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2015 A Good Year – Happy Hols/New Year From Marlon Palmer (Kush Director)

Marlon Palmer
Director
18.12.15

 

Happy-Holidays

 

Greetings and salutations (Friends, Fans, Associates & Film Lovers),

It’s December (once again, LOL!) and almost time to end this year and bring in another New Year. Well after we have stuffed our faces, drank more than we can handle and immersed ourselves with family we both love and hate – well it’s got to be done!

This year from a film standpoint of view has been good, starting off with the January release of the much-talked about Selma and then Chris Rock’s ‘Top Five’ in May; two films we worked on. Paramount Pictures actually hired Kush Promotions & PR to market Top Five in 7 cities of the UK and allowed us to manage the budget. To allow us to manage the budget and nationwide-wide campaign was a justification of the 17 years of hard work and determination I have put in developing this business. After May PR work kind of dried up for us as the next big urban releases were from distributors who appear to have an issue with me/Kush; LOL! It appears I have told off the Head of International Marketing at both Sony Pictures and Universal over the years and I have not been forgiven TopFivePoster_smll(daam, I only told them the truth about their poor marketing of particular urban film) well seems like i’m “Blacklisted” – so be it – I will always speak my mind and tell the truth if some don’t like it, so be it! Was upset though, that we missed out on hip-hop films Dope and Straight Outta Compton; Sony & Universal film releases respectively.

Anyway the break away from Film-Marketing/PR was a Godsend (it was needed) as it allowed me to get back fully-focussed on the wide-ranging development of Kush Media. Something I wasn’t truly able to do for two straight years from October 2013 – May 2015 as Kush Promotions & PR became the go-to Specialist Independent PR Company marketing all black films month-after-month here in the UK (shhh! The remuneration was nice though). We also got to work on films like ‘Starred Up’ starring Jack O’Connell and The Maze Runner.

The breakaway allowed me to re-assess things and from that the ‘Kush Film Boutique’ was relaunched and in all that I do (even though it can be hard work) these days; I get the most satisfaction out of seeing the joy, dismay, shock, horror and amazement on patrons faces at our screenings – the wonders of film!

PR/Marketing work paid Kush well, and I strived hard to get to that position and be paid well but during the Top Five campaign earlier this year I realised that I wasn’t enjoying the work, it wasn’t why I started Kush Promotions back in 1998 and sitting in my office managing people (especially some of the difficult people I had to manage across the UK) became all so ‘Soulless’.

I had lost the joy of what I was doing daily and to wrap this part up – I believe in life to truly be successful you have to be fulfilling your life’s purpose and embracing daily the joy of all that you offer – once you lose that joy it’s time to reassess!

Anyway it’s going to be a very exciting end to the year with the massive impending release this week of Star Wars: The Force Awakens starring local Peckham Lad John Boyega whom we star-wars-force-awakens-posthankfully had time to meet whilst managing PR/Marketing for the film “Half A Yellow Sun” last year.

Straight away from speaking to John I knew he would be a star he was so down to earth, well-spoken and assured in his manner – definitely a star in the making and I said so at the time.

I can’t wait to see how well he exudes his persona off the big screen as the character ‘Finn’ in this massive blockbuster film; I’m sure he has done a fine job otherwise we would have heard already especially with all the earlier ignorant social media commotion about a “Black Stormtrooper”.

I won’t even go into that foolishness as it will bring down the tone of my newsletter and inveigle me into talking about dumb people from another galaxy!

Congratulations to rising star John Boyega and all the other British actors in the film (Daisy Ridley), and as a Star Wars fan it’s also great to see the old stars back; Harrison Ford as Hans Solo, Mark

John Boyega

Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia and of course Chewbacca.

As you may have guessed I’m a sci-fi nut and love all films that expand our psyche to places unknown in the big ole galaxy. Bring on Superman vs Batman, Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad, Star Trek Beyond (with Idris Elba) and daam give me Black Panther now!!

Don’t forget get your tickets for ‘The Force Awakens’ this weekend! I’ve Got Mine

Wishing you all a fantastic Christmas, a blessed Kwaanza and a harmonious Eid plus a totally great New Year.

