Diversity in the British film and TV industry can be seen to be a pertinent topic in 2018. With success through the likes of ‘Chewing Gum’and Noel Clarke‘s recent ‘Bulletproof’ renewal, stations are constantly trying to reinvent themselves to meet wider consumer trends and demands. Femi Oyerniran has a wide perspective of the market transitioning from in front of the screen on projects such as ‘Adulthood’, to behind the screen with ‘The Intent’movie alongside Nicky Walker. On the latter film, Oyeniran stepped into a directorial role. It’s this seasoned and evergrowing viewpoint that I want to quiz him on as we get into our conversation.
“I feel as though I’ve been on a journey and have seen a lot over time. However, there are still fundamental issues with things in the directorial space.” We tap into this very quickly and Femi particularly identifies challenges in the way films are backed. “I’ve done a lot over the last couple of years, but when it comes to getting budgets for “unique” narratives, I just don’t get the budget or consideration,” Oyeniran notes that he’s working on a Romance film with Walker that places a Black couple at the forefront of the plot.
“They don’t understand how it could sell and don’t want to hear explanations at the same time. It’s frustrating, getting them to believe is the hardest part of the process.”
However, this hasn’t stopped the creative or his collaborative partner Walker, from delivering successful films. “The reason why we’re doing ‘The Intent 2′, is because of the success independently with the first one. We just got on with it.”
‘The Intent’was given mixed reviews, however online, it received an overwhelmingly positive response. This led to it being placed on Netflix and it’s eventual follow-up movie due for release this Autumn. Interestingly, the follow up received huge backing from the likes of Island Records and cameos from Popcaan. Speaking on Island backing Oyeniran points out the power of networking and nepotism.
“They [Island] backed the movie because of Twin (Alex Boateng) and Darcus Besse giving us an opportunity. Twin, who is now the Head Of Urban, had known of me beforehand, he loved the concept of the movie and gained backing from Darcus who loved it also. As I said before it’s key to have people in the industry that get diverse stories and can see how they can, and do still work.”
The importance of different representatives at executive, decision-making stages was clearly evident and well highlighted at this point in our discussion.
The Intent 2
The juxtaposition of acting and directing is intriguing in Oyeniran‘s career. It’s made clear by the ‘Adulthood’ star that being a designated director that wants to produce new themes seems as though it’s the harder of the two streams in 2018. Why would anyone want to handle an increasingly challenging part of the creative industry? “It speaks to me,” he replies almost instantly.
“I like the flexibility of being able to do so much at different points in my career, they all support each other and I always get different but beneficial challenges from both. Being dynamic is key for creatives.”
This resonates as the climate in the creative sphere in recent year has become dynamic and multi-tasked. The conversation switches and we delve into ‘ The Intent 2’. The action-packed sequel film set predominately in the UK and in the Caribbean. The filming abroad was key to both directors as they wanted elevation for the movie and creative story-telling. “This upcoming movie was in the right places at the right times. Jamaica was beautiful and we wanted to really embrace the stark differences between Ocho Rios, and the more deprived ghetto areas for example.” Oyeniran is excited as he delves into what he experienced during his filming overseas.
“At first, I was anticipating the filming in the ghetto’s, only because that’s their community that we’re filming in. What’s interesting is that everyone watched us filming, cheered us on, joined in and clapped when we finished rolling. I love moments of shared experience such as this.”
Managing such a unique cast on paper featuring the likes of Adam Deacon, also came naturally to the leaders. “Popcaan stands out to me as someone who I knew was going to be professional, but comical. ”
I decide to take it back to where it all began with Oyeniran (‘Kidulthood’). Mentioning his character [Moony] evokes laughter as we reminisce together. “It’s funny because I’m an LSE Graduate in Law, my out of character self cannot be more different to him [Moony]. However, I still resonate with him as I saw the ends, I wasn’t far removed, it’s all interconnected even if you’re not about the road lifestyle.”
A sense of maturity now surrounds the actor, who’s learned over the years to utilise all of his losses and remain in a constant state of growth. I question how he’s been able to incorporate so much wisdom in such a short space of time.
“I learn from my peers and idols. For example, Idris Elba, I’ve had time to work with him and admire his work. He invited me to see him DJ in Europe after we finished a Netflix project recently. Seeing him in his element, giving back and enjoying is somewhere I aspire to be sometime soon in my career.”
Oyeniran seems self-assured as we wrap up. The quick-fire answers hint at a sense of direction. As I ask him his five-year goal, his response is instant. “I just want to improve, and have many TV and movie projects out. I want to change the narratives in this country.”
‘The Intent 2’ is in Cinemas September 21st.
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