body of work explores the matter of mental health and taught her the value of planning intensely before a shoot. From ensuring that the script was good and composing a shortlist and storyboard to location scouting, casting, pre-briefing, and actual execution, she did it all, making her days less of a hassle. She was thrilled by the dynamic process. “I do a mixture of using filming techniques while working according to energies,” she said. She explores lifestyle and landscape photography, touring for creativity and innovation in her travels.
Her biggest obstacle so far has been balancing the film-planning process with being a full-time non-film student. It requires prioritising coursework for her anthropology degree over planning her next film, a difficult feat, exacerbated by the fact that she is passionate about the latter. In order to overcome this, she rewards the hard work put into her studies with the pleasures of cinematography and photography.
She has added a bit of travel blogging to the mix to create her love triangle. She said: “The beauty about the three is that they can be easily intertwined with one another. My travel gives inspiration to my film ideas, and film can inspire my photography. Furthermore, my photography and film can inspire the destinations I want to go or inspire what I capture at these destinations. All of them give me both literal freedom and creative freedom.”
Currently, she is working on directing another short film and is looking forward to her continued development as a film-maker and photographer. “My desire is to receive a formal education in film. I know it’s debatable among creatives whether a formal education in film is valuable or not, but I have intensely weighed the pros and cons, and I would appreciate fulfilling further formal education in film.” She is looking to pioneer as a leading female film-maker and photographer in Jamaica.
It is no surprise that outside of film-making, she likes to watch movies, especially those non-Hollywood gems. Another non-shocker: if she could, she would be solo backpacking somewhere right now.
Her advice to aspiring film-makers is to just go for it. “Get an ‘idea book’. Write down your ideas, and choose one per month that you choose to work on, and start the planning process for it. Try your best to make that idea a reality in that month, and it will give you the motivation to overcome that fear of taking the leap.” Also, she encourages research. Don’t be intimidated, she says, by big fish out there or the people with the most followers or likes. Continue building on your craft and your portfolio, and take the time to learn. Most important, create, create, create.
You can find her work on Instagram and Facebook @shauntelmediahouse.
Story by Krysta Anderson