Category Archives: FILMSPIRATION

THE IMAGERY OF ANDREW DOSUNMU

Andrew Dosunmu is one of the interesting Nigerian filmmakers working in the international scene. He started as a photographer and later directed music videos for  Talib Kweli, Les Nubians, Angie Stone and others. His background in Art and Fashion Photography influences how he approaches filmmaking in an incredible aesthetic way ; how the frames,composes and unveils emotion.

We look at how he does this in his 2nd feature, MOTHER OF GEORGE.

 

Short Films , Nigerian Film and Nollywood’s possible Future

In the last few years, short films in Nigeria have begun to gain a level of attention and respectability that was denied of the as close as 7 years ago. Now short films are recognized by the top local film festivals and award organizations . Check out my piece for Shadow&Act and see some of these short films showing what could be the future of Nollywood.

CAMERA MOVEMENT IN FILM

Ok. So lets talk about camera movement.

Camera movement is part of the visual language of cinema, and a key part in the screen grammar in the artist kit of a Director, used to tell a story. Unlike in non narrative music videos where movement doesn’t have to be motivated. In narrative story telling , 99.9% of the time, there should be a motivation for moving the camera.

Some motivations are

Subject movement motivated : the subject within the frame is moving and the camera moves along with them to keep them within the frame.

Subjective Camera: this is when the camera sees as the characters sees, and also moves accordingly. This is mostly in POV shots.

Reveal or Conceal : this is when the camera moves to reveal or hide a character or information. This is best employed to uncover critical narrative details or actions which till that time have been off screen.

Actual Camera Movements

Dolly Shot: this allows the camera to move closer or farther from an object(or subject) . Dolly in or Dolly out, are also know as a Push in or Push out.

Crane Shot : this raises the camera vertically up or down in relation to the subject.

Steadicam Shots: Steadicam is associated with free flowing dynamic camera movement. It allows the operator freedom of movement while maintaining a stable and clean shots (free of wobble & shaking)

Handheld: When shooting handheld, it MUST have a narrative purpose. It should just be done because a tripod wasn’t available, or getting the shot as quickly as possible when shooting guerrilla style. It can be used to give a documentary style feel. But if not done right, it can feel tonally out of place and pull out the viewer from the film. If shooting handheld, consider its place visually with the rest of the film, and the purpose of shooting that scene handheld. Are you creating a sense of urgency? Chasing a character? Following a character? Portraying a psychological or emotional state?

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WHAT’S IN THE FRAME – VIDEO ESSAY #2

OK, So i decided to do another video essay and this time it’s on FRAMING . Using examples of films by Nigerian Directors .
Check it out. If you like what you see and want to see more. Click on the subscribe button, leave comment and if you want to you can support the making of more videos( they take time to make) on Patreon

You can see it with some notes on my guest post here

5 PRETTY AWESOME NIGERIAN DIRECTORS IN THE ABROAD YOU SHOULD KNOW

ANDREW DOSUNMU

His background in photography has made Andrew Dosunmu a very artistic filmmaker with an exceptional way of capturing black skin. His films about African immigrants in the U.S; Restless City & Mother of George have won Cinematography awards at Sundance. At a point Dosunmu replaced Steve McQueen as the Director to make the Fela biopic.

Mother of George, revealed his unique way of telling a specific Nigerian story , and he clearly has a love for telling the African story. While the biopic has gone quiet,It would be great to see what he can bring to Nigerian stories , shot in Nigeria.

AKIN OMOTOSO

He’s a Nigerian film maker based in South Africa. He has made amazing films like, MAN ON GROUND and VAYA .

His film, Man on Ground, a story about a Nigerian in South Africa facing xenophobia was a powerful insight into a serious social issue.

He has shown a talent for telling complex stories in diverse genres. Set to make a film in Nigeria in 2017 it’s something to be excited about.

DESTINY EKARAGH

She directed the hilarious GONE TOO FAR, adapted for the screen from Bola Abaje’s award winning stage play. A story of culture clash/identity between two brothers, one raised in Lagos and the other raised in London. The duo when sent on an errand run into an assortment of crazy characters out to get them.