Keep Believing and doing!
Marlon Palmer

Peckham Lad John Boyega Hits The Stars in The Force Awakens

Courtesy of www.guardian.com
Written by Hermione Hoby
13.12.15

 

JohnBoyega_StarWars

John Boyega in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Photograph: Film Frame/AP

The two things happened in a tight 90 seconds. First, there was ​the matter of pop cultural history being made. When Lucasfilm released a teaser trailer last month for The Force Awakens, the hugely anticipated seventhStar Wars movie that fans have waited a decade for, every detail in short duration seemed to become world talking points. In its first week the trailer generated a record-breaking 58.2 million views. Now, it’s been watched more than 75 million times.

It opens with a shot of desert and the tense violins of John Williams’s score. Then, in an epically laryngitic voiceover, come the words: “There has been an awakening … have you felt it?” And with them up pops the first face and the first character those 75 million pairs of eyes saw: a black guy, dressed in Stormtrooper uniform, sweating profusely and looking hunted.

Within minutes, the hashtag #blackstormtrooper was trending on Twitter. It brought with it the kind of diehard, narrow-minded nerdery that postulated a Stormtrooper shouldn’t be played by a black man because this fictional fighting force were all cloned from one, lighter-skinned, human descendant. It came, too, with even uglier comments, the kind that were unconscionably racist.

The second thing, then, that happened in those 90 seconds was the catapulting of John Boyega, a 23-year-old, largely unknown actor from south London, to a level of galactic fame. But Boyega seems to have been fazed neither by the size of the film franchise nor by the colour of his skin being a talking point on online message boards. In the wake of the first trailer, he issued a cheerful response over Instagram by posting a still of himself in Stormtrooper uniform and a short, celebratory message that ended with: “To whom it may concern… Get used to it :)”

Boyega had played just one lead film role before he was cast in the biggest franchise in the history of movies. This was the 2011 cult favourite, Attack the Block, a sci-fi comedy in which he was Moses, a south London teenager battling an alien invasion on a housing estate. Among the film’s admirers was the American critic Roger Ebert, who singled out Boyega’s performance by praising director Joe Cornish for making such a “fortunate discovery”.

It was another eminent fan, however, who changed the course of Boyega’s life. JJ Abrams, the writer-director-producer most famous for his work on the American TV series Lost, also saw the movie and loved it. When Abrams and Boyega met shortly afterwards, the director told him it was his favourite movie of 2011 and: “We’re going to get you in something.” Which Boyega took with a pinch of Hollywood salt. Lots of people were telling him they loved him in the film; he didn’t actually believe any of them meant much by it.

But then, four years later, Abrams did indeed cast him in “something” and that something happened to be Star Wars. The decision came only after putting Boyega through an intensive, seven-month auditioning process.

“It was hard,” Boyega told Time Out London last week. “And rightly so. If I bought a company for $4bn, I’d make sure those actors were on point!” (Disney bought Lucasfilm for that enormous sum in 2012.)

On the day that Abrams finally contacted him, Boyega was at a friend’s house in Catford, south London, playing video games. Wishing to appear insouciant, he told the director that he was on his way to an art gallery. Abrams told him to get in a cab to a Mayfair restaurant and Boyega did, thereby draining his bank account dry on the £70 fare. Once there, he heard the words: “John, you’re the new star of Star Wars,” and at some point in the next few moments it may have occurred to Boyega that he’d never have to worry about a cab fare again.

Some analysts have predicted that the movie will be the first ever to gross more than $3bn at the box office and the film is also expected to generate $100m in advance ticket sales alone. For Boyega, however, the real thrill seems to be not the big bucks but the glorious geekery of, for example, wielding a lightsaber for the first time, seeing himself cast as an action figure, or getting to stroke a Wookiee – the furry, humanoid creatures whose most famous member is Chewbacca, Han Solo’s sidekick.

