It’s Wednesday, the 17th of June and the end of a tumultuous process getting ready for the Edinburgh international film festival.
-Running around like a headless chicken-check
-Putting together warm clothes-check
-Delegate registration and RSVP’ing so many industry events I was getting invitations to attend-check
-Printing out all the information we kept receiving from the co-ordinators – programme, flight itinerary, participants’ biographies, insurance documents (in case I died in the abroad or something like that), information about the UK and Scotland n particular and what to expect-check
-Finances (because even for an all-expense paid trip, you cannot have too much money)-check
-Random stuff like practicing my oyinbo accent which is a dubious mix of British and American and Naija-check
So yeah, I’d say I was ready.
Read here about the main thing that’s taking me and others from Nigeria, the Edinburgh International film festival in general, and Script Junction in particular, a collaborative programme between the Nigerian and UK film industries to, strengthen each other’s work, network, form useful alliances, develop our project ideas and generally ensure that through this symbiosis, better films are emerging from both countries.
I cannot begin to describe my excitement when I received news that I was selected among the six Nigerian winners of what was described as a very tough competition where hundreds of entries came in. I have an ever-present insecurity when it comes to film/screenwriting because I have only been at it a year. And prose is very different from screenwriting. This was not helped when I saw the line-up of the other writers in my team. I just virtually died, like get out of here girl, how on earth you gon’ roll with these people. Fuckin’ impressive resumes. Was this like dumb luck or what. What what! BUT I WAS GOING and by god, I was going to make sure…well, I was going to make sure of something, that’s for damn sure, like put my back in it. Chances like these don’t come every day.
And so on Wednesday, I took myself off to the airport. My newest friend from the team, C.J fiery Obasi, Writer and Director of the award winning movie Ojuju and Trailblazer of the year at the last AMVCA was already waiting for me at the airport. We’d been in touch but were meeting physically for the first time. I am still amazed at how C.J in the flesh belies his writing and his work. This guy is an incendiary ball of wit, raw passion, intelligence, creativity, drive but best of all, a fuck y’all approach to issues he feels deeply about. And he feels deeply about film.
It was funny the way we had to keep responding at the airport yes we are traveling together but we are ‘not together’. The airport officials were either being deliberately obtuse, dirty-minded or just honest-to-goodness didn’t get it. Anyhow, we checked in with no wahala at all and had about three and half hours to kill. So we watched a movie and gisted like old friends. We tried to look out for the third member of our party, (that is the group traveling from Lagos) Abiodun Kassim, but we didn’t see him until halfway into the flight from Lagos to Heathrow. He recognised us immediately and C.J also recognised him. Me? Bad with faces, even though we were now facebook friends.
We left Lagos on schedule (the plane was a gorgeous Boeing 747, I almost tripped when I saw the upper deck!) and landed in Heathrow Intl. Airport early on Thursday. We had about an hour to go through customs and we did, again with no trouble. What we however found confusing were issues like whether or not to fill the Landing card, and what queue to be on since we were still transferring within the UK, but Scotland is a different country and as such an international destination, right? Wrong. Very confusing stuff right there.
So we got on the plane to Edinburgh (which ladies and gentlemen is pronounced Edinbara, or perhaps Edinbora but the ‘o’ is really soft as to sound like an ‘a’ Haha). Anyway, we settle down for the short hour and half flight, only to be told that the plane was having issues that might take-
A few minutes to resolve
Our engineers are coming
Oops, looks like it might take an hour *groans*
We’re trying to get us another plane to transfer onto
Or get it fixed whichever is faster
Sorry, no other plane. We’re fixing it.
There it’s fixed, off we go!!! That took like an hour in all. We thought it was over. The plane begins to back up for take-off when-
Oops. Seems we have another problem, this time the hydraulics, maybe a lock or something.
Straight out of a Naija airport.
So we sat in that plane for over three hours while it was fixed around us. To their credit, they kept updating us every few minutes on the process. Although I kinda would have preferred it if they let me sleep instead of waking me up every time I dropped off with more news of progress. Not. When we finally took off, I honestly didn’t believe it until we embraced the clouds.
