Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I now take a moment to celebrate one of life's small victories

I got a letter from James Hadley Chase today.

Well, obviously I didn't actually get a letter from the real James Hadley Chase (since he's been dead for two decades) but I did get emails from his estate lawyers and his publishers giving me their blessing to make use of Hadley Chase-related materials in TOO MUCH BEAUTIFUL WOMAN.

This probably doesn't mean much to anybody else but me, of course. But considering the fact that I have been trying to keep my head above the torrents of despair since yesterday afternoon, this cheers me up considerably.

As I said in a previous post that TOO MUCH BEAUTIFUL WOMAN could be described as a cross between James Hadley Chase and Amos Tutuola, and I wanted to spell that out explictly in a scene or two in which the protagonist Boy is pictured reading one of the Corgi Hadley Chase paperbacks that were really popular in Nigeria in the 1980s (perhaps later I'll talk a bit more about all the pop cultural references that helped shape the movie).

For some reason, James Hadley Chase has never really been a popular author in the United States (if you look him up in the Internet Movie Database you'll find that while his novels have been adapted for the screen in the Soviet Union, Italy, France and other countries, it's barely been noticed by American filmmakers. Apart from in the Large Print (ie "Geezer") section of the otherwise extensive Boston Public Library, you can't even find any of his books in English. You find them in Polish and Russian and Japanese, though.

Hadley Chase was particularly popular throughout Africa and i think that for Africans of a certain age, there's something incredibly nostalgic about seeing the racy covers of the old Corgi paperbacks that were the first "adult" novels that most of us read once we had graduated from Enid Blyton and the African Readers Series and stuff like that.

Thing is, as you may or may not know, when you use someone else's work or image or intellectual property in your own work you need to obtain permission. Unless you just happen to love going to court for the ambience, of course. You want a character to recite a few lines from a Sonia Sanchez poem? You better pray that Sonia lets you do that. You want a character to whistle "Crazy in Love" while cleaning the bathroom? If Beyonce says no, that character is gonna be whistling dixie. You want a Pam Anderson poster on the wall of college dorm. Only if Pam says it's okay.

By all means, always ask for permission. It's not that hard to do most of the time. I work in publishing (for the next couple of days, anyway) and we get permission requests all the time for our books. We pretty much clear all of them as long as they're not portraying our products in a negative manner. But you have to apply early because it sometimes takes up to two months to get a go-ahead.

Usually, Denis would be the one to handle this since he's the paperwork wizard, but since he's in Nigeria it fell upon me. Well, tried to do it two months ago, but I was unsuccessful because the books I wanted to use (there was also a Mickey Spillane one) were so old that they weren't even on the publisher's list any more.

So I just gave up and decided not to use them at all. They're not really important to the actual story anyway... They're just... local color.

Then last week, I suddenly became obsessed with the idea of using them again, got my grind on and was able to find out who to talk to. And the parties in question were gracious enough to get back to me in a speedy fashion, so now I'm in the clear.

(I probably would have used them even without the permission, though I must strongly caution aspiring filmmakers to never, ever do this. You'll end up losing the beautiful footage you worked so hard to shoot and end up with shit like this:

I apologize for subjecting you to such a horrible song and video, but did you see the picture of Al Pacino as Tony Montana 1:31 in? No, of course you didn't see it... Because that's what happens when you don't have permission to use someone's image.)

Anyway... Like I said, I'm pretty sure nobody gives a shit about this except me (I doubt even my producers share my obsession these dumb, trivial details) but if my calculations work out, when you see it on screen "who feels it knows it."

(Now if only I could get Lamont McLemore and the folks at Drum Magazine to answer my letters...)

By the way, this is the Mickey Spillane book I wanted to use. For various reasons, I've opted not to even bother requesting permission from him (I hear he's a bit of a hard-ass).

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Amazing Grace website

Just happened to stumble across this...

The Amazing Grace dramatizes the story of John Newton (1725-1807), an English slave trader, legend has it, experienced a divine epiphany during a mid-Atlantic slave shipment, renounced his profession, became a minister and wrote the time-honored hymn "Amazing Grace" (reputedly based on a traditional melody sung by the captive Africans).

It's directed by Jeta Amata, who I'm told is considered the Nigerian Tarantino (I've never actually seen any of his films, so I'm not sure why he has this rep) and stars the British actor Nick Moran (best known, I suppose, for his role as Eddie in Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) as Newton.

