Art, Life and Blurred Lines
A paradox of sorts is the most accurate way to describe Jamaica. Its lush beaches, fresh foods and the hospitality of its people are synonymous with serenity and have become embedded in how Jamaica is understood in the international imagination. However, while the island provides a sense of escapism for tourists who want to rid themselves of the demands of the global north, it can sometimes prove to be all too unforgiving to its citizens. Amongst the many marginalized groups that suffer are its creatives.
Creatives in the global south are faced with a particular caveat when choosing to enter their respective fields. In comparison to countries like the U.K or Canada, funding streams are limited, especially geared towards creative arts pursuits. There aren’t as many opportunities for international visibility given their geography and with ongoing frustrations with the ever increasing prices of customs, getting equipment, material or any other necessary tools to create is a huge economic burden.
For Chad ‘300K’ Plummer, these circumstances were just obstacles towards his larger goals. The backdrop to the 22 year-old director’s youth were the streets of May Pen, Clarendon. The parish sits on the southern part of the island, and May Pen is its capital and largest city. In comparison to other major cities in Jamaica, by resident’s definition, it’s still country. “Not much to it, small town,” says Plummer. “People live their life systematically. I think it’s really a situation where they’re scared of change. I pulled up at Burger King I haven’t been to in a minute and it’s the same people working there since I was in high school. Wild.”
We go to a plaza in May Pen where he shares his overwhelming nostalgia about this place where most of his formative memories were created. “It’s because it’s the ends, really. It’s where everything actually started from,” he says gazing at the surrounding buildings.
His beginnings started in graphic design where his love for coming up with concepts for different clients was birthed. However, after a short time, he thought that exclusively focusing on one thing limited his creative capacity and decided to transition into filmmaking.
The obstacle that would follow is an all too familiar one for creatives starting out: access to resources. Plummer shares that most large purchases have to be imported and “then you gotta pay ridiculous importation fees. Usually higher than the original cost of the item.” So he did what most creatives do and repurposed what he had. His iPhone and select apps from the Apple Store became his tools of choice, making a series of (surprisingly high quality) iPhone videos that would later be posted on his personal Instagram account. When he finally got enough capital, he committed to making the most out of the least, which is a philosophy that guided his purchase and ultimately his business. Says the director, “For one, I needed a good camera. I needed a good Macbook and I needed a proper lens. I was just like, ‘Realistically in cost, in JMD (Jamaican Dollar), it’ll be $100K each’. Just three things. I don’t really think I need more than that. All the stabilizers, the rings and the tripod can come afterwards but I just need those three main things: a good camera, a macbook, a lens and, like, fuck it, $100K each? Might as well call it 300K.” And so his moniker and company was born.
For someone who is, arguably, in the infancy of their career (totalling of four years of experience), he has a pretty impressive portfolio. He’s already worked with Dre Island and Popcaan, Tommy Lee, Aidonia, Govana, Jayds, Lincoln 3Dot and Dre Island producing visuals for their singles, and while he still wants to continue directing music videos, has reoriented his focus on leaving an impression on Jamaica’s visual narrative by showing life outside of Kingston and the resorts. Dancehall and reggae stars dot his resume but his portfolio also includes a set of shorts like Somewhere in Jamaica and Cdon at Night (Cdon is the affectionate name for his parish, Clarendon) which give insight into his own day-to-day living and the environment that surrounds him.
He recalls Somewhere in Jamaica as being his entry point into making his own films mentioning, “I got this random idea one day. It was kinda more like, ‘Alright cool, you’ve been in design for so long and you wanted to tell a story’”, he says. “[But now] I actually wanted to tell a story with more audio and pictures and whatever but not a slideshow. More like an actual film. So I came up with an idea of telling my life story, or part of my life story at that time, and then it became Somewhere in Jamaica.”
His newest short film, Starving Artist, acts as a memoir as he chronicles his life and how he wrestles his time between work and women. “I was thinking about some shit and the way I live my life cause when I start meds when I came up with the idea, it was just one night with this random girl. I guess it was a series of events really: different girls and then family started getting involved and then work and everything kinda collided at once.”
An amalgamation of the tensions for this particular director, 300K’s Starving Artist is when art imitates life. Watch Starving Artist below: