I’ve always been the loudest voice whenever a British movie comes out depicting guns, drugs and violence. I’m over the genre, I’ve been over it. Especially as we have had a couple of decades of this content and very little balance.
So I watched The Intent not expecting anything of quality or substance, by the end of the film (and just before my Interview with Nicky) I was on the fence. The film has elements of everything I hate but there are several positive messages and there is definitely no glamourising of street culture.
Speaking to Nicky was refreshing, I got to hear his passion, future plans and exactly why I should be more open to receiving films of this nature.
What was the purpose of making The Intent?
The title sums up the narratives in the film. While watching you think you know what each character’s intentions are but by the end the truth will be revealed. I make all different types of films. My last movie ‘It’s A Lot’ was a comedy but also touched on the effects of Leukaemia in the African-Caribbean community, we teamed up with the ACLT to highlight the cause. It had no profanity, portrayed black people in a positive light, and considering it covered such a deep issue it really didn’t get any support at all, it went over everyone’s heads, no one really noticed. People like to see action and crime. Top Boy was a success and I grew up on Boyz in The Hood and Menace II Society, both classic films; I felt that the UK could do with a film like that and maybe that’s what I needed to do to be noticed as a filmmaker.
Casting rappers as actors. Was that to enhance the promo or are they adequately skilled?
They have a core fanbase who follow them everywhere. With us making an independent film and not having major backing, we didn’t have the budget to get the film out everywhere. The artists featured in the film can tap into their network who are also our audience, The Intent has gained a great following by having those people in the cast and their performances in the film were amazing.
The stereotype which labels all black men as thugs stems from media misrepresentation, aren’t you just adding to this?
I know everyone is looking at the trailer thinking it’s another stereotypical black film but when they watch it they’ll see things like Christianity, a black police officer which is very topical especially with what’s happening around the world now and the view we have of officers, especially black police who are viewed as sellouts by the community. I tackle all those issues in the film. When people see young black people or any ethnic minority making films like this it’s seen as stereotypical, but no one says anything about The Krays or idolising Scarface. It’s ok to see James Bond running through stations with guns and blowing up places and no one looks at that as a threat.
As soon as we see a black man in a film with a gun the assumption is criminality, without even watching it. Because society is not able to separate reality from entertainment. The Intent is a fictional film, it does touch on some situations that happen in reality but it is made with the purpose of entertaining an audience and should be taken with a pinch of salt. When we watch James Bond we don’t leave the cinema thinking we’re 007 and we’re going to jump from cars to boats shooting people. Whenever our community is put in the limelight we always have to deal with being labelled, we have to move away from that. It’s a shame that we didn’t receive all this attention for our community when we made It’s A lot. No one mentioned that we highlighted a good cause…
As our conversation continues Nicky explains that he knew he would get more press for this type of film and is actually using this as a catalysed to shine a light on the films he will make in the future. When I think of UK black actors and filmmakers who have gone onto superstardom I can’t help but notice that most became well known for urban crime films. Definitely makes you think about the difficulty making a name for yourself in the industry and also makes you realise that filmmakers like Nicky and Femi deserve a lot more respect.
Femi Oyeniran’s character Mitch chooses religion over road life, was this a real life portrayal?
Yes, I come from a Christian family and Femi himself has Christian values. For those who have fantasies about robbing a bank or selling drugs I wanted to show that there are consequences; you will end up dead or in jail. There is glory, money and fast cars but it’s a short lifespan. Many people involved in that life think they can’t turn away from it, but you can find religion and other things, there is nothing wrong with saying you’re a Christian or religious. Whatever is going to keep you out of trouble, go with it, and for Mitch it was God. I didn’t feel that any films made had showed that, or they don’t show that enough.
Dwayne/Hoodz (Tayo Jarrett aka Scorcher) giving back to kids in the community was that his conscience kicking in or ego?
It was him trying to find a positive out of a negative situation because he came from the same place as them. A lot of youth involved in criminality don’t want to be there, sometimes it’s out of desperation. He wanted to give back like Robin Hood. He didn’t want a repeat of the first crime they’d committed so you see him robbing other criminals and giving back to his community and his family. He is also seeking validation from his mother who lets him know that it was all worthless to her. That frustrated Hoodz, the one person whose approval he really wanted, he couldn’t get it, because it wasn’t legit. We’re trying to show the young audience that it’s not what you have, it’s how you get it. If you steal to obtain your riches it is in no way worth more than the person who has worked hard to get the same thing. We really tried to emphasise that point with his family. He was giving them money and they didn’t want it because it came from a dark place so they couldn’t be proud to receive it.