This is definitely the most ambitious film to come out of Naija in years. For one thing, it's shot on 35mm, which has been unheard of in Nigerian cinema for... Hell, I don't know. A long-ass time. Nigerian filmmakers haven't shot on film at all for at least 15 years, and long before that they had shifted from 35mm to 16mm anyway. But I understand this film was made with considerable assistance from the government of Cross River State in Nigeria and was shot around the state capital of Calabar (where I grew up, by the way... and where we're planning to shoot).

Amata attempted to show this movie at Cannes last year, but poor planning prevented that from happening (what I heard is that he never officially submitted the film but rather just showed up at the festival with the print under his arm, expecting it to be screened! I don't know if this is true, though). It supposedly screened out of competition at this year's Cannes (even though it doesn't show up in any searches on the Cannes site) and was pretty well-received.

It's certainly shot beautifully from the clips I can see on the site. (The site design itself is kinda dodgy, though.)

Anyway, much props to Jeta... I think the dude is gonna do big things for Nigerian film.

And, oh yeah... apropos of nothing

Here's some followup on topics I broached in previous posts:

More on the popularity of Nollywood movies in Jamaica

Some sanctimonious and inaccuracy-riddled reaction to Agbani Darego's naked titties...

...and some reaction to the reaction

*gulps down cold iced tea*

It's 76 degrees in Boston today, just as it was yesterday. Most people seem to view this as a cause for celebration and have taken to the streets, (barely) clad in the skimpiest clothes.

Me, I'm cloistered indoors, stewing in my own sweat as I listen to the amazing J*Davey live in session on Gilles Peterson.

Anybody who knows me will testify that hot weather and I really do not get along - I'm still baffled thinking about how I survived growing up in Nigeria all those years, and I'm kinda trepidatious thinking about how I'm gonna be able to function in that humid climate over the next several weeks (by the way, just in case you were wondering, "trepidatious" is not a real word).

Still, I really love this time of the year because the pretty girls start popping out like flowers in bloom, dressed in their sexy sundresses and shorts and halters and capris and high-heeled sandals and...

*gulps down some more iced tea*

Saturday was a dark day. Not just because it was overcast and it rained buckets but because I spent the afternoon in Hell. Contrary to popular belief, Hell is not a hot, dark network of caverns illuminated only by the sulphur pits. It is, in fact, quite well-lit with massive fluorescent globes. It looks something like this:

A labyrinthine maze in which a soul can get lost for eternit, searching for the way out. I was lucky that it only took me an afternoon to escape its maws, even though I didn't leave with what I came there for i.e. the dizzying array and nuts, bolts, spacers, washers, wingnuts, drawer pulls, electrical conductor conduits, brass nipples, mending braces, suction cups and L-brackets needed to build makeshift cranes, car clamps and dollies.

At some points I wanted to just throw up my hands, curl up in the fetal position in some corner of the Plumbing section and surrender my soul. Why on earth do I put myself through this punishment? Why don't I just rent the equipment I need rather than trying to build it all from scratch?

Because I'm cheap, that's why. (How cheap am I? Even now I'm typing this with shiny, metallic-looking hands. Why? I just spent the morning spraypainting a black umbrella silver because I refuse to spring $20 for an actual umbrella reflector.)

But Sunday and Monday have been much brighter days - both literally and figuratively. Back in Lagos, my boys have been interviewing actors for the lead roles and they sent me some photos of the frontrunners. They're so right for their parts that I virtually creamed in my jeans! I wish I could share the photos with you, sweet readers, but I have to keep a few things under my hat for the time being. But we got some good-looking kids, man... Not at all surprising, since the Bongoman prides himself on being a Professor of Sexy.

What's most impressive is that these actors all seem to have a pretty good head on their shoulders. One of the reasons we wanted to find some fresh faces rather than working with "name-brand" Nollywood stars (apart from the fact that we can't afford them) is because we didn't want to deal with egos or folks who would treat this production as just another job out of the 12 other films they're going to shoot this year. These kids we've got lined up all seem to understand that they have the potential to be part of something very special here, and I hope it works out and we can really have them in the cast.

One funny thing, though: One of the actors they talked to was perhaps a bit too intense. You know the kind who goes the extra mile to identify with the character, requiring an understanding of the character's backstory and habits and favorite food and what fragrance he's wearing in a particular scene and all that shit? Well, this dude doesn't go the extra mile... He runs a whole extra marathon!