By the time we landed in Edinburgh, we were happy to have gone through customs in London because we were just so tired. And like an Angel, Emily was waiting for us. What do I say about Emily. Emily Wilcox Sloan. She is one of the two programme co-ordinators; from Belfast, Northerm Ireland but lives in London. Emily was in Scotland for the first time as well and she regaled us with accounts of how she’d gotten lost and she generally soothed our frayed nerves and took charge and just made us immediately feel so very welcome. Although that was never in doubt – not from the hundreds of emails she sent before the workshop, asking about and concerning herself with the littlest detail about everything, including trying to arrange for my packages to be stored for me if they were delivered to the hotel before I arrived. You’d be amazed how a person with so much to do can have the time to email back and forth on something so trivial but she was on it and every damn thing. In the flesh, she was even warmer and so very organized that we knew absolutely nothing would go wrong. Her attention to the smallest detail is nothing short of amazing. She pointed out sights for us and kept up a commentary. Showed us Waverley station, some castle, we absolutely plan to visit, this and that…uh. We immediately got the sense that Edinburgh is a beautifully dark, brooding city with so much history, culture and soul.
At the hotel, Emily handed us gift cards from Tesco brand of stores which was just thrilling cuz what’d I say about not having too much money. Then we got checked in and had time enough to drop our luggage, ooh and aah about the gorgeous rooms and head back out. By the way, we are staying at the Mercure Edinburgh Quay, a spanking new hotel, one of a huge chain. It opened this June, about a week ago I think and it’s very likely I’m the first person to stay in my room, as are most of the guests.
Emily then took us to quickly see some of the places where the main events would hold like the Odeon Cinema, the Traverse theatre where the delegate centre is, Filmhouse etc. she also showed us where we can shop, eat, drink, have coffee, and other random waka. We ended up at Tesco (hello gift cards?) where we bought sim cards to call our loved ones. These with the wifi at the hotel would ensure that we were not cut off while here. Then she had to hurry back to get the second team, the ones flying in from Abuja, from the airport. Abiodun (whom everyone calls Kassim so we don’t get mixed up), C.J and I agreed to unpack, rest and reconvene at 4pm to go around a bit taking pictures before the crowd descends.
But bodi no be fayawood!
We all fell asleep and did not manage to do that. However, we all convened at the hotel reception at 8:30 pm to have welcome drinks and meet everyone.
By now everyone had arrived, so many faces to put to names – Rob, Lorianne, Ishaku (our tutors), Wendy the second programme co-ordinator, the rest of the Nigerian folk, Nicole (gorgeous gorgeous Nicole), Keneth Gyang, deceptively quiet but plain evil, and Emil Garuba who is so slim but puts away more food than three people (I hate him of course). A side note here; Emil was replacing Lanre Quadri who was unable to make it. And then the UK people; there was Matthew whom I got off immediately on the wrong foot with since I declared that I did not like south Africa (he’s white south African, you see? Major goof), Jennifer who has this amazingly lovely full and distracting blond hair, Russell who’s our resident Scotsman and furnished us with need-to-know information like the fact that nothing is worn underneath kilts, Maurice whom I imagine we are going to be very good friends, and Shola whom I thought was a girl and I was disappointed, but he’s so cute and assured me that he’s actually half female. I’m not sure what it means but it was comforting. A little later, Isabel (form Cape verde) and and Camille whom we all insist is Kemi, both staff of the British council here in Edinburgh joined us. So many smiles, so much laughter (was it the drinks?) and just a very convivial two hours went by before we started to take off one after the other, after collecting our festival bags. Which not only contained all the festival paraphernalia, but lots of goodies to munch on. What’s I tell you? The co-ordinators, Emily and Wendy (whom we’d now met) are just great.
So looking forward to day two, which would be day one of the workshop. Enjoy photos below. Oh and the cold is a subject all it’s own.