Please introduce yourself …
Jason Osborne, Director of Love Languages, and Precious Mahaga, Producer of Love Languages.
Why Love Languages?
JO: Initially I was intrigued about the notion of Love Language and the 5 ways people like to receive love. I was intrigued by Black men speaking about their love languages and love in general and the idea of setting it in a barbershop as somewhere they feel comfortable. Love in general and not just limited to romantic love. There are very rare instances on our screens where Black men are portrayed with nuance. In documentaries, black men are normally portrayed in relation to crime, race, sports music. I wanted to show black men speaking of something universal and not just rooted in their trauma. Stories everyone can relate to that are not just about race or colour.
Tell us about your team …
JO: I had a wishlist on the crew, Precious was right at the top of that list, so having her on board was a real joy and pleasure. Olan Collardy, the cinematographer was someone we really wanted to work with given the idea that we wanted the film to be really stylised, we felt his style and approach would be perfect for this.
PM: Olan was someone I wanted to work with for a while, we have tried over the years and he had gained in popularity and success in his career so we were really lucky to get the time with him where he was available
JO: Mdhamiri Á Nkemi the editor was another, Precious was very lucky to work with him on a short film and is one of my favourites. He has worked on Blue Story and The Last Tree. One of the biggest challenges on this project we had was 15hrs of footage so creating a coherent story was a challenge, especially in this very stylised view. It is really noticeable in the film how he can weave through the various stories, whilst it is short you feel like you’re getting a full story.
JO: Paix Robinson (production designer) was amazing, we really wanted to get the sense of a Barbershop. Barbershops can feel quite functional and he was able to create the character so it didn’t feel sterile. His ability to come into the space and make additions and changes really helped immediately.
PM: Shola (casting producer) was absolutely amazing, she took on the role and understood the assignment from the beginning, she made it so easy as she understood the type of contributor we wanted to work with or who we felt was missing from the list, she just kept delivering.
JO: I had an imaginary list of guys and their experiences and somehow she was able to provide that. The doc lives and dies by the strength of the contributors.
What’s the Love Languages story for you?
JO: I think it is about being brave. Both creatively and personally. I don’t think you can truly explore creative expression unless you’re brave, that applies to all areas of life, romantically, professionally, creatively, being able to have the courage to push through your fear and your own limitations, amazing things are to be found on the other side of fear.
PM: The main thing that really attracted me to Love Languages is something that I think about when I’m watching films or documentaries, seeing a different side, learning about a person, or a different experience. The story for me, is about compassion, giving time to people, and really learning about where they are coming from. Especially in a time when we seem so politically polarised, we don’t appreciate that regardless of the disagreements we can still have conversations with people to understand where they are coming from. Love Languages is so short but it opens up a conversation, hopefully, next time you walk past a barbershop you understand it a little more. Professionally it is the type of work I want to be doing, things that make you look at other people and how you connect with them.
Tell us a memorable moment from idea to final edit?
JO: I have many moments related to each of the individual interviews with the guys. When I spoke with them they were really open about sharing their stories. My biggest fear was whether they would feel comfortable doing that on a fully crewed set. With each of them, I could see them relaxing more and more, some more than even they thought they would. That moment for me was when I thought “this is great, this is what I hoped for”.
PM: There are quite a few to choose from. Outside of the shoot, it would be when we went to Netflix to do the pitch. Coming in and presenting an idea, receiving the deluge of questions from the judges who challenged our idea, I never felt more confident in our idea than after we walked out of that room because we were put through our paces and had to truly think about what we were making and why. It felt like we worked really hard, regardless of whether we got the fund, it made it apparent to us that we had to make this film. Thankfully we were able to make it.
Share a skill-defining moment making Love Languages?
JO: It was learning when to shut up and be quiet. Especially working on a doc like this, not feeling the need to always fill the empty spaces, allowing the contributors to have their share. Equally, on the flip side, learning when to push more and not being afraid to do so, even when it was difficult. I don’t know if you ever do strike that balance but always striving for that whilst keeping that sense of safety for the contributor.
PM: From a production standpoint, we worked with a line producer from Netflix and we had to figure out how to do things in the industry way, some I was familiar with, some I wasn’t. I needed to learn on the job, it was so brilliant being able to ask the Netflix line producer. I am taking away so much knowledge that will stay with me.
Being a recipient of the 2021 Netflix Documentary Talent Fund means …?
JO: It means that we get an opportunity to share important stories, the stories of a community that often isn’t represented. Filmmaking is a really powerful tool, we get to shape people’s perspectives through imagery, words, music, and sounds and responsibility comes with that. So receiving the fund means we get to show those stories to a wider audience which I am truly grateful for.
PM: Netflix is a massive platform, whenever anyone gives you budget to make something it means they are telling you they see the value in what you are doing. To have such a large platform liking what you’re doing, it not having to fit in a box, it means support; backing; elevation, it’s crucial.
PM: We have spoken about ideas we want to explore moving forward, either together or separately, we are quite aligned with the types of stories we want to tell. It’s about development. Being able to bring on the amazing team we did for Love Languages encourages you to see who you can work with in the future, how you can move ideas forward. For me there is newfound confidence; tapping into that and doing the work. More films. Definitely!
JO: Totally agreed, going through this process, makes you look for more. Finding stories that I’m passionate about but thought were never possible, working with like-minded contributors and collaborators, going through it makes you want more.