At first I found it endearing... At least he's attempting a unique approach to the character rather than relying on the interchangeable stock character types that litter Nollywood films. But after a while, the brother was taking it too far. Especially when he started giving NOTES. He turned from an actor to a critic or a creative writing professor or something. He had issues with the dialogue and suggestions on how to "fix" it, he was critical of the way the characters looked, he even disagreed with the OPINIONS the characters expressed! I'm like, "Listen, genius... you need to go sit down in front of a typewriter and write your own damn movie and produce and direct it yourself, because clearly, you're not too interested in the one we're trying to make."

I don't subscribe to Hitchcock's view that actors are best treated like cattle - in fact, I quite enjoy getting creative feedback from them. But when an actor forgets what he's being hired for and thinks that he's auditioning for the part of co-writer/co-producer/co-director... Well, that ends up being a bit of a problem.

Needless to say, this dude gets an instant "No go" from me, but the good thing is that his critique actually gave me an idea for a new ending for the movie (since everybody - myself included - more or less agreed that the current ending is a bit on the weak side). I'll write it tonight and send it to Denis and Koko tomorrow... I can't wait to see their reaction to it, because I think it's kinda clever. (Maybe a bit too much so, but that's my style.)

One sore spot today, though: I've been working on developing a proposed look for the film. It's not easy to do since I haven't actually seen the spaces we're gonna be working in or the actors we're using, but I've still started mapping out a general color scheme in terms of lighting and costumes. I was doing some shooting last night and I happened to catch myself shirtless in a miror in one of the shots.

Now, I know that the camera is supposed to add 10 to 15 lbs but MAN, I have gotten sloppy as hell in the past two months. It's depressing, but I have only myself to blame. My eating patterns have been kinda bizarre since we moved TOO MUCH BEAUTIFUL WOMAN into the fast track - I often don't eat all day, and then end up pigging out at night. I don't sleep much either... I look like hell. I really hope I can shed some of this extra baggage in Naija, though. At least Cherry Garcia isn't as readily available there, so I don't have to worry about falling back on that to fuel my manic, all-night brainstorms. My metabolism ain't what it used to be!

mp3 of the day: Benny Sings - "Little Donna"

This is a cool song for the beginning of summer, I think.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Today is John Wayne's birthday, god damn it.

He would've been 99... Ain't that some isht? Maybe if he had never made that abominable movie The Conqueror he would've still been around. Well, to quote Ringo Kid in Stagecoach: "There are some things a man just can't run away from."

(Illustration courtesy of Daniel Berg)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"So... what exactly is this TOO MUCH BEAUTIFUL WOMAN stuff about?"

I actually have a bunch of other stuff I wanted to yak about today, but I realize that it is just wrong for me to make another entry in this blog without definitively addressing that question that so many people have asked me.

Thing is, I am terrible at talking about my own work. Always have been. I could do some armchair self-analysis to identify the reasons why, but that's neither here nor there. All I know is that when you ask me, say, "What is TOO MUCH BEAUTIFUL WOMAN about?" I start gesticulating like a character from a silent movie and mumbling sentence fragments like:

“...kinda like an African take on the noir genre. But instead of a hardboiled detective, the hero is a drunken tailor...”

“…an affectionate tribute to 50 years of Nigerian pop culture and cool-looking hats...”

"...a cross between James Hadley Chase and Amos Tutuola..."

"...a romantic fable of African modernism and haberdashy, bursting with bawdy humor, funk and fashion..."

(Yes, sadly I do employ that kind of pretentious criticspeak even in everyday conversation. Such is my affliction.)

The one description I have actively avoided, though, is "a Nigerian City of God." It seems like "a _______ City of God" has become the catch-all descriptor for any "modern" "Third World" "urban" tale, even when the similarities to that most excellent Brazilian film are purely cosmetic (cough cough).

But the issue remains that City of God is such an incredible cinematic achievement that any attempts to compare oneself to it are tantamount to setting oneself up for failure... Because you will fall short of the mark. Besides, the idea of a "Nigerian City of God" is kinda cursed to me... After all, that's what this guy said he was going to make, and... er, let's just say he ended up falling way short of the mark.

In any case, the script that I wrote did have some similarities to City of God* in terms of its jittery energy, breakneck pace and byzantine structure (though we had to cut back on some of the byzantinism for budgetary reasons). That's what it is on the page, anyway... It remains to be seen how much of that we can actually translate to the screen within the restrictions of budget and schedule.

