The Story of Caribbean Film "The Scrubbing Bench" From Page to Screen

The Story of Caribbean Film "The Scrubbing Bench" From Page to Screen

MNI Media was recently made aware of "The Scrubbing Bench", an independent film production by writer and director, Mervyn de Goeas. The project was launched on October 30th, 2020 featuring Stephen Hadeed, Jr., and Kemlon Nero. The filming took place during September 2020 at various locations around the world on different days during the COVID-19 Pandemic. MNI Media reached out to Mervyn for more on the process to bring this film to an audience. We share below the story he has shared with us, and also some clips from the film...




"My latest project is an online performance of “The Scrubbing Bench” – a script I’d written in 2011 when I had been awarded my third writing grant from the Trinidad & Tobago Film Company (now FilmTT). All I knew when I applied for the grant was that I wanted to write an LGBT themed piece and that I didn’t want any of the characters to die – like it always seemed to happen in the majority of queer themed stories, from “Brokeback Mountain” to “And The Band Played On” to “Bent” and so on and so on and so on. I didn’t have a storyline; I didn’t have a single character – nothing. I think the main reason I’d won the writing grant in the first place was because I was an experienced writer (I was head writer on Danielle Dieffenthaller’s “Westwood Park” for four years) and I had written another full-length screenplay for the Film Company that was very well received. Added to that, there really weren’t that many people who were writing about the topics that interested me – my first film script was a Bollywood-styled musical about spousal abuse and this was going to be about LGBT issues. I guess they just felt, “Well, okay. Let’s see where he goes with this one.” Nine years later – and here we are.

As for the story and themes of “The Scrubbing Bench” –who know my work and who’ve followed my career know that there is no one type of story to expect. I’ve worked in the theatre on plays that have dealt with topics as diverse as apartheid in South Africa to Nazism and the Holocaust to rape and a ton of stuff in between. During my career I’ve been awarded the National Drama Association of Trinidad & Tobago’s Best Director Cacique Award a record five times. More than anybody else. And the plays that I won for dealt with themes as varying as what moves and motivates Caribbean men (“MANtalk”) to suspected sexual abuse of a minor (“Doubt”) to stories of women dealing with the consequences of their life choices (“3 Women”).

As for the format, I was motivated to see how far we could stretch the boundaries of what is considered ”theatre” and how, when married with film, that form could exist in a digital world. Film and theatre could only exist if we all work together…now with the pandemic – now we must work together, but far apart – a sentence that wouldn’t have even made sense a year ago.

COVID-19 has forced us all to reinvent everything – from how to teach school to how we communicate. Now we have performers working with actors they have never even met. Imagine trying to wrap your head around that in 2018. One good thing, though – we got to work with actors who live outside of Trinidad – Canada, Spain, the United States – even Tobago which, while it’s still home, we still can’t get there. We are limited by the restrictions brought about by how we – the nation – are dealing with the effects of the coronavirus. We are limited to five people at most in a room on any given day. Certain things cannot be done on film any longer – a wedding, a walk on the beach…basically anything that has to do with being in a group or being mask less.

The main team is made up of Sean Edghill (Director of Photography), Tonya Evans (Production Manager), Paulla De Souza (Hair, Makeup, Styling), and me. We’re also the chief cooks, bottle washers, you name it. Our lead actors are Stephen Hadeed, Jr. and Kemlon Nero, and they are supported by Michael Cherrie, Natacha Jones, Cecilia Salazar, Eric Barry, along with many, many others.

We went live on October 30th at noon on both YouTube Unlisted and Vimeo (in other words, you wouldn’t be able to find us on YouTube without the link or watch us on Vimeo without the password). On Sunday November 1st we also be hosted a Q&A session with the cast and the crew.

As for the fundraising for “The Scrubbing Bench”, I have to say that we are incredibility grateful for the generosity of some members of the Arts community. From people who purchased more than one ticket to those who just gave us financial assistance without looking for anything in return. People opened their homes to us, fed us, really took care of us. It’s been an amazing journey. An exhausting one, but amazing, nonetheless. And we could not have done it without our friends in the Arts.

Tickets are available for viewing online for $200. That entitles you to multiple viewings the weekend of its release, and you could watch it with whomever you share your living space (we only ask that people don’t give out our URL and/or password), and you could get tickets online at www.suntixx.com or you can email us at thescrubbingbench@gmail.com and we could organize ticket sales or answer any question that you might have."