The London based filmmaker is only the third female to have a feature film theatrically released in the United Kindgom. She was named by BAFTA as a Breakthrough Brit in 2015.

There are plans to make a sequel to the successful comedy, this time set in Lagos. With her great sense of comedy, which sells quite well in Naija. It would be fun to see a neighbourhood in Lagos be turned into their playground.

THOMAS IKIMI

Thomas Ikimi has shown a skill for making psychological dramas ,with films like Limbo, & Legacy: Black Ops .

Fun fact,: after failing to raise the money for LEGACY:Black Ops (starring Idris Elba) in the United Kingdom, he came back to Nigeria and raised the entire production and post production budget of an estimated $500,000.

As there is a need for genre diversity, and intelligence dramas , the types of stories he tells would be a welcome addition to the growth and evolution of the industry .

RICK FAMUYIWA

In 2016 Rick Famuyiwa (Brown Sugar) was tapped to direct DC’s The Flash before leaving the project due to creative differences . Earlier his film DOPE made a splash at Sundance , with the coming of age tale of a Nigerian American teen and his friends about to graduate high school, who get involved with the wrong set of people .

If you saw DOPE, you know how awesome it was. Imagine that sensibility brought to stories about Aje Butter Island kids in Lagos getting lost in a mainland Ghetto and the hijinks which can ensue.

Synergy : Working for the awesomeness of Nollywood

So a few years ago I’m on a break between shoots on a cross country road trip for a talent show i was working on; sitting in my hotel room channel surfing and I stumble upon the umpteenth episode of “Pimp my ride” in one week.

As usual they’re upgrading an old vehicle,or rather tuke tuke/jallopy and putting in all the efizi.

For the un-intiated,”pimp my ride” is an MTV show, where people with horrible cars get a free total overhaul, makeover if you will. Hosted by rapper X-zibit, a battered deathtrap which barely resembles a vehicle goes in the shop & a flashy ampped up Ride comes out.

The custom shop is armed with specialists for each & every aspect of the transformation of the vehicle. They got wheels,Paint,Interior,Electronics,Engine & Body experts each trained in the craft of those parameters. With a specific assignment for different parts of the transformation process each crew member brings his expertise to the table. Each person plays a part to this process.

This reminded me of the synergetic process of film making.

Film making is synergistic and has three stages. Pre-Production,Production& Post Production. All essential to the success of the final out come. But it all starts with script.

The writer is the architect who lays out the blue print for what we eventually see on screen. The story the characters the dialogue, the journey we embark on etc

A good script is VERY essential to a movie cos even with the greatest director and actors in the world. The wrong script is like a bad foundation in a house it will cave in on it’s inhabitants. Legendary and one of the most influencial directors of all time Akira Kurosawa said

“With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece. But with a bad script, one can’t possibly make a good film”.

Once the script is locked down the Producer looks for a director that can execute the material and once he does the pre production ball gets rolling. He begins to break down script and detail his vision. An assistant Director is hired to schedule the shoot of the film and make sure everyone and everything is in place everyday of shoot.

They begin to put together a cast . The actors who will breathe life into and interpret the characters .The director is assigned or depending on his clout picks a Director of Photography.

Now picking the right DP is like a wrestler picking the right tag team partner, if the fighter picks the wrong one he’s going to get his ass kicked. Also like a pilot picking the wrong co-pilot . The passengers better resign themselves to the reality that they have boarded the plane to their final destination.

When it comes to actors I’ll just go with the words of three legendary director. If you dont recognize the names, google them, because they are pretty awesome and they likely influenced a directorwhose work you love.

Half of directing is casting the right actors.” John Huston

An actor should be able to get the rhythm of the script,get the joke,sing the line. People like Sam Jackson&Chris Walken don’t grow on treesQuentin Tarantino

I believe directing actors is only really a matter of getting good actors in d first place then you just sit down and have a chat with themAlfred Hitchcock

Right now you are probably going , “i thought he said Nollywood, why is he talking about these oyibo directors “. Please stick with me, im getting to that…eventually.

Ok , lets continue.