Star Wars has been a pop-cultural phenomenon since the first, eponymous 1977 movie that made household names of three unknown actors: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) and Harrison Ford (Han Solo). As the mythology grew so dense and enormous, it demanded more detail and so the original movie came to earn the subtitle, Episode IV – A New Hope. Despite being born 15 years after this first instalment, Boyega has been happy to let the world know that he is, in the words of one magazine profile, “the galaxy’s biggest fanboy” and that he grew up watching the movies and earnestly collecting its merchandise.

Boyega was born in Peckham, south London, to a dad who was a minister and a mum who worked with disabled children; both immigrated from Nigeria before their son was born. He has described his childhood as “fantastic” and has talked about how much he loved performing at both Westminster City school and then at South Thames College, where he was a performing arts student. Nonetheless, he has had to shut down a certain narrative that some corners of the British press have been keen to push. When one newspaper ran a profile of the actor that described him growing up “on the tough streets where Damilola Taylor died”, Boyega slammed it in a succinct tweet: “Inaccurate. Stereotypical. NOT my story.” Boyega never knew Taylor, the 10-year-old boy who came from Nigeria and was stabbed to death in a Peckham stairwell, and the description of “gangs, guns and knives” didn’t chime with, for example, his memory of performing at the Royal Albert Hall when he was 13.

In more progressive and optimistic quarters, the “awakening” that the trailer’s voiceover refers to has been interpreted as the enlightenment of diversity – the slow and overdue change that finally seems to be coming over Hollywood. One writer characterised the original Star Warsmovies as “largely just a bunch of white American dudes fighting a bunch of white British dudes”, and it’s bewildering to remember that their only female character was Princess Leia, who spent a lot of time bikini-clad and bound by Jabba the Hutt. In this seventh movie, Carrie Fisher reprises her role as the newly named General Leia and is joined by a female lead, Daisy Ridley, a 23-year-old British newcomer, who plays the main role of Rey. And then of course there’s Boyega, who wears his status as some kind of champion of casting lightly.

Days ago, he was asked by the New York Times how he felt when some threatened to boycott the movie simply because it featured a black man as a Stormtrooper: “It made me feel fine. I’m grounded in who I am, and I am a confident black man. I wasn’t raised to fear people with a difference of opinion. They are merely victims of a disease in their mind. To get into a serious dialogue with people who judge a person based on the melanin in their skin? They’re stupid, and I’m not going to lose sleep over people.”

In another recent interview, he spoke about how the franchise now being “reflective of the world we live in today is fantastic”. He then joked: “Apart from the Wookiees and the green people. We’re giving them attention just in case that happens. You never know where the melanin is gonna go. It could go pink. You never know.”

He was also light-hearted about getting recognised. As he told the New York Times, people “know where this forehead comes from. They see it, and they go, ‘Hmm, looks like that Stormtrooper that’s sweating all the time.’”

Thanks to the high level, watertight secrecy that Abrams has insisted on, there aren’t many more details than that sweaty forehead. We do know that Boyega’s character is called Finn, that he’s a disaffected Stormtrooper who’s defected from his unit and that he’s in possession of the lightsaber that Luke and Anakin Skywalker owned before him.

Everything else will have to wait until the film launches on Friday. By which point the most overexcited fan may well be the star himself. As Boyega said recently: “If you hear someone at the back of the cinema screaming and laughing and crying, it’s probably me.”

THE BOYEGA FILE

Born John Boyega, 17 March 1992 in Peckham, south London, to Nigerian parents. He trained at east London’s Identity School of Acting.

Best of times Before his Star Wars “moment”, being chosen as one of Screen International’s UK Stars of Tomorrow 2011. More recently, being told by JJ Abrams that he was the new star of Star Wars: “Everything froze for a moment.”

Worst of times The racist online responses that followed the movie’s first teaser trailer in which Boyega appeared as a Stormtrooper.

He says “All the films I’ve done have had a secret commentary on stereotypical mentalities. It’s about getting people to drop a prejudiced state of mind and realise, ‘Oh shit we’re just watching normal people.’”

