Day Two of workshops and this time I made it to brekkie. Not my thing but those sandwiches… anyway, it was nice. The moment we settled down, Rob read from a list (again, we will never know by what tombo tombo method it was drawn up) and we were placed in groups of four. In my group besides me were Maurice, Abiodun and Jennifer.
MEET MY GROUPMATES
Maurice Caldera (UK); recent graduate of the NFTS and a 2014 talent lab Alumnus, he co-wrote the Italian feature film I, Harlequin. His scrennplays include Panoramic and The Grand Scheme of things (which title I found co-incidental to my short film The scheme of Things). He’s also directed two short films, Our name is Micheal Morgan and Camilia. What his bio won’t tell you however is that Maurice is just such a romantic. We kept laughing at how Maurice wanted everything to be a love story and he could be trusted to find the love story in…well, not a love story. Which is great because everyone loves a love story; I am a sucker. It must be all that romance in his genes since he is from a lineage of Spanish and Italian and (I think Mexicans) and…all kinds of romantic races. Shuo. Also, Maurice is very sweet and can be trusted to give credence and validation to my story even when I couldn’t see it ‘I don’t have any issue with the way the story is right now, it is entirely plausible to me’ and I just wanted to hug him.
Abodun Kassim (NiGERIA): Kassim is a creative writer, director, stage performer and manager. He was among the prestigious company of actors who performed at the Nigeria House during the 2012 London Olympics. He directed Tyrone Terrence’s A husband’s wife and wrote and directed a pocket of sokoto at the world diaspora day celebration in Abuja. And now some side gossip. Kassim could not have had a lot of fun, if fun was measured by food and drinks (it was). You see, it’s Ramadan season and everyone was just in awe of his discipline; Kassim would sit with us, talking and smiling as we ate and drank. Whew. Discipline. He also was sorta our unofficial paparazzi cuz he had this badass camera and was always taking all the best pictures of everyone. Thanks to him I have a huge folder of day by day memories.
Jennifer Majka (UK); Jennifer is an award winning short story writer whose writing focus has shifted to play, and screenwriting. Also a graduate of the NFTS, she is an Oscar nominee and her Short animation the bigger picture won a BAFTA award (did you think I was messing around when I said it was an elite group? Shuo!). She’s also got a number of TV and film projects in development. Jennifer meanwhile, sits curled with her long legs under her and lets me braid her hair (which oops is not blond after all but brown) but don’t be fooled. She’s got such an amazing brain for history and world politics and she’s going to be a secret agent *sic*. No no, you won’t get the joke unless you do. Sorry. What she would rather I didn’t tell you however is that she loves to kill off characters. Nick Powel in his lecture (we’ll get to that) quoted someone, I think it was Quentin Tarantino ‘Thomas Edison invented the camera to capture violence. Without blood, there is no story. It is a description or a narration but not a story.’ While he hurried to add that blood here may be meant euphemistically, Jennifer takes it literally. Don’t let her come near your story, she would do great as a Game of Thrones writer. She killed a little girl, killed another guy and then you would think she would be partial with her own protagonist but no, she offered to kill him too. My own story escaped because it is a Dram-com. Whew. But guess what, after she’s thrown the gauntlet, it is hard to see how else the story would work. So moral of the story, killing is good. ‘nuff said.
And then there is me and let’s skip over that.
Pearl Osibu (NIGERIA); short story writer, blogger, columnist and screenwriter. Her short film the scheme of things premiered a few weeks before the EIFF and her first feature film You owe me one will soon go into production. Pearl writes for Mnet Multichoice TV show, Tinsel.
That wasn’t so hard.
And so we went off with our groups. Our assigned tutor for the day was Rob. You’ve met Rob. We again pitched our stories. I don’t think I’m allowed to say, no, not even the titles because some are working titles, but as soon as I have clearance, I will. Watch this space. We then reconvened and got to screen Shola’s short film, Touch. I’d say it was well-received. The only complaint was someone found the voice of the narrator, and the switching POVs a bit jarring but otherwise, we liked it. There was general discussion and Shola handled the hotseat like a Pro.
At some point during the morning, the lovely Filmmaker, Mari Jones arrived to document some of the programme. I’m always intrigued how photo/videographers are able to meld into the walls, silent, unobtrusive and they do their thing. It’s gotta be part of what they teach them in school besides holding the camera. She’s doing an MA in film directing at the Edinburgh college of Art. She was always there it seems, a friendly shadow.
Then Nik Powell, Director of the NFTS and film producer came. It was a whirlwind one or so hour. He insisted he wanted to talk to us, not about script but about story! But first he would begin with his favourite subject, himself (his words LOL). Nik set up Virgin records with Richard Branson in the ‘70s. He made a quick detour to tell us as writers, we must familiarize ourselves with the language in which we are writing, for instance, a new word has entered the English dictionary BLATTER. I think he was showing off. We loved it. He then proceeded to take us on a tour on his professional life from being a distributor (Evil dead, When Sally met harry) to production (crying game, Monalisa, Ladies in Lavender) and now the director of the NFTS with lots of other things besides. His whole presentation was done with Powerpoint and just so witty and fun but terribly brilliant and insightful. Here are a few anecdotes;
- A college class was asked to write a short story containing Religion,, Sexuality and Mystery. The winning story was ‘good god, I’m pregnant, wonder who did it. ‘
- He described the three-act structure in this way 1)get him/her up a tree 2)throw stones at them 3)bring them down again. Please can anyone tell me how a person can fail to remember this very simple but profound illustration?
- ‘I thought drama was when characters cried. But no, drama is when the audience cries.’
- When in doubt, have someone come in the door with a gun.
- And of course the bit about blood.
Whew. The one and half or so hour went by fast. I noticed that most of his references were to books. Not surprising since America has a strong culture of adaption from book to film.
I missed the Q&A section because I was called out to be interviewed for the Nigerian group I suppose and Maurice for the UK group. I went first and of course, by the time Maurice was done, I wondered what the hell it is I had said in my own interview. LOL. Maurice knows how to look very intense and terribly brilliant (even when I suspect he might be saying a load of crap (no, I didn’t say this originally but I love it so I’m owning it)).
On our way back to the hotel, Shola dragged us to the African restaurant, Baobab where the only African sounding thing on the menu was…well, rice, jollof rice. There was none so we had to eat some basmati shit but the chicken curry was lovely. Kenneth tried to sell me couscous but i wasn’t buying. The food sha was not for adults all o, unless as an an appetizer or something.
We closed for the day and had dinner at Croma, a nice Italian place above (?) Odeon cinema. C.J’s elder brother came and some of us went over and said hello. Because even in the UK, egbon is egbon. End of!
Next, we went dancing at the 69th Edinburgh International Film Festival Industry Ceilidh, organized to Support and promote Scottish filmmaking talent. This was held at the Assembly Rooms and Dress Code: Kilts or Casual. Too much fun and yes, I learned at least one very vigorous Scottish dance. My partner was Sam who’s getting hitched in a few weeks and is a native Scottswoman. Somehow, my Naija friends and I managed to form a circle of our own and show off Naija dancehall steps like Azonto, alanta, etighi, and then native dances like abang, ekombi, atilogwo etc. Hilarious. Of course we were pissed. Drinks flowed aplenty.
We retrieved our jackets/coats (ah yes, the cloakroom is a very efficient something) stepped out around 12;30am or so and saw that it’d been raining. The cold was so bad that I just defied it and refused to wear my hoodie or nothing. But had to protect my hair when it started to rain again. Funny I was prepared to have pneumonia but not wet my hair. Women!
And that’s how another day went by…