This lovely lady I am pictured with is Ashley Ellis a USA based Filmmaker. We met last year at the ever amazing Cannes Film Festival, first attendance for the both of us. To give a brief background as to how I came to sit at her hotel room at the 15 On Orange Hotel in Cape Town goes like this; Ashley contacted me soon after meeting at Cannes to be a part of the Social awareness team for the film herself and Odera Ozoka are Producing and Directing called A Forgotten Place, I wrote a feature about them click A Forgotten Place. We have since kept in contact and I get updated at each stage of the production. I saw Odera at last year’s Durban Film Festival and now I get to see Ashley again who is the sweetest.
Our short and quick catch up on her visit to South Africa and what is in store for A Forgotten Place is below.
Nthabiseng Mosieane: So tell me what’s up, jump in anywhere.
Ashley Ellis: So Odera is in Nigeria having meetings. We have quite a lot going on; our hiring of a Nigerian producer and soon we hope to announce our South African producer as well. In terms of casting we are working with a law firm in Los Angeles that also has a section in the company that work with the Executive Producing side. We are also working with a small company in the United Kingdom we met them at Cannes run by Natalie Gavin-Downs and Ed Dede. They will be doing the regional casting targeting the UK as well as looking into Europe to look for great talent particularly in the UK you know, there is a huge Nigerian and African population in general and they have some amazing talent when it comes to acting so we are going to do regional casting there.
NM: These are amazing collaborations, are there any others?
AE: Yes there is also Afro Bougee whom we are fostering a relationship with. They have a web magazine that create campaigns from the ground up and tell amazing African stories through amazing visual content as well some articles and they do features of artists. So we ae teaming up with them for some marketing campaigns which we are excited to launch soon.
NM: What about your Actors?
AE: Oh yes, we are bringing on another company called MK Casting which did the African casting for Beasts Of No Nation. They’re based in Accra, Ghana. They were really instrumental in finding Abraham Attah who now is a well-known name and face but the process was to find an unknown boy for the character and that is Important for us too and we are not trying to take from that process in any way but it is important for us to find an Emeka organically. So it will be a discovery for the world.
NM: Are you particular that the young boy playing Emeka be Nigerian?
AE: Ideally yes however what we really want to do is have an entirely Pan-African cast even though we are telling a Nigerian story as you know we are taking this creative license, in doing so we are making another Important statement about the world that we live in today and the needs of bringing people of across Africa and the Diaspora together, it’s really an ensemble piece of so many characters so we think it’s an opportunity to cast people from every region. The Emeka character however is the staple of the story so having a Nigerian character would be good but we are not closing off other regions coming forward. Another challenge of our’s is the baby character, so we will see whether we will decide to make the character a little older around two or three even though they do not speak, it would also be an opportunity for another discovery but the final decision lies with the director. We also will start approaching actors we want to be involved in the film, as soon as we have signed papers and confirm everything you will be the first to know.
NM: So where in the world will the film be shot, Important area’s for the both of you?
AE: The plan is to shoot 50% the film in Nigeria and the other in and around Southern Africa. We have embarked on early Pre-production, we have hired our Production Designer, Costume Designer and Director Of Photography. When I was in Botswana a couple of days ago I met with a local there an amazing landscape photographer, his name is Kabelo Kgafela whom I was talking to when I was doing my documentary project so I asked him if he would be interested in location scouting for us because he often helps with shoots particularly in the Okavango Delta as a fixer and does his own photography. I had an idea to create something beautiful from the location scouting itself so I thought it would be cool particularly with the approach we want to take to the locations in showcasing some of the diversity and stunning things that are not captured onscreen. So I wanted to take the approach of the scout to be photo documented, telling that journey, showing rewards for going into those Incredible spots. So I sat down with him and we made a road map of Southern Africa and hopefully he will be going within the next month or so. So we will be looking within the country a lot in KZN, Eastern Cape, some spots in Limpopo, Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique which is really exciting.
NM: While you are here what are you planning to do?
AE: I can’t reveal much but we are making a lot of progress, things are lining up and we will be able to press go pretty soon. We are cementing Pre-production logistics now and timelines for things. Shoot will be dependent on cast availability but we have things we have to realistically start figuring out; sound stages for instance and we are looking in Cape Town somewhere. We are also looking at film grant opportunities with the South African government and Film commissions. There is no formal co-production between South African and Nigeria, that is something we really want to be vocal about with this project as well, that there should be one. The plan is to go to Durban to the KZN Film commission to solidify some paper work and also figure out some plan of support we can receive for the location scouting of those areas.
NM: I remember you spoke about A forgotten Place communities, has there been any progress with that?
AE: So as you know we want to identify at least five locations that are built sets that will be A Forgotten Place community, that is something we pitched to the KZN Film Commission in Cannes and they were actually open to it so now we have to locate perfect places to shoot and also approach local communities let them know we would like to build creative sets with material that won’t fade, turn it into a lasting community space after we are done shooting. So we need to find communities that would be interested in that idea.
Our partner in Uganda has an organization called Eco Art Uganda by Ruganzu Bruno. He is a traditional painter and Insulation artist. He received an Award from TED for his work. So what we want to do is create our sets from recycled or no longer of use materials and have him almost art direct that aspect of it for these five Forgotten Places that people can visit.
NM: So timelines for pre and post Principal Photography?
AE: Right so, we are dependent on weather because we can’t build sets during rainy seasons. We want the whole team to come together in Africa for formal Pre-Production. That’s really important for Odera, he wants to have an organic process of creativity and collaboration where we are starting to line things up but there is nothing like sitting in one space together and being able to brain storm, problem solve and create together so that’s really what he wants and also give each of the department heads time to explore on the ground. So at least a couple of months living and working together and we have scheduled a forty day shoot, post at least a good half of the year.