They say “All I know is John Boyega does an extraordinary job in the movie. The people who are complaining about that probably have bigger problems than, ‘there’s a black Stormtrooper’.”
​JJ Abrams

The Making of Hot New Comedy Film Gone Too Far

Directed by Destiny Ekaragha
(Screen International Star of Tomorrow 2009)

Written by Bola Agbaje
(Winner, Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliated Theatre, 2008)

Produced by Christopher Granier-Deferre
Financed by The BFI Film Fund and Poisson Rouge Pictures

Official Selection: London International Film Festival 2013
Nominated: Best Newcomer (Destiny Ekaragha), London International Film Festival
Official Selection: Toronto International Film Festival: Next Wave (2014)
Winner: Best New British Comedy, LOCO London Comedy Film Festival
Selected for: Birds’ Eye View Festival 2014; Belfast Takeover Festival 2014

Nominated: Independent Spirit Award (Destiny Ekaragha) &
Female Performance in Film (Shanika Warren-Markland);
Young Shooting Star (Adelayo Adedayo);

Favourite Male African & International Emerging Screen Talent:
(OC Ukeje), Screen Nation Awards 2014

GTF-1-Sheet

 

 

The origins of the project:
GTF_Destiny&Bola_Production

Gone Too Far! was first performed as a play at the Royal Court Theatre in 2007. It won the Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliated Theatre. Bola received an Evening Standard Award nomination for Most Promising Playwright in 2008.

Bola Agbaje (writer): “Gone Too Far! was the first play I’d ever written. I was on the Young Writers Programme at the Royal Court (which has also launched the careers of writers such as Polly Stenham and Lucy Prebble), which was a really inspiring experience and I owe them a great deal. The play did really well, and won an Olivier Award and raised some themes about racism within the Black community that hadn’t really been talked about in public before. It was based on my experiences growing up on an estate in Peckham, not causing trouble – just doing things the kids in Gone Too Far! do, and my moving between Nigeria and London when I was growing up –

feeling like you had a foot in both cultures, and not knowing who you really are.”

The play was first performed in 2007, and helped launch the careers of some of Britain’s now most high-profile Black actors, including Zawe Ashton, Ashley Chin, Bunmi Mojekwu, Tobi Bakare and Tunji Lucas. It caused headlines when Agbaje invited then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown to come and see the play if he really wanted to understand the problems that inner-city kids faced. He didn’t attend. But the potential to turn the play into a film was obvious from the beginning.

Christopher Granier-Deferre (producer): “I saw the play and immediately knew that it had the potential to be turned into a movie – it was so fresh, so moving, and so unusual that it just leapt off the stage. So I basically door-stepped Bola until she agreed to discuss making the film version with me. And it was good timing, because the play was getting a huge amount of attention.”

Bola Agbaje: “When it was running at the theatre, an exec from the then-UK Film Council came running up and asked whether I’d ever thought about turning it into a film. And coincidentally, I’d met Christopher the day before, and we started talking about how we’d do it. But it was a really long process – it took three years to get it from first draft to shooting the film”.

The development process:

Destiny Ekaragha (director): “I saw the play at the Royal Court, and really loved it. It was a really funny story that I had never seen told before, it felt like my story. It dealt with things that I had dealt with growing up in South East London – things that I had never seen talked about on screen.

I jumped at the chance to direct it. When I first met Bola, we clicked almost immediately. We became friends in a matter of seconds and a team in a matter of minutes.

“Our vision for Gone Too Far! was clear to us and Christopher, but to many others Gone Too Far! was so different from anything else that had gone before. Here was a film that had young black people in it without guns, drugs and knife crime. It was just a coming of age story sprinkled with comedy. Many didn’t get it, but the execs at the BFI Film Fund did instantly. I walked into their offices and was treated like a human being – not some alien that was trying to prove to them why.

Producer – Christopher Granier-Deferre

Christopher has over twenty years’ experience working in film and television. As an assistant director he has worked with, amongst others, George Lucas, James Ivory and The Hughes Brothers. Work as a production manager includes Syriana starring George Clooney and Matt Damon. Credits as a producer include the BIFA-nominated thriller The Hide and A Thousand Kisses Deep starring Jodie Whittaker and Dougray Scott. His latest feature, Gone Too Far!, premiered at the 57th BFI London Film Festival in October 2013, and saw director Destiny Ekaragha nominated for ‘best newcomer’. He has recently directed his first feature, Dirty

Weekend, a “deliciously dark black comedy”. He is currently head of Creative England’s low budget iFeatures initiative.

my people were important. One meeting later and my first feature was being made. I was in shock for days. We’d had three years of constant ‘no’s’ and here was a ‘yes’. In an hour it was decided that one of my dreams was going to come true. And it did.”