Lee/Gunz (Dylan Duffus) forgot about his job for a while, what happened?
Gunz got caught up in the lifestyle. He could see that these guys were not really bad guys, they just got deep into a situation they couldn’t get out of. It became so easy for them, Hoodz especially; he has an addictive personality and he became addicted to crime because he was getting away with it. Gunz was trying to give them a get out card and persuade them not to do the last robbery to save them, but Hoodz was willing to do it with or without him. I think that’s when Gunz woke up and realised only his job could save his friends lives, that decision was made out of love. In the end you see how he grew up with a different view of guns and why he knew he would end up using one in his life.
The film was made in 2013/14 why did it take so long to come out?
We’ve been exploring different options for distribution, we had a few deals on the table but we deserved a lot more than they were offering. We ended up raising the funds for distribution ourselves. To put out a film at this level normally takes a team of 80 people but it has just been Femi and I handling marketing, TV Ads, online promo etc. We have been living and breathing The Intent for the last two years, trying to find ways to raise money to get it out. For distribution we’re working with Movie Partnership, an online platform who get films onto iTunes and help structure deals with companies like Netflix. They have to watch your film and believe it has an audience and luckily they loved The Intent.
How did you end up working so closely with Femi?
We were introduced by a mutual friends in 2006. We discussed making films back then. At first I wanted to make a Grime film and I sent Femi a script which he liked, I also sent him It’s A Lot. We lost contact, then he found me on Facebook whilst shooting Anuvahood, he was interested in developing Its A Lot and during the making of that we became close friends. He has a company called Purple Geko we all work really closely with each other making movies and documentaries and dramas. Femi and I get on really well; we argue sometimes but the combination works well, we compliment each other in different ways. Femi is very much the business side, making sure the paperwork is right, he has a Law background and understands the acting world whereas I am stronger in the music world and with marketing and promotions.
Brotherhood by Noel Clarke will soon be released, have you had any comparisons?
I have a lot of respect for Noel Clarke, but he is in different situation because he has a picture deal with Lionsgate so his idea has power behind it, we have to find the money to power our idea. A lot of people have been comparing Brotherhood and The Intent and for me it’s exciting to be put in the same bracket as a franchise that has been around for so many years. People know we’re here, on the map, no matter what The Intent does we have a platform now.
When will it be time to move away from ‘road’ films?
It’s supply and demand. We have screenings selling out, already, Brixton & Hackney sold out and got put onto bigger screens. Films don’t normally sell out weeks before release unless it’s Star Wars. Idris Elba is making an urban crime film called ‘Yardie’ based on the book which will do well and there will be more in that genre. I was going to make a film about slavery but I stopped myself, why do I have to make a movie like that to be noticed? Why do movies like 12 Years A Slave win Oscars? Why does it have to be films seeing black people in deprived situations, repeating the history of us suffering we need to embrace new films of us doing great things.
What’s next for you as a filmmaker?
We have a lot of other genres in in mind. A film for black women like Sex and the City and we’ve just finished the script for a children’s film. I have a daughter who is featured as Mitch’s daughter in The Intent, and Femi has kids, we want them to go to the cinema and see themselves. We need a film in that genre coming out of the UK. For me as a filmmaker I would like to merge a UK & US cast or possibly make some films in the Caribbean. My overall aim is to be the go to for Black entertainment in the UK. We don’t have a BET or Revolt TV here, I want to compete with ITV or BBC and show people we can be as good as everyone else.
One thing that’s sad about making so-called black films is when you go to a distributor they are very passionate that black people do not go to the cinema and black people don’t buy movies, they don’t believe we have a market. I want to change that, as a community and as a society we have to support and have to make top quality our standard. We can’t be making one film every 3 years we should be going to the cinema every month and find films for us. I look at Black British film like the Grime scene, it took Skepta, 10 years to get people outside of the hood to notice or to get Kanye West and Pharrell to champion the cause. I’m not saying I’m going to change the world or the face of TV by myself but I can slowly make an impact.
The Intent – Produced by Nicky Slimting and Purple Geko Films follows Gunz as he’s thrust into a world of excitement when he joins the TIC crew. The crew, led by the ruthless Hoodz, goes from low-level weed peddling to full on armed robberies within a fortnight. Their newfound infamy affords them a life of guns, drugs and girls but they also catch the attention of the police and a rival gang. To make matters worse they have been infiltrated by an undercover police officer, but does he have “The Intent” to remain a criminal or abide by his oath to the force…?
The Intent will open in cinemas across the UK from 29th July 2016. Go to www.ourscreen.com/film/the-intent to secure your ticket NOW!