*Did I just make it sound like I was influenced by City of God in writing it? For the record, I wrote the first draft of this screenplay long before City of God was even released but I guess the reason that film struck such a chord with me is because it's the sort of movie that I wanted to make.

Well... For better or worse, I am gonna try to deliver some sort of description of the story. At first I had the idea to write it in the form of a trailer, reproducing snippets of scenes and dialogue and all that, but I thought that it might be a bit confusing. Plus, a trailer ain't a trailer without the distinctive voice of the "Coming Attractions" guy (You know the voice I'm talking about: "IN A WORLD WHERE JUSTICE WEARS NO UNDERWEAR...") and maybe a Sheryl Crow or Kelly Clarkson song to really ram home those emotional points at the end.

So instead I'll write it in the terse style of the synopses on the backs of the cheap, dimestore novels that inspired it. (Feel free to read it with the "Coming Attractions" voice if you want to, though):

Boy thinks he’s a tough guy. Ever since he was a kid working in an Aba sweatshop, he’s imagined himself as a character in the crime novels he read during breaks at the Aba sweatshop where he worked. His favorite writer by far was Professor Portmanteau, a.k.a. "The King of Tailors" - the legendary detective, guitarist and couturier who authored a series of hardboiled pamphlets chronicling his own adventures in the mysterious city called Lagos... a dark city of romance and adventure, high couture and low lives. Most of all, he wrote about the Too Much Beautiful Woman, a dangerous, alluring femme fatale who metes out fortune or despair upon the men who cross her path.

Determined to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Boy travels to Lagos in search of fame and fortune and adventure and romance... Fast forward a few years: Boy's life isn't full of much adventure or romance, just the daily humiliations that come with staying alive in the mean city. He's just another world-weary loser dwelling in the belly of the beast, drowning his unfulfilled dreams in a river of palm wine and selling his soul piece by piece to keep afloat.

Meanwhile, the city is being held under siege by Henry Ni-Ni, a murderous bandit who kills nine people at every stop he makes. When Boy's path crosses with Henry Ni-Ni's, he finds his fantasy world of adventure and romance merging with reality in a more gruesome form than he could ever imagine, and he has to step up and make choices will make Boy a man.

*cue "Unwritten" by Natasha Bedingfield*

Or maybe just make him dead.


Obviously that ain't even close to capturing everything that happens, but it's a teaser, innit? Does it pique your interest, gentle readers? If it doesn't, I'm in trouble, aren't I!

Okay, now we got that out of the way we can talk about other stuff...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Another day...

mp3 of the day: The Majestic Arrows - "Another Day"

Yeah, so it's probably an over-literal choice, but at least the mp3 of the day is back, isn't it? Pull out the bullhorn, celebrate like Kunta was born!

It's 6 in the morning and I'm about to get dressed and zip off to work, but I wanted to post something right quick. Someone linked this over on the Naija Rules board and I figured I'd put it up here, too.

A blog piece on the popularity of Nollywood movies in Jamaica

Well, the piece isn't actually about the popularity of Nollywood down a Yard, though it does mention in passing that they are "the hottest thing in Jamaica right now" and stuff like that (I can't tell for sure whether or not they're being ironic, though... There is a mildly ribbing tone to the piece but it seems all in good fun. After all, let's face it, even for middle-class Nigerians, a great part of the appeal of Nollywood flicks often lies in their unintentional comedy)

Anyway, one reason I wanted to put this up is because I've often disputed the claims of Nollywood advocates that these movies are wildly popular throughout the Caribbean... I knew they were being viewed in some limited capacity, but I really doubted they could truly be described as "popular," especially since some of the Jamaican folks I asked about it told me they had no idea what I was talking about, and they have their own local video scene anyway.

So I guess I was wrong. I'm man enough to admit that!

Also, the blogger was fastidious enough to basically break down the dynamics of the typical Nollywood flick, complete with screencaps and a video clip! It makes it easier for my lazy ass... I've been slacking on actually getting around to explaining what a Nollywood movie is for folks who've never seen one. (Um... Just for the record, our movie isn't gonna look anything like that. We hope!)

Oh yeah, speaking of Naija Rules... My friends on the boards there finally found my blog. I had wanted to show it to them a long time ago, but... Well, I was a little scared they'd laugh at me! As I said before, Koko, Denis and I are all on the nonconformist side and we're all pretty much invested in doing things our way no matter how silly and unrealistic our way may look. The guys have told me that back in Lagos, people in the industry have laughed in their faces when they told them what we're trying to do.

