A South-east London author tackles the dark side of the film industry in her new novel, writes Calum Fraser.
Shakira N Meghie has been in the film and media industry for years but she has now decided to expose its underbelly in her novel Paper Cuts.
The Greenwich author said: “I have been in the industry for years but something said to me, ‘pick up the pen’. This book brought me back.”
Paper Cuts tells the story of Slim, a young black girl trying to make a career for herself in the film industry.
Shakira said: “She puts her trust in an investor. She is groomed and she experiences the harsh reality of what can happen in the industry.
“I’ve had women coming to me in their droves telling me about their own experiences.
“It’s fiction, but I think it resonates with a lot of people’s real experiences.”
But that isn’t the only aspect of the industry that the book explores. There is also a focus on race relations and corporate bullying and theft.
Shakira, who co-wrote a screenplay called Lewisham Girls which was picked up by actor and director Noel Clarke among others, said: “Big networks will allow you to send unsolicited scripts. They will go as far as to bring you in, they’ll give you the spiel, then they void you out completely and you will never get near the show.
“This happened to me and a friend. We then turned on the TV one day and saw our show. Just with a few little changes.
“This is happening to a lot of young talent in the industry. It’s a dangerous ground. This is an elite circle.
“When it comes to content coming from ethnic minority writers, you’re pigeon holed.
“There is a lot of diverse content out there that people are writing. But the big media companies only want your writing if it portrays more violent content and puts down your race and class, then they are all for it.
“But they haven’t had something great and positive for black culture.”
Shakira wants to fill this void with Paper Cuts. There is violence in the book, but its focus is on redemption and the strength of the character in overcoming hardship.
She said: “If we keep going we will be heard in the end, but it takes a certain amount of strength and determination.”
Within 10 hours of its release Paper Cuts had climbed into the best biographic and best fiction board on Amazon.
Shakira began her career as a dancer attending performing arts school.
She then became a choreographer in the music industry before storyboarding and assisting on music videos.
In 2012 she opened and partnered Sisterhood Productions, a film production company.
She said: “I am self-taught all the way, I’ve only got English GCSE and then a psychology degree.
“I have worked to create a catalogue of mixed ethnic drama that touches on the controversial issues that many people of colour face.”
She launched the book at Equitable House in Woolwich and will be attending the Bare Lit festival for writers at the Albany in Southwark today, May 25.
It is available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon. Just about every West End musical ends with some kind of sing-along designed to get audiences out of their seats.
To return to the ban at the Coliseum, in the wake of the controversy over the double-standard in a venue that has arguably been saved in recent years by the addition of musicals to the programme, the rule has now been changed to apply to all audiences, but is this an answer?
The industry, it seems, is at risk of forgetting the very people that keep it alive.