With wrong actors everything falls apart no matter how great the script or talented the Director or anyone else on the crew. There has be synergy with the actors, the roles they are playing and the world that it’s set .

It’s not necessarily that the actor is bad, but they may not be right for THAT role,THAT character. Miscasting happens sometimes.

It’s said that a film is made in three stages .The script,the directing and editing and after principal photography is done we move to post production. Editing is another form of story telling and the way the footage is cut determines how the story is told and how we the audience feel ,connect and eventually love,hate or feel nothing about the film.

Another part of post production is the score. The over all musical character and life of the film. The rhythms and melodies that accompany the scenes,sequences et al. Those acoustic sensations that push us to the verge of tears when a character is in a deep emotional moment. Triumphant sounds when the underdog is about to achieve victory and makes us believe that despite the odds we can get up one more time and make it.

Remember how you felt when Rocky went the distance? The roaring score when he and Adrienne embrace after the fight with Apollo?

The awe when Superman takes to the skies after saving the day?

How you felt each time the Darth Vader theme came on and you knew he was making an entrance.

The score at the end of “The Usual Suspects” when Agent Kujan starts to put the pieces together as the mug drops in slow mo and Verbal delivers the last line and it fades to black.

The satisfaction you feel as the credits roll and the score plays on after watching a great film and you tell yourself “I’m getting this on DVD”.

Even the animes have made great use of this. Like the Naruto series. Scores for sadness,goofyness, rising action,expectation etc Each character is even assigned their own score unique to their personality.

A great score adds another layer on the impact will have on the viewer achieving synergy with the rest of the film.

Most movie fans instantly recognise the James Bond,Star Wars,Pink Panther and Superman theme songs even though most of them were conceived over 30 years ago often resurrecting the memories of the viewing experience .

While on the project I began to whistle a movie score and my room mate’s ears arched up. He recognized the song immediately and said he hadn’t heard it in years. It was the score from Speilberg’s War movie “Empire of the Sun”. He last watched the movies as a child. Never underestimate the power of a score.

The work of an art director is another vital role to the creation of the world of the story. They create the rooms,apartments,rendevouz points, and offices of the characters which lend authenticity to their personality and socio economic level . They help the director make the world of the story and character believable.

Without great art directors the worlds of: Gladiator,Star Trek,Star Wars,James Bond, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and many others would have remained just in the head of writer and director.

They and their team of set designers,armory,wardrobe,make up,props department and many others make the past,the future and fictional worlds possible on the silverscreen.

EVERY JOB ON A FILM SET, NO MATTER HOW “SMALL” OR UNRECOGNIZED IT’S TITLE, IS IMPORTANT, SO DO YOURS EXCELLENTLY

All those roles come together to make the final product and great synergy is required. Film making is truly one of those field where the chain is as strong as the weakest link and as possible it for the other links to compensate for the weak link. Everyone has to do their part for the whole process to work.

Picking the right team can make or break the film and the director is like an Orchestra conductor who needs every instrumentalist to bring the best to the game to make the experience of the audience pleasurable. A football team is not only made of a striker, every other team member is needed to win, and working based on the managers plan is essential to victory.

Dont you wish this for Nollywood? Dont you wish all the references i made here were Nollywood films? Dont you wish we had the identifiable score, iconic characters who we can dress up as to costume parties? Put on t-shirts, make pop culture references. Characters we can quote ,monologues we can deliver at auditions.

To get all that we have to work for it, and the Good News is that , the only way is up. We are still relatively a young industry and with a combination of the internet and 100 + years of cinema, we have a lot of resources we can learn from and not have to re-invent the wheel. Their success and mistakes can help us skip several processes and stand on the shoulders of cinema giants.


DONT BE THAT CREW MEMBER WHO HAS TO BE MICRO MANAGED, WHOSE WORK HAS TO BE DOUBLE CHECKED OR EVEN RE-DONE. AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT

Synergy is key to the future of Nollywood. No more solo flying, no more phoning it in, no we more trying to make it all about you and we REALLY need to put egos aside and glory hogging if we want to make memorable, long lasting films which have a long shelf life beyond its time in cinema.