Me, I've never really doubted that we could do this, but I wanted to let things advance to a point where we were really sure before I talked about it more openly.

The folks at NR have shown nothing but love, though. We've been getting a lot of love all around, and that's reassuring. At least people are interested... Now we just have to make sure we don't get their hopes up for some bullshit.

Okay, I better get to work.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Tell me why!

Actually, I haven't really got anything against Mondays... except for maybe the sense of not having accomplished enough over the weekend that I invariably feel on Monday morning. Right now, at 9 in the a.m., I'm already beating myself up for the following shortcomings:

1. didn't complete the script revisions demanded by the producers
2. was unsuccessful in obtaining all the components needed to build rigs
3. failed to finalize arrangements to cargo ship equipment to Lagos before my departure
4. couldn't purchase suitable microphone and mixer, despite several hours spent on eBay
5. didn't even get around to transcribing the interview with Justin Warfield of She Wants Revenge that I should have submitted to Verbicide magazine like a week ago

There's probably some other stuff that I haven't even thought of yet, but hey... I have all Monday to kick myself, so there's no hurry! Besides, I guess I did manage to get a few things done over the weekend:

1. acquired a bunch of essential wardrobe items and props
2. assembled a low-budget lighting kit using materials purchased at Home Depot for under $60
3. celebrated my bud Enyi's birthday
4. found some good deals on wide angle lenses I guess it wasn't completely a waste. There's much, much more stuff to do today, though.

Oh yeah, I would also like to thank all the folks who have emailed, IMed and called me or left comments on this page expressing their support and best wishes for this whole TOO MUCH BEAUTIFUL WOMAN thing (been a while since I even uttered those words on this blog, huh? I need to establish a quota... resolve to repeat the title at least 15 times per blog entry or something); I truly do not have the words to tell you how much it means to me. I only pray I don't let all of you down, y'know?

Friday, May 19, 2006

So I just got in to the office this rainy morning...

The head of the department said no to my leave of absence.

So, um, yeah. I guess I really am gonna be unemployed, broke and possibly homeless when I get back.

C'est la vie. Dues must be paid.

My supervisor feels really bad about it, though... I know he really fought for me, but it just wasn't possible to make the exception for me because everybody else has been turned down when they requested extended leave.

My last day at work is June 2nd. Feels kinda weird.

Well, like my boss said to me: "Chances are, when you finish this movie you're not gonna want or need this job anyway."

Let's hope!

mp3 of the day: Curtis Mayfield - A Heavy Dude

Curtis Mayfield is one of my role models not only as an artist, but as a human being. His humility, his honesty, his compassion - all of them are virtues that I aspire to on a daily basis. Not to mention his remarkable lack of bitterness or cynicism even when a freak accident left him paralysed from the neck down for the last decade of his life.

I always wanted to write to him when he was paralysed, just to tell him how much his music and his example had meant to me over the years. I kept putting it off, though. I'll never forget the night I finally did write the letter... Half of it, anyway. I came to work the next morning to finish the other half, when my boy Enyi called to tell me Curtis had passed the night before.

I guess that's a pretty strong lesson in carpe diem, huh?

Anyway... Much love to Mr. Mayfield. A true hero, and a heavy dude.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Things that rather rocked today

round-trip airline ticket = $1600

non-linear editing software = $300ish value

10-pack of pro-grade DV cassettes = $160

Finally telling your boss that you're going to be away for a while because you need to go to Nigeria to shoot a movie? PRICELESS.

I actually feel a lot better getting that piece of business out of the way... For the longest time it weighed on my mind. I mean, I have three weeks of vacation; it's gonna take a little bit longer than that to shoot a movie (Well, to shoot this movie, anyway). I had pretty much assumed that I would just have to quit my job to do this, and I was planning to wait till two weeks before my departure to give my notice.

I guess I was cool with that, but somehow it really disturbed me. I'm putting a lot into this project... I'm sinking virtually every meager dime I have into it, and I'm not really entertaining too many fantasies of making any significant money from it, so the prospect of coming back from principal photography to be unemployed and homeless was not something I was altogether comfortable with. I like to think of myself as a daring, happy wanderer type, but if I'm being honest with myself, I have to admit that become a bit addicted to "security" as I've entered my thirties and the thought of living without medical insurance is more terrifying to me than a three-day giallo marathon.

So yeah, rather than quitting the J-O outright, I was toying with the idea of taking a "leave of absence" and coming back... But how do you explain to your employer "Well... I can't come to work because I have to go to Africa to play Francis Ford Coppola for a few months"? Yeah... I was pretty certain that they'd replace me before the butt imprint in my seat was gone.

