TBB Talks … Purple Beatz With Lola Atkins

Purple Beatz is a coming-of-age, music-driven, romantic drama, set in the underground drum ‘n’ bass music scene of 90’s London.

Written and directed by London-born Writer/Director Lola Atkins Purple Beatz is her directorial debut feature.

Early in her career, Atkins launched her own production house, Ewav Works. She also executive produced several productions including the psycho-thriller Stalker, the animation Being Red, thriller Bind Us Together and the documentary Citizens Today. She also directed the award-winning short Hush, The Likelihood and Beats.

We spoke to Atkins about the film, its themes and what audiences can expect …

Please introduce yourself …

Director/Writer – born and raised in Hackney London of Nigerian heritage.

Describe your life right now in a word or one sentence …

Whirlwind.

Tell us about your latest project Purple Beatz

A coming-of-age, music-driven, romantic drama set in the underground drum n bass scene of 90’s London. Purple Beatz tells the story of Sarah Jane, a singer-songwriter who moves to London to make it in the music industry and meets Russell-D, a music exec, and is led down a path that is difficult to return from. Only with the love and support of friends and family can she find the courage to break ties and distance herself from Russell-D.

What’s your role in it?

Director/Writer.

How did Purple Beatz come about?

I shot the short film and proof of concept for Purple Beatz in Jan/Feb 2020. I initially intended to use the vehicle to boost my profile and sharpen my craft and skillset in directing and writing. However, COVID’s entrance radically changed that plan, so I returned to the drawing board and decided to stretch the story and take it on a different path. Once completed, I reached out to friends and opened my piggy bank to see if I could gather funds to shoot it. I intentionally wrote the script, bearing in mind that the budget would be minimal, so locations, cast, and equipment could be impacted. So, I avoided drafting scenes where quality and authenticity may have to be compromised due to cost.

Purple Beatz is set in the underground drum ‘n’ bass music scene of 90’s London; why this story and how long has it taken to bring it to life?

My love for music is profound, and my love for drum n bass is superior. After deciding to make a feature, [I thought] the best way for me to achieve this was to add more musical flavour and set it when the genre was born, in the 1990s. It was relatively a quick turnaround, the script was drafted and completed within four-six months and then pre-production commenced shortly after.

What is behind the meaning of the film’s title Purple Beatz?

Purple often represents royalty, ambition, creativity, and a sense of mystical purpose. We don’t know how we would get to our destination, but we would get there. In the movie, Sarah Jane left the comfort and familiarity of her home to explore one of the biggest cities in the world. She wasn’t sure how she was going to reach her destination while in the big city, but she did understand her purpose in creating musical beats and her ambition was going to help her do that.

The casting of the film is quite diverse and portrays the interracial relationship of a Black man and an Asian woman (not the usual Black and White relationships we are used to seeing) was this a conscious decision?

This was a creative decision; I specifically was looking for a lead actress who could sing and hold a note well but could also perform really well. Izzy met my criteria list.

When on set – who are the people who are most important to you in getting your job done?

Director of Photography.

Tell us about a memorable moment on or off set?

We were shooting a rave scene, in the script the venue is called THE END, and in the movie, this is the last scene. When we had our opening, the DJ doing his set the crowd were so energetic, and electric and the vibe was just surreal. Then when Izzy came on to perform the song, the crowd, was wild, while I was watching through the monitor, I had goosebumps. It was so magical, the lightning on her looked beautiful and it was shot so delicately.

Highs, lows, solutions?

When the rough-cut sequence was put together, I knew we had achieved something great and that Purple Beatz was a success, and distributors would come along. To say the production of Purple Beatz was a smooth sailing ship would be a fabrication.

So, what were the lessons learned? Before you make a musical-driven movie, reach out to the publishers/estates of the tracks you plan to use first. Ideally, before principal photography. I learnt that music in film could get messy and expensive if you shoot without getting the green light and clearance from the publishers/estates first.

  • When shooting on a micro-budget, ensure you are transparent with your crew. Lack of transparency causes friction and a potential diversion from the creative process, which can impact the final product. Make sure you surround yourself with people who wholeheartedly believe in your project, from pre-production to shoot to post to distribution. Make sure you have team members who are the best at their craft and be open when ideas are shared.
  • Listen to your gut. If you have to do a reshoot, do it. On the day of the wrap, I was adamant that I would not do any reshoots. However, during the post, I realised we needed some fillers, so I had to create new scenes to give a character a bit more depth.
  • Finally, ignore the naysayers.

The film was produced through your production house, EWAV WORKS, which you stated is a production art house that focuses on love, life, and social impact stories. What was the motivation behind starting the company and with that particular ethos?

I’m consciously driven to create magically positive and enlightening stories. That’s my life mantra, so it was natural for me to decide that whatever content I put out it fits into this narrative.

What’s your current plan B?

I’ll pick myself up and try again.

Both: What’s made you Sad, Mad, Glad this week

Nothing has made me sad or mad this week, glad that Purple Beatz is streaming globally across all VODs and the positive feedback had been great.

What are you watching right now?

Strictly Come Dancing!

What are you reading right now?

Right now, I’m writing my new TV series, so I’ve sadly had no time to read.

What are you listening to right now?

I’m listening to Cece Winans.

The last thing you saw on stage?

Get Up, Stand Up: The Bob Marley Musical

What’s on your bucket list?

To get all the scripts I develop onto screen and TV.

Celebrate someone else …

Celebrating all the hustlers and underdogs out there who refused to give up on their dreams.

Celebrate yourself …

Proud that I found my passion again and got my feature out into the world.

Where can we watch Purple Beatz?

Purple Beatz can be found on Prime Video, Apple TV, Sky Store, VUDU, Google Play, and Microsoft Store.


Read our TBB Talks with star of the film Izzy Jones here.

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