Films which become cultural icons and inseperable milestones from moments in the life of viewers.

We saw how fans came out and mourned the death of Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher, who was the beloved Princess Leia to the world. The articles it inspired, the eulogies, tributes and memories shared. How she and the character inspired them and what she represented to their lives.

Same for Alan Rickman who was Hans Gruber to fans of Die Hard(1988) and Professor Snape to Harry Potter fans. We need movies, characters which have such powerful impact and we cant have that if we do half hearted work or dont put in our best in the projects we do, whether you are a Production Assistant, a Sound Recorder or Associate Producer.

When Synergy works it’s magical and when it doesn’t it’s disastrous and we all have tales of disastrous films we’ve seen.

2016 was a year of incredible progress for Nollywood, but we cant rest on those laurels because we still have a long way to go. We have to keep up the momentum and build on that progress till a point when making N200m is seen as underformance for any film.

Let’s make 2017 a year of awesomeness.

FILMSPIRATION -WHEN PLAYING SAFE IS WRONG

If life were a game, you’d never win or score if you tried to continuously play safe. If you worried about staining your jersey, getting bruised, offending a player on the other team when you go in for a tackle.

In filmmaking it’s the same thing. You may make a film which makes money, but it can still be passable, it’s not remarkable, and it’s not worth talking about. It might make them chuckle, but a few months from now , will they remember it, talk about it?

Sometimes playing safe is a matter of money and maybe time. You are in a rush, so you don’t take the proper time to plan. Funds are limited so you restrict your creativity. At the end of the day, you have a product to show , a film to your name . But are you satisfied? Is it the best YOU are capable of producing? Can you stand by it 100%? If its the last film you ever make and the only indication of your capabilities , is it what you want representing you?

I was forced to ask myself this question this year and I didn’t like the answers.

As a filmMaker in an era where several hundred thousands videos are uploaded everyday on YouTube alone. Why should anyone watch your film/video when they have other options? Is your short worth the data they will consume> What makes your different, Unique. Remarkable, Worth talking about and sharing?

Lets enter 2017 and quit playing safe. Its better to do something ballsy which may not work than play safe and people not really care about it.

FILMSPIRATION #5 – GENE ADU

This week’s Filmspiration is writer/director Gene Adu, like many filmmakers globally, caught the movie bug as a child

In his own words

As a little kid, I always wanted to be a storyteller. I did a lot of writing, a lot of performing and I was obsessed with film. Being an introverted kid that lived in his head a lot, film and television were the cool godparents that my actual parents tried so hard to keep me away from. The dream was always to work in film, but somehow, I always assumed I was going to be an actor. After all, the most important people in film…are the actors, right?

At thirteen, I was lucky enough to be cast in a TV production. I was reading scripts for the first time, learning about rushes, takes, cameras, scenes and all the things that went into creating this form of escapism I adored so much. I was so intrigued by the process, and genuinely excited to be there, but even at that age I felt really strongly about storytelling so I decided I’d offer a few notes to the director about my character. Needless to say, those notes were not well received and my character was passed on to someone who was more than willing to take direction. It was crushing, but I learned two valuable lessons. The first lesson being, to never get too comfortable and the second and most important lesson, that filmmaking is a director’s medium.

The experience gave me a whole new perspective on filmmaking. It was immediately expanded, I suddenly cared more about the behind the scenes, the entire creative and production process, the details beyond performances, I was looking at film in a whole new way. Luckily, this obsession came right at the inception of DVD’s so I studied all the behind the scenes featurettes and listened to any directors commentary that I could lay my hands on. Writers and Directors suddenly became the Gods of the art form in my eyes; my acting aspirations went straight out the window. Actors were mere mortals, I aspired to be a God.

Even with all these storytelling ambitions, working in film still seemed like a farfetched dream. The journey of the African creative is pretty much a trope at this point. A majority of us have those concerned parents, and we all chose the “viable” career path , and attempt the lucrative 9 to 5 for a minute, but passion and faith always reconciles us with our gifted art.
For me, a huge part of that reconciliation and restoration of faith was discovering new filmmakers and rediscovering old ones.