I figured I'd just fall on the reliable old "family issues" excuse.... They can't fire you for going to deal with family issues, can they? A friend told me to tell them straight up that my father is at death's door, but that was a bit gruesome and distasteful for me. Plus, I really hated having to lie. For the most part, I'm uncomfortable with lying in general (I'm gonna have to work on that if I plan on getting anywhere in life... Especially in this business!), and the folks at my job are so nice that I hate to deceive them that way. Basically, I felt that lying about this was bad karma of some sort, and would cast a shadow over the whole production. (I should make today's mp3 Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," eh?)

In the end, I opted to tell the truth.

My boss was pretty excited and supportive (of course, like a lot of folks in my office he's an ar-teest himself - an actor and comedian... a pretty good one, too) and he said he thinks it's possible. So tomorrow he's gonna go talk to the head of the department on my behalf. Even if it doesn't pan out and I end up having to just quit, I still feel better for having been honest about it.

And in my new spirit of honesty, I promise that I will be more detailed and insightful in chronicling the good, the bad and the ugly of this journey in this here blog. Up until this time, I've felt a little weird about talking too much about it. Like I said before, I'm a pretty private person and... Well, in some strange way, I've felt almost... a little embarrassed about this whole thing.

I mean, this is a kinduva crazy thing I'm doing. I always tell Denis that it's okay for him because he's like a decade younger than me... This is the time for him to take reckless chances. Me? My peers are getting married and buying minivans. So yeah, I can't help think sometimes that I'm acting irresponsibly.

But you know... With all the work we've been doing lately, things are really starting to take shape and we're realizing that there's a strong chance that this crazy plan might work -- I mean, really work. We just need the fortitude to grab that ring when it swings before us. We can achieve it... We just have to be ready to take a chance.

If I learned anything from all those comedies I watched in the 1980s, it's that.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

There is a crack in everything

...including my ass -- which, by the way, I cordially invite the condescending horsetwats at the Apple Store to give a big, sloppy tongue kiss to.

When my system crashed, those unhelpful fuckwads promptly informed me that the only option open to me was to erase my entire hard drive and reinstall the operating system software from scratch.* Thank Oshun I chose not to listen to them and find someone who could restore my shit. X amount of thanks to Tom at Organize-It Software for rescuing all the film-related work (and the porn) stored on my computer from disappearing forever... and at a pretty reasonable price too!

*Did I mention that what caused me to crash in the first place was the fact that I installed one of those security updates Apple is constantly pestering me with, and they denied that it was their software update that caused the problem even though people all around the country experienced the exact same problem at the same time when they installed that damn software?

Fuck 'em.

Anyway, my purpose today is not to waste precious energy ranting against the utterly wack, but to hail the eerily efficient. Denis and Koko are busting major ass in Lagos, and I'm actually feeling a little bit left out being back here in the States. Of course, it's not as if I've been sitting around twiddling my thumbs and watching "That 70s Show" reruns all this time or anything. I've been handling a lot of logistic issues, mainly acquiring all the equipment and props and other creative stuff we need.

It's quite daunting, really... Actually, that's why I haven't written in a few days. I didn't want to come on here whining about how hard all this shit is. But then again, maybe that's what I should be writing about - the challenges of low/no-budget filmmaking.

Anyway, so far I've gotten most of what I need. All I need now is a good shotgun microphone and perhaps a waveform monitor. Oh yeah, and a 16:9 anamorphic converter, too. Other than that, we're looking good and I'm pretty excited.

Did I mention that my girl Lauren is going to help out with wardrobe and stuff? Bless her big, stylish heart.

I'm feeling more confident about the idea of shooting this thing myself, too. I'm not the most experienced DP, but I've been studying and working on it. One of the good things about coming from a background in comics as I do is that I'm already pretty visually-oriented and my conception of storytelling has always fundamentally revolved around frames and panels. But being a director of photography entails a whole lot more than that... It's about designing an overall look for the film. I've been thinking a lot about that. And that of course means that I've been looking at a lot of Christopher Doyle pictures.

There is a crack in everything... That's how the light gets in - Leonard Cohen

Christopher Doyle - who shall henceforth be referred to on this page as The God of Cinematography - is definitely my favorite contemporary lensman (with Malik Sayeed coming in a close second) and his complete commitment to simultaneously mastering and submitting to the power of light is an ethos I am adopting as a guiding principle for myself on this project.