Bola Agbaje: “Initially, it was tough to turn the play into a film because I kept being told that I had to tell the story visually – and as it was my first screenplay, learning how to cut the dialogue back and put this back into the world that it was from. Onstage you can use your imagination about the world of the play – in film, you have to describe it. In terms of the essence of the play, nothing’s changed from what was performed. But there are lots of changes in the tone and the dialogue – it’s more of a straight comedy now. I took away issues of knife crime and gun crime that was in the

play. At the time (2007) it was necessary – people weren’t really talking about that on stage. But now it’s changed – I think we’ve come a long way in what we see on TV and the openness about those issues being discussed.”

The Casting Process:
GTF_Malachi-Kirby_starboy_s

Casting Malachi Kirby as Yemi

Destiny Ekaragha: “I first saw Malachi in BBC Drama My Murder and I thought he was incredible. I called him in to read for us just to see him perform. As he’d played mainly serious parts before, I was curious to see if he could cross over to comedy and he did, he blew us away. I loved working with him on set, he’s just a sweet, sweet soul and a phenomenal actor.”

Casting O.C. Ukeje as Ikudayisi

Destiny Ekaragha: “There’s nothing worse than non-African actors doing bad African accents. I can just tell from a mile off that they’re not African and it just takes me out of the scene. So with that in mind, we decided that Ikudayisi should be played by someone from Nigeria. Bola had actually met O.C. when he was in London for the Olympics performing as part of the Cultural Olympiad, and she sent me his showreel, which I loved, and we Skyped. I talked to him about the character and about how I wanted him to be a real person and not some caricature. I was worried that in the wrong hands Ikudayisi would just be a larger-than-life character and not human. O.C. and I were on the same page about that. He nailed his audition, he was perfect.”

Christopher Granier-Deferre: “O.C. is a huge star in Nigeria, and we were thrilled when he accepted the role. What he must have thought when he came over he came for 6 weeks, and we made him shoot in November in East and South London in terrible weather for very long hours! He is such a pro – hard working, eager and enthusiastic. And a brilliant actor. Hopefully this is the start of big things for him over here too – although the way his career is going, who needs ‘over here?’”

Casting Shanika Warren-Markland as Armani

Destiny Ekaragha: “Shanika had played Armani in a read through for us, when we were still developing the script and she was amazing, she had Armani down perfectly. I was a little worried about her look though. Shanika is a very elegant and classy young woman whereas Armani is this very young and boastful girl. So for the audition I asked her to dress as Armani. When I saw her across the street I just thought – ‘that’s her’. Htosiner hair was slicked back, she looked 17 or 18, and was almost unrecognisable. She was Armani. It was a wonderful experience to watch her work. She’s such a sweet and lovely person – the complete antithesis to Armani – so to watch her switch into the villain of the piece was mesmerizing.”

Casting Adelayo Adedayo as Paris

Destiny Ekaragha: “We shot a pilot for this film a few years ago – to test the tone, the mood, the characters and Adelayo was in that as Paris. Two years later the film was green lit and there was nobody else in my head for the role of Paris. It had to be Adelayo. She has this ability to make you feel whatever she’s feeling with just her eyes. She’s an extraordinary talent.”

Casting Tosin Cole as Razer

Destiny Ekaragha: “This was the hardest casting we did. We met so many great actors for the role – some really up and coming names – but because of what the character Razer does and says throughout the film, it was very important that the actor playing him was funny. If not it would’ve given the film a different tone, a darker tone and that’s not what we wanted. The moment Tosin came in and opened his mouth I was laughing. Even when, as the character, he was being serious I was still laughing, I couldn’t stop. We knew then that it was him, the role was his. On set

it was the same. He was constantly improvising, constantly coming up with ideas. He’s one of the funniest people I’ve worked with, and that really comes across in his delivery”.

