In a recent interview with Pulse Nigeria, Akin Omotoso spoke on his movie "Tell Me Sweet Something," what makes a movie great for him, importance of musical score, fairness of the film business, and more.
Omotoso was nominated alongside Sara Blecher (for “Ayanda”), Stephanie Linus (for “Dry”), Walter ‘Waltbanger’ Taylaur (for “Gbomo Gbomo Express”), Shirley Frimpong-Manso (for “Rebecca”) and Ishaya Bako (for “Road to Yesterday”).
In a recent interview with Pulse Nigeria, the multiple award winning filmmaker spoke on his movie "Tell Me Sweet Something," what makes a movie great for him, importance of musical score, fairness of the film business, and more.
Read interview, and watch trailer of the much talked about "Tell Me Something Sweet" below;
What inspired "Tell Me Something Sweet"?
"I always wanted to do a love story. I love love songs and I was very inspired by Theodore Witcher’s LOVE JONES. I saw it as a University student and always wanted to make a film like that. A feel good, affirming love story. Fast forward many years later, the idea for this story started in 2010.
We built the story from the ground up. We got a grant from The African Women’s Development Fund to develop the script and we held a series of workshops over two years with 10 actors. Then my co-producer and writing partner Robbie Thorpe and I went away and wrote the script from 2011 – 2013."
What were the challenges bringing this script to life?
"The main challenge was to ensure that all the elements of the romantic comedy remained intact. That we as a team delivered on what the audience expected. Hence the initial workshops and then before we started filming we held another rehearsal process for a month. This allowed the actors to bond and get into the skin of their characters. It also allowed us to play and find things so that by the time we got to the shoot everyone was ready."
How does this film distinguish itself from your other projects?
It is lighter than the other projects I have done. I wanted to make a film that would have people smiling throughout and coming out feeling warm and cuddly. As we used to say after watching the film we would want those that were in love to hold each other closer and those that had no love would be inspired to find.
How did you cast the lead characters?
They both came to audition and their chemistry was amazing so it was a no-brainer.
How has the response been so far?
The response has been amazing. Audiences went out in numbers to watch the film when it was released making it a box office smash. Some even going three, four times and tweeting about it. There was definitely an excitement in the air. And for a long time in South Africa, the dominant narrative has been about how audiences don’t support local films.
This film proved that theory wrong and because of "Tell Me Sweet Something's success the government called a historic meeting between exhibitors, distributors and filmmakers and initiated a much needed discussion to make sure that going forward local films are supported. The nominations are a welcome blessing. As a team we are just happy that people have and continue to embrace the film.
How easy was it raising funds for this film?
It’s never easy to raise funding and through the writing process we were constantly turned down because we were told no one will see the film and we didn’t have the numbers to back up the investment we required. We then got to a stage where one of the financiers had backed out so we needed to fill the gap. We had a crowd funding evening and invited about 70 people – and 10 people showed up.
But one man who was invited by chance ended up investing money into the movie. In the end about 30 people contributed to the crowd funding, filling the gap. The other funders were Mvest Media, The National Film And Video Foundation, The Department of Trade And Industry, Ladies And Gentlemen, Pana TV and The Gauteng Film Commission.
How important is the musical score composition in film?
The musical score and the tracks are key to romantic comedies. People remember the songs and we wanted to make sure that the soundtrack rocked. From the response and requests for the songs from the film we succeeded.
What do the projects you work on say about the world we live in?
We live in a diverse world and I want the stories I tell to reflect that diversity and that the full spectrum of African people is brought to the fore and reckoned with and celebrated.
Will you be doing any work in the Nigerian TV and film industry soon?
Watch this space. Something exciting is coming.
What makes a film great for you? Are there certain qualities that make a film better for you?
Truth. That’s all I really look for. Is the storyteller being truthful through the telling of the story.
What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?
There are too many to name but I will pick Julie Dash’s Daughters Of The Dust. I just loved the way she told the story linking African American experience and African experiences in a lyrical and non-linear way.
Is the film business fair? (In an open letter you wrote about how the film was being taken away from key viewing venues by exhibitors)
The issue with the film at the time was that in South Africa, as I mentioned earlier when we looking for funding we were constantly told there are no audiences for films like this and when we proved that wrong only to find the film being removed from a site that the man who worked for one of the exhibitors admitted in an email that the film was doing well but he was taking it off anyway.
That led to the letter and as I mentioned above the Minister intervened. I don’t know if the film business is fair or not but we were in a competitive place and we were doing business and we were removed – that’s makes no business sense.
Akin Omotoso is popular for "Jacobs Cross," "Tell Me Something Sweet," "Man on Ground," "Blood Diamond," "Lord of War" among others.
Watch trailer of "Tell me Something Sweet" below.