Of course, I can only dream of achieving visuals anywhere near as rich and romantic as his (for one thing, he doesn't shoot on video like I'm doing) but I'm taking a cue from his spontaneity, his willingness to build a scene from the ground up based on the space and the light available to him rather than imposing a preconceived vision onto the available resources.

(I really hope this is making sense... I'm actually a bit drunk as I write this (yeah, I know I said I was teetotalling now, but... Shit happens)(actually, inebriation is one of the ground elements of Doyle's method, so I might be on the right track here). In my mind I want to compose this grand tribute to Mr. Doyle, but I'm a bit too drowsy to really commit to it.)

(But then again... A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Well, just look at the damn stills of his work and tell me you can't see what I'm talking about!)

-Christopher Doyle filmography

-One of his extremely hard-to-find books of photos

Hmmm... Just realized that I haven't offered an mp3 today. I'll make up for it later (if it really matters... which it probably doesn't).

Friday, May 12, 2006 yeah, my hard drive crashed and all

It's really not a good look.

I should be back in a few days, dear gentle, hypothetical readers.

In the meantime, watch these Andrew Dosunmu clips (click "Directors" and then "Music Video" and then "Andrew Dosunmu")

and enjoy this

Saturday, May 06, 2006

My people be saying the darnedest things sometimes

mp3 of the day: Ocote Soul Sounds and Adrian Quesada - Divinorum

So day before yesterday night I happened to check out Ronke Apampa's website and see this on the front page:

Being well familiar with the somewhat puritanical ways of my Nigerian brethren and sistren, I immediately made the rounds of a few Nigerian-oriented websites to gauge the reaction. And (surprise!) it was a shitstorm. Opinions varied but I think this, uh... colorfully worded post here (snatched from an unnamed message board) is fairly indicative of the general tenor:

"Hugh hefner or what is the plaboy mans name. Nigeria has a dum-dum playmate for you in the name of Agbani Darego. I think she should be expecting his call. As far as I am concern any female that let her body become an object of entertainment, belong to the gutter. Even down here in the world capital of sinful entertainment U.S.A, Such action from so called decent girls raise eyebrows. such as Nicole smith and Latoya Jackson for a few. Is of our woman Role model. I dont think so Anybody from a decent upbringing will no agree to. Great woman dont become great by selling their body.She is just going to be a good pinup for male restroom."

Well, to be fair, most of them were a lot more articulate than this one but what was almost universal to the responses (almost I say!) was the sense of outrage and shame, and possibly straight up haterade. Most of the negative respondents were women (surprise again!) who vacillated between the high moral ground of "oh, she's supposed to be a classy role model as the first black African Miss World yadda yadda yadda" and catty shit like "why she gonna even go show off those slipper-like boobies with the ugly big areolas?" - sometimes within the same post.

(By the way, ladies... Dunno if you knew this, but the big areolae look is actually what's hot on the street)

What I found most confounding though was the recurring refrain of "This is so immoral... It's not our culture." It's funny because it's something that Denis and I were talking about just last week. We originally had some nudity written into the movie (male and female, yo... We're equal-opportunity like that) but I ended up writing it out because I think it's gonna be too much of a headache finding actresses comfortable enough to drop trou. And I feel like a real sleazebag being the one trying to convince a reluctant chick to take off her clothes (remember Q.T. in Girl 6? By the way, that movie gets a bum rap as the worst Spike Lee joint when you consider it against barely watchable crap like She Hate Me and Bamboozled).

Hell, even getting a Nigerian girl to allow herself be photographed semi-nude (and by "semi-nude" here, I mean like, in a bikini) is like trying to broker peace in the Middle East. I know; I've tried it. The firm response I got from all candidates was "It is un-African."


Denis pointed out to me how bizarre it is the extent to which Christianity and Islam have warped Africans' perception of what our own culture is. The European concept of modesty didn't even exist in Africa until relatively not long ago. I mean, let's be real - young girls walked around virtually naked until they got married and seeing the bosoms of even a grown woman was an occurrence neither uncommon nor particularly special. Fast forward to one short century later we're blanching like a bunch of Quaker schoolmarms at the sight of some minor nipplage.

All of a sudden I really understand why Fela gave his albums defiant covers like this:

Anyway, Agbani... If you're reading this, just shrug off the haters. I got your back... So go ahead and show your front all you want to.