Casting Miles McDonald as Ghost

Destiny Ekaragha: “We had to cast this role really, really quickly – literally we had 20 actors come in and one of them had to be right, because we were going to start shooting with him the next day. Everyone that came in was good but they weren’t right and towards the end of the day I was starting to get really worried. Then Miles came in. Miles is a pretty quiet, mild mannered guy so I wasn’t sure about what he was gonna do. His sight reading was great but I could feel that he had more to give so we did some improv. All of a sudden this vulnerability tinged with edginess came

through. He was able to be calm, funny and vulnerable all at the same time which I was blown away by. It was real, nothing about it felt fake and I think that’s what made him perfect for the role.”

The shoot:

The team shot for 5 weeks in Bethnal Green and the film’s spiritual home, Peckham. The shoot wasn’t plain sailing, of course – the budget was low, and shooting a film that had initially been based on the hottest day of the year, during October and November in London, was always going to present challenges.

Christopher Granier-Deferre: “The film’s based over the course of one day, all set outside, in one location. So there was some frantic looking at the weather forecasts every morning for continuity, but this is film making – you have to go with what you’re given. Some days we literally had to shoot what we had as there was no interior we could go to. It even snowed once when we were trying to do “summer” beauty shots of Peckham. Generally we lucked out. But as soon as we wrapped the film, it rained for a month non-stop. The gods wanted us to make the film!”

The crew shot for three weeks on the same estate in East London, and became semi-permanent fixtures in the area. When they moved to Peckham, it was key to getting some of the area’s most famous locations into the film, and involving the local community.

Bola Agbaje: “I grew up in Peckham, and while it’s really fashionable now, when the play came out Peckham was only really known for Only Fools And Horses and Desmonds. So it was really important for us to make sure that the area, which is really vibrant, and culturally rich, and colourful, was represented truthfully and positively on film. We were embraced by placed like Peckham Library, The Bussey Building, the local church and by the people who live there. I hope we can be a little part of putting the area on the map – it’s a great community and it’s given us a lot, and a side of London you don’t see very often on film”.

Destiny Ekaragha: “I loved shooting, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. It’s hard work. It’s not glamorous in any way shape or form. We shot the film in November so it was freezing and yet I still found a way to love it. I loved directing these actors and I loved coming up with the shots with the DP and the crew to realise the vision. It’s such a massive team effort that you don’t get to see.

30 or 40 people on set every day freezing cold and battling all sorts of obstacles to make this film work. They made the experience great– I should really give a shout out to them”.

Bola Agbaje: “With a play, the writer is key, being involved in rehearsals is where you discover things about the characters and the script. So part of me wanted to be on set to see it come alive.

Destiny Ekaragha: “It was great having Bola on set. Having the author on set means that if there’s a line of dialogue that the actors need some help with I could just get some advice on what she meant. And we’re really good friends, so it’s always nice to work with someone who gets where you’re coming from the whole time”.

Post Production and reception:

The team camped out at Met Film Post at Ealing Studios for 4 months, emerging in April 2013 with the finished film.

Christopher Granier-Deferre: “When we started watching cuts, we realised that there was a whole other layer underneath the comedy in the film. I was excited to see how much sentiment was wrapped up in the film – something that wasn’t as evident on the page – as we get towards the end it becomes surprisingly emotional. It really has a lot of heart, and bus load of charm.”

Destiny Ekaragha: “When we found out we’d been selected for the London Film Festival, Bola and I went a little crazy. It was the best news. My first ever short film premiered there, and the festival has been really supportive of my work since. It’s great to be having a West End premiere–it’s a very London movie, and it’s the right place for it to show. It’s a dream come true.”

Bola Agbaje: “Yes, we’re new to this industry, and yes, we haven’t made a film before. But we know what we want to watch, and I believe that we’ve created a product that – whatever happens to the film – we can be really proud of.”

Destiny Ekaragha: “There isn’t another film out there like this at the moment. And that doesn’t make it better or worse than any other, but it’s unique. And I’m really proud of that.”

Gone Too Far is in UK Cinemas From Friday 10th Oct