TBB Talks: Director Sam Addo lays his cards on the table

Director Sam Addo realised his destiny as a filmmaker from the age of 17.

With experience working for the BBC as a promo director, Addo went on to create No Bling! TV a youth-focused show dedicated to showcasing UK Talent. He then went on to become Head of Production at Channel U (Channel AKA); simultaneously founding Shaddow Group mixed media company.

After 14 years of making music videos, ad campaigns and general TV and online content, Addo has made his first feature film, ‘Cards on the Table’. TBB Talks found out more …

Introduce yourself

Sam Addo. Ghanaian. I am an East London boy, raised in Mile End and currently reside in Limehouse. I love bringing people together I am a filmmaker and a creative youth worker.

Tell us what Cards on the Table is about …

Cards on the Table is a British drama which looks at four life-long male friends and their ups and downs. One of the guys, Steve, is on the verge of losing his family. Tashan the youngest of the bunch has some decisions to make. Q has something to get off his chest and Frankie, the leader of the pack is holding on to some secrets. Our film touches themes such as love loss failures and victories in life.

Why this story, what inspired the narrative?

After years of seeing our American cousins give us Boyz N the Hood, Bad Boys, Juice, Do the Right Thing, Set it Off, etc myself and my allies longed for a wide range of narratives right here in the UK. We wanted something showing young black men in a different light to that which we are often seen.

Recently there seems to be an outpouring of creative content dedicated to giving men, especially black men the space to vocalise their turmoil and emotions… what’s happening why are men feeling the need to speak up?

The voice we often hear is that of the downtrodden, the guy trapped in the hood and only has a desire to get out of the block.

The press release mentions that specifically, Cards on the Table breaks away from the stereotypical crime and violence narrative which tends to dominate black content. People who make that kind of content argue that though it may seem problematic, there’s a huge audience for it, and generally, regardless of race people do like gangster films and narratives… Why are black people so sensitive to how we are portrayed on screen? – Why is it important for you to tell a story outside of the expected / stereotypical narrative?

There is more to us than just gangs and Hip Hop etc. People do want to see more stories than the ones we are told/shown over and over.

You were also conscious of casting diversely not just regarding race but ability too… how difficult was it to work on an independent project yet still find the time and means to cast and crew with diversity in mind?

Not difficult at all. I knew what I wanted and I went out and got it.

Tell us about your process in getting this film made and what are your plans for its release?

Wrote the story in 2010. The screenplay was done in 2016. Tweaked the script in May 2017. Open auditions in August 2017. Selected cast in September. Shot the film the last seven days of October 2017. Took a year and a half to edit the movie, what a journey. The film will be available to stream on the film’s website for 100 days. After that, I will be securing licensing deals.

What about your own journey, you’ve been in the game for a while, why has it taken you so long to do a feature or do you feel now is the time that you have it all together and are just ready?

At the age of 17, I knew films, TV and content creation was my thing. I messed around with music videos and got a thirst for it. I pushed for it and got my break as a promo director for the BBC. After two years at BBC, I left and created youth entertainment show No Bling Tv. After that, I was headhunted as a production manager at Channel U. It was these times when I dabbled in film, eventually gaining the confidence to produce for others, and then for myself. Although I look 19 (cough), I am in my mid 40’s and it has taken me this long to embark on my first feature simply due to lack of funding and having the right kind of people around me. Not everyone has the best interests for you. I had to cut my teeth on various short films before it was time for me to step up and create my own feature.

If you had an unlimited budget what story would you like to make?

I am developing a film which could be a 10 part series, it’s a period piece of sorts. Basically, a man travels to the UK in the late ’60s to study in the ’70s he sends for his wife and starts a family. By the 80s they own a home, by the 90s and 2000s the man has three grown boys and we see how they have ended up in 2020. In part, the film/series is from the viewpoint of the 3 sons as they grow up in racist NF London through to today’s social media world. How did the boys see their father deal with racists? How did their dad support each son, did he know how? was he good to their mum? Ultimately what are the teachings of a father to African children born here? The film/series working title is Daddy I

What’s next for you?

I really want to make crazy wild spoofs so many things are in development. I have a 6 part series ready to go called Life Like. It’s a drama series where all the leads are creative’s from the disabled community but we never ever talk about the disability. I have two sitcoms and three features; things are ready to go, I’m just seeking the right home for them. One thing is for sure I am all about ownership and I plan to own my content.

Cards on the Table is out now and available to stream exclusively for 100 days via www.cottfilm.com.


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