Lisa Wickham

Episode 029: LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!

Featuring Lisa Wickham

  

Who is Lisa Wickham? 

  • Godmother of TV & Film Industry in T&T 
  • Executive Producer, TV Personality, Educator, Creator, Trailblazer 
  • “Oprah of the Caribbean” 


Interview Summary 

  • Learn from the success of Lisa Wickham, creator/executive producer/media powerhouse. Hear the story of creating E-Zone, a ground-breaking, wildly successful Caribbean entertainment show which brought international eyes and recognition to the region. See how Lisa and her team took film and live show production in the Caribbean to an international level and changed the landscape, while also developing local talent and always coming up with new concepts. 
  • Exclusive: Mini Master Class on Film Production 


Key Interview Points 

  • Start Early – nurture passion and focus and build character in children 
  • Creativity and business are not mutually exclusive and can benefit from one another
  • Strive for excellence and operate at an international standard. You are not bound by the limits of where you are, you are only limited by what you can conceive. 
  • Go outside your comfort zone – pioneers learn many lessons the hard way, but they also raise the level of the game by taking chances 
  • Be memorable - Anytime I do something for the first time, I think “How can this be remembered?” 
  • The path to success is not always guided by strategy and planning – sometimes you have to look for the serendipitous opportunities and be prepared to capitalize on them.
  • Guidance, mentorship and continuous learning are essential 
  • Be driven by passion, and think about how to do new approaches, new content, break ground. Reinvent and retool as necessary to stay current and relevant. 


Key Lessons Shared 

  • Think Outside the Box 
  • Be Committed and Focused on Excellence 
  • Build Character from An Early Age 
  • Know Your Stuff – Do Your Research 
  • Expand Your Worldview 
  • Learn From Your Elders and Mentors
  • Never Settle 
  • Be Passionate 
  • Reinvent to Stay Relevant 
  • Be True to Yourself – Be YOU 
  • Speak Your Future Into Existence. 
  • Mantra: Work Hard. Play Harder. Pray Hardest 


Detailed Interview Notes 


Early Beginnings 

  • From age 3, started traveling internationally and became culturally sensitive, saw what was possible beyond T&T 
  • At 6 years old, started on Riki Tiki reading a poem, then received own segment at 13 years old 
  • Followed that with Nescafe Party Time (“T&T’s Got Talent”), live broadcasts, morning shows, Dateline, and more 
  • Has been involved in media ever since. Currently producing and hosting the Now Morning Show on TTT, which is transforming the landscape of morning television 


Mother of a Creative – Nurturing an International Contributor 

  • Daughter Gabrielle is also a creative powerhouse. Started at age 5, produced/directed a production for children at Little Carib at age 6, has grown in that focus 
  • “Children need to be able to grow in their own space and have conversations about their identities with their parents”
  • Nurturing years are important to build children into “international contributors”, who can “Stand as an equal to anyone anywhere in the world, have international conversations and experience life at a global level even though they might have been born in Trinidad, a little dot in the Caribbean.” 


Bringing Right Brain and Left Brain Together 

  • Loved media from an early age, but media was not considered a serious option. Lisa went against the grain, following her passion and developing skills, even though there was no concrete plan 
  • Pursued management studies at university but never left media -  continued to appear on television while studying and acquiring new and different skills 
  • Received MBA at Warrick University – many classmates wen ton to banking and finance, but Lisa applied the strategic problem-solving skills from her MBA to the challenges of developing a creative industry in T&T 
  • Leveraging these combinations of skills and experience, Lisa was able to dovetail creativity and business by becoming a producer/owner of her own shows.


Becoming an Owner: The Transition 

  • Lisa patterned her career after Oprah Winfrey, observing that she was owning and executive producing her own content, which Lisa then did with E-Zone, a regional entertainment show that was blazing the trail for Caribbean-centered and produced content. 
  • The move to owner and producer was not strategic, but seemed more as a natural transition. Sometimes the opportunities come through serendipity 
  • "I knew if I paid for it, I owned it". Had to become creative to fund and cover all the costs of production.


The Story of E-Zone: Pioneering and Trailblazing

  • E-Zone was the first of its kind in the Caribbean. This was not a news show, but focused on entertainment and transformed the way entertainment was shot and highlighted and presented 
  • Fostered Intra-Caribbean tourism through E=Zone which showed in 22 Caribbean countries and on BET-J in the USA 
  • Used product placement and integration as part of the strategy to cover production costs – that was not the norm at the time – this was a pioneering move 
  • The success of E-Zone showcased Caribbean content, and brought international media which negotiated deals with the countries directly, which meant E-Zone was cut out of the markets which they had introduced to the world 
  • It was naivete and a lesson learned on my part – We should have been charging, but as a pioneer you are breaking ground and building relationships
  • Media industry has to balance between creative expression and business structure and acumen. 


Being a Media Pioneer and Trailblazer 

  • Many of her ventures and approaches were the first of their kind in T&T 
  • Lack of technology did not limit creativity. Make your own opportunities. 
  • There was a time when the tv station did not have the equipment to do on-screen presentations. If Lisa wanted the audience to follow points during an interview, she created her own PowerPoints and ran them during the show 
  • This created the need, showed what was possible, and on-screen presentations are now possible because local tv stations have the technology 
  • It is the job of pioneers to see the possibilities beyond what exists. 
  • Being the first player in a space has its benefits, but you can also be usurped by new or more powerful players in the space. No one stays on top by staying the same. Stay current and be creative. 
  • Think: “How can I reinvent myself and my business? How can I reorient to navigate a new space?” 
  • Seeing the possibilities to grow and attain an international standard, Lisa and her team introduced international-level production of live shows to T&T, starting with COTT Music Awards in 2007/2008. 
  • For that show, they imported lights, equipment and internationally-trained specialists 
  • They had to teach the local artistes what it took to create a show on an international stage – changed expectations and asked people to rise to the occasion, to prepare differently. That was met with some resistance, but those who were able to see the vision were able to benefit from it. 
  • Once Lisa and her team were able to show that it was possible, other competitors appeared in the local space to try to top it – that effort and excellence raised the level of the game. 


Creating an International=Quality Media Industry in T&T 

  • There was a time when T&T had one TV station – that has changed, but attaining a level of international quality is a journey that takes place one step at a time 
  • In today’s world, media can be created on a phone, self-produced and distributed through alternative channels. There are many avenues for creativity, but you have to very good to stand out in a saturated space
  • There are schools and online programs where people can train, and the industry continues to grow
  • Growing the industry to an international standard will require collaboration, and will be taken one step at a time. 
  • No one is actually self-made. Everyone relies on the people around them 
  • It is important to have competent, trained personnel in the space who can create excellent work 
  • It is important to train, to mentor, to nurture 


Developing Talent: Creating Master Classes 

  • a. My purpose in life is to develop others 
  • b. Creating workshops bringing international experts to T&T shows what is possible, and raises the level of skill in the country 
  • Lisa did not keep her network and contacts from her international experience to herself, but invited those experts to come to Trinidad 

Conclusion: Mini Master Class on Film Production