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i Am Santana

By Wayne Bowman wayne.bowman@trindadexpress.com

When a man loves a woman he will stop at nothing to win her heart. He will seek to defeat any rival mercilessly, even if that opponent is a pillar of the community like say, a pastor. Even a man of the cloth will put God out of his thoughts and trod the wicked way to claim the woman he has set his sights upon.

This is the scenario that will unfold before you when Lexo TV releases the forthcoming feature length film titled, I Am Santana locally and internationally. The movie will feature the popular puppet characters, Santana, Janice and Pastor Stewart in a humourous love triangle in which Santana and the pastor fight over Janice who plays of them both like, well, puppets.

Marketing Partner for Lexo TV and Executive Producer of the movie, Ian Pantin told the Express that the idea for the movie came as he and Lexo TV founder, Roger Alexis were brainstorming for ideas to generate revenue from the puppets created by Alexis. For a couple years now the video shorts produced by Alexis and aired on YouTube and other such networks have attracted in excess of six million hits, but no revenue.

"The shorts have attracted over six million views free of charge to the viewers on YouTube and also Lexo TV. We needed to find ways to build revenues and so came up with the idea of doing a full length movie, which we have completed filming. Roger is now editing and making whatever adjustments are needed.

"The movie is based on Santana and Pastor Stewart fighting for Janice and it is very funny. We are in the process of building the marketing campaign and in doing so have secured a couple endorsement deals, one of them with Santana who is now part of a new marketing campaign for Stag Beer. As for the movie, we are confident it will be as big a hit in the cinemas as the shorts have been on the Internet," Pantin said.

Now unless you are anti social network or afraid of clicking a mouse, you have seen the smooth talking, chauvinistic Santana and foul-mouthed, irreverent Pastor Stewart in action before. The videos became an instant hit locally and that popularity spread across the region to the United States, Canada and England where West Indians and other people visited the respective web sites weekly for the latest installments.

Alexis started exploring the art of puppetry when he was 15-years-old putting together a production filmed by his cousin on a camcorder. About five years later on a rainy day when there was nothing interesting on cable TV, Alexis took a sock, put eyes on it and entertained himself in front of a video camera he had set up. The rains continued the next day and so did Alexis' puppetry, which, when shown to friends and family, was well received.

The next thing Alexis knew he was purchasing puppets and tweaking them to suit what he wanted to represent. People encouraged him to start a production company and so he started Lexo TV and then decided to pursue studies in film at UWI. Alexis then produced a series titled Herman's Tales, which was aired on TV6 where he worked as a cameraman until some months ago when he left to devote himself fulltime to Lexo TV. This led to the creation of his beloved dreadlocked puppet, Santana, which became an instant local superstar.

The movie, I Am Santana is written, produced, directed and filmed by Alexis with the assistance of a small crew. While Alexis and Pantin are hoping the movie will generate revenue through the cinemas and eventually DVD sales, they insist the online video shorts will continue to be free. Pantin said Santana, Janice, Pastor Stewart and the rest of the gang are grassroots characters that must always be fully accessible to everyone.

I Am Santana will be sent to the Census Board by November 15 and is expected to be released before year's end. It will be premiered simulteanously in Trinidad, New York, London, Toronto, Miami, Washington DC, Barbados and Jamaica.

"We need to release in this manner because we have to do all we can to protect the movie against piracy and to keep it from going viral because that would destroy all earning potential. We are marketing everywhere possible out there in the clubs and all West Indian hangouts and places where they shop. The marketing is very expensive and renting the cinemas for the premire is also costly, but we have to do it," Pantin said.

Once the movie is out the focus will be on the next series of shorts featuring the adventures of Santana and Pastor Stewart. There will also be the introduction of a new character named Leroy who comes from a broken home. The shorts will explore how he sees life and copes with the challenges that he faces. There will also be a move to take the series and movie to the African Continent.

"We must spread as far and wide as possible and also diversify. Once the movie is successful we will work on a sequel and pursue all marketing options such as merchandising. There are many people that do not believe in what we are doing or seeking to achieve, but look at Mark Zuckerberg who created Facebook. He knew he had something good, but did not know how to make money from it. That is where Roger was and then he began to stretch his imagination and when I came on board, we started to reach even further.

"One person offered us an opportunity to have people pay to see the video shorts and we declined because as I said, these must remain free and I don't want to interfere with that. What we may do is attach a note inviting people to make contributions if they please. But whether you do or not, you will still see the videos.

"Oh, and there is a soundtrack from the movie as well featuring artistes like, Bunji Garlin, Fay- Ann Lyons, Skinny Fabulous, Farmer Nappy, Trini Jacobs, Hunter, Lil Rick, Lyrical, Problem Child and Nebula 868. A full package that we hope will be the first step towards the success we want for Santana and Pastor Stewart," Pantin said.

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