I felt a huge nudge the first time I saw Victor Sanchez Aghahowa’s Letters To A Stranger , I felt a nudge when I saw Shirley Frimpong Manso’s Scorned. These were movies that reignited my faith in African Film. They were structured, they were nuanced and they felt crafted. ..They may not be the greatest pieces of cinema, but at that moment in time they were a breath of fresh air, and I was inspired by that.

Those movies gave me a nudge, but a greater shove came from revisiting films from our history. Films like Kwaw Ansah’s African Heritage, Love Brewed In An African Pot, Things Fall Apart, kukurantumi: Road To Accra, Aya Minnow, Genesis Chapter X and even I Told You So. The very quality and craftsmanship of these films that were made in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s by African storytellers is astounding. It’s a huge inspiration to me as a young filmmaker, because it erases all doubt that we lack the ability, talent or skill to use visuals, sound, performances and all the necessary elements to properly tell our stories.

All it takes is that leap of faith. If you believe in your story, tell it. Making my first short film, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I knew exactly the story I wanted to tell. As a writer/director the creative process is slightly longer than most, and possibly more frustrating. For me, the writing process is exciting because, in my solitude, I’m creating a world out of a small idea or a basic truth. I get excited in my own little space because, as I write I’m already composing shots, thinking up cool dialogue, thinking up ideas for sound design and pretty much drawing a map to the movie that’s playing in the theatre that is my head. Then of course, I’m lucky to come out of that solitude to communicate my vision to incredibly talented people, and collaborate with them to bring that vision to life. It’s never easy, it’s mostly frustrating and tough but there’s a magical element to seeing people react to your story.

Whether it’s a laugh, whether it’s a smile, a tear or even annoyance, nothing beats connecting with an audience. Nothing beats having people connect with whatever truth you’re trying to convey with your story. As a filmmaker/storyteller it fills you with pride and accomplishment, but as a human being it makes you feel connected with others. And that is an important feeling, especially if you grew up as an introverted kid who lived in his head a lot

Gene Adu is on twitter as @geneadu and Youtube ,where you can watch his short film GUILTY

FILMSPIRATION #4 – LONZO NZEKWE

The creativity of Nigerians knows no bounds, and even when we are out of our shores we are still finding ways to express our it. As Nigerian filmmakers here at home are making their film, storytelling Nigerians based outside the country are also telling African, Black and relatable stories of their new experiences, and whats happening in the world around them.

Today we have one of those storytellers, Lonzo Nzekwe, the writer/director of Anchor Baby

IN HIS OWN WORDS

I had always been a creative individual since I was young. From fine arts drawing in primary school to writing rap and producing music later in life. I did it all. I got into film in 2010 as a self-thought filmmaker after watching a DVD film course by Dov SS Simens. As my passion for film grew stronger, I bought a Red One camera in order to ensure I don’t chicken out from making my first movie. I shot Anchor Baby with that camera and that’s how my journey began.

The reason why I write, direct and produce my own films: As someone who has lived in different parts of the world (Nigeria, UK, US and Canada), I have experienced life on a different level than most people I know and I have this innate desire to create content and share some of those great stories with the world. When I write I try as much as possible to sneak in strong messages within the film while making it entertaining at the same time. That way you audience gets something tangible at the end. I try not to be preachy with it, but I tend to present the issues that can allow viewers to start a dialogue on that particular subject.

Between Anchor Baby and my recent film, Meet The Parents, one can clearly see the growth ,both in story telling and cinematography. I’m very proud of both projects. One interesting thing I’ve learned is that if you consider yourself a filmmaker in this day and age, there is no excuse not to produce content and distribute it around the world. The world has gotten smaller with technology and we should take advantage of it. Gone are the days when distribution companies make and break stars. No one is gonna save you. You have to do it all by yourself until you get to the level where the distributors and investors would have no other choice but to do business with you. That’s why I create and digitally distribute my own content on my own VOD platform at www.IronFlix.com

There you go kids,living proof that borders, and lack of formal training dont have to stop you. So go forth and be awesome

#BEFILMSPIRED

You can follow Lonzo on twitter