Denis and Koko are really putting in serious work back in Lagos. While I'm quite grateful and extremely motivated by their efforts, they're starting to really sound like producers... which can be distressing to a sensitive-ass ar-teest like myself. They're talking about cutting out parts of my deathless prose, changing my exquisitely-rendered scenes and pitch-perfect dialogue. How dare they suggest that we might not be able to execute the 500-piece musical tribute to Busby Berkeley and perhaps might have to lose the recreation of the Charge of the Light Brigade, as well? Philistines, I tell you!

It stings a bit, but it's all good, though... I think a certain degree of frisson is necessary for projects like this. If everybody is too reverent towards the material - or each other - the end result is usually bland (I think I nicked that from The Kid Stays in the Picture). Besides, I welcome challenges like this. Limitations and restrictions are the true test of creativity and I relish opportunities to apply my powers of invention to solve practical problems. Otherwise it's just art for art's sake, right?

And believe me: That is very un-African.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Eagle has landed

mp3 of the day: Hector Lavoe - Ublabadu

So the Bongoman arrived in Lagos this afternoon and he's a bit disappointed that it didn't quite live up to the chaotic, dystopian Hieronymus Bosch nightmare image of the city he had previously built up in his mind.

But I'll let him talk more about that (HINT, motherfucker! HINT!*)

Who am I to talk, though? I haven't blogged anything substantial in a few days, but I've been spending my time

i) not sleeping
ii) trying to find the rest of the equipment we need
iii) researching special effects
iv) storyboarding
v) fucking up at work (which is not a good thing)

I'll get back to it in a little bit, though... I actually had something of a positive development or two today.

*Imagine that being said by Samuel L. Jackson, by the way

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

And now for something completely different...

Showcasing the work of Lanre Lawal

This is the second day in a row that I slack off on generating any kind of meaningful content here. *sigh* What can I say? I got to take care of some other business tonight. Hopefully I'll be able to report on it all later.

Anyway, Lanre Lawal is an award-winning Nigerian graphic designer whose work I really admire. He's also a comic creator and enthusiast. If I had known there were people like him in Nigeria when I was growing up, I might not have left. I really hope I get the chance to work with him during my trip.

By now, Bongo has started his journey to Lagos. Godspeed him. Here's a song I know he'd like:

mp3 of the day: Alemayehu Eshete - Tey Gedyeleshem

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Not tonight, dear...

Man, I'm beat.

Today, some of the challenges facing us in this project fell on my head like a ton of bricks. Actually, it's shit like that that I should be writing about here more than anything else, but frankly... I just don't have the energy. I just remembered that I only slept 2 hours last night too. Right now, I just wanna lie here, watch some "Scrubs" and then read Jack Kirby's entire run on Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen and I think that's exactly what i'm gonna do.

(Not really)

I'll fill in the details tomorrow. But for now, enjoy this mp3 here:

some song, the title of which I can't type because it's in kanji, but it's by the Japanese singer Sayoko

Monday, May 01, 2006

I do work

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mp3 of the day: Wale Oyejide - Work (Instrumental)

I know I said just yesterday that I was not gonna make soundtrack songs the theme of the mp3 of the day, but goddamit I just have to post this song because it kinda encapsulates the way I feel today. I had a positive, motivating conference with my two partners and it looks like we've really got a chemistry going. Bongo and Koko have never actually met and I had some minor concerns about how well they'd get along, but they're both pretty affable, incredibly laidback dudes so there was an instant rapport. Meanwhile, the pressures of getting this film going have wreaked havoc on me and Koko's relationship over the past couple of months and for a while I was certain that we would not come out of this experience as friends. But today, it was just like the days of auld when we hung out in the corridors in high school, planning to record the first African rap record as we peered at the posteriors of passing pretties.

In addition, by all accounts the 30 Days premiere seems to have gone pretty well, I read 20 pages of dictionary today, and my mustache is actually showing signs of growth! (Now let's see if I can get some chest hair going... I'm about to be the black Tom Selleck in this bitch!) God is in his heaven and all is well with the world.

Oh yeah... Back to the mp3 of the day. This is one track I'm almost certain that I'm gonna use on the soundtrack. Wale is an artist I've admired for a long time. In fact, when I heard the unashamedly emotional, abstract hip-hop instrumentals on his first album Walls Don't Exist (released under the moniker Science Fiction), the very first thought that came to my mind was "This dude has got to score my first feature!"

I still want Wale to score the film but I know he's a busy man... I'll be grateful with any nuggets he sees fit to bless me with.