Actor/Director Jordan Pitt and Writer Nii Odartei Evans have a long and successful work history.
Coffee is the latest instalment from the pair and after putting the film on hold during the pandemic it has finally been released.
Jordan Pitt is an all-round creative, he writes, directs, produces and acts with a number of film credits both as actor and producer. Nii Odartei Evans, alumni of the world-famous Identity School of Acting. Their latest project Coffee is an award-winning film about the distinctively quirky but invaluable wisdom a Jamaican grandmother (played by Blanche Williams, one half of the infectious Lilt ladies) imparts with her granddaughter after a traumatic break-up.
Coffee was created by One Umbrella Productions along with award-winning Director of photography Lee Daley and Geoffery Williams.
We spoke to Jordan and Nii about the film, the importance of short film storytelling and plans to break into feature films in the future…
Jordan & Nii – Please introduce yourselves and tell us what you do.
Nii: My name is Nii Odartei Evans- I’m a proud British Ghanaian Filmmaker and Voiceover Artist!
Jordan: My name is Jordan Pitt – I am a British actor/director and filmmaker… basically an all-around creative.
Both: Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now.
Nii: My life right now is full of both gratitude and frustration.
Jordan: Beautifully hectic
Nii: Can you tell us what Coffee is about and who, if anyone, the story is for?
I think Coffee is a universal story for everybody. I’m sure we have all felt at times that things seem to be falling apart and we question if we have the mental resolve to carry on. Coffee is a reminder that how you chose to react to these situations is exactly that – a choice.
Jordan: Since we last spoke, you have been busy on a number of projects. Can you tell us what you’ve been up to and how you’ve kept yourself booked and busy?
Since Coffee, I directed and starred in Hi John, which has recently started its festival run, (picking up an award – Best Action short at the Reale Film Festival). I teamed up with US writer, Tiara Luten and actually co-produced it with Nii, alongside the same team of producers that worked on Coffee and What Would You Do?
I’ve also just launched The Retro Lounge Show, which people can subscribe to on YouTube. It’s a web chat show set against the backdrop of 90’s retro gaming. We launched back in June this year.
I’ve really kept busy by planning and producing my own work. So now there are multiple projects in the works: two films and a documentary and projects on the festival circuit.
Nii: As a writer, I expect that it is very important when choosing who you allow to tell your story. What made you trust Jordan to direct and did you ever have any reservations about how he chose to share your story on screen?
Jordan and I have known each other for a while and had been speaking about possible projects to collaborate on, so in that sense, it was always going to be him. We definitely had some disagreements along the way, but ultimately, I yielded to his vision and haven’t regretted it.
Both: When we last spoke to Jordan he mentioned that Coffee had won Best International Short at the Wadidli Short Film Festival in Antigua. But soon after that the pandemic hit and the World halted, how does it feel to finally be getting the film released?
Jordan: In a word, relief. Ultimately, we create so that we can share our work with an audience, so being able to screen Coffee now and other projects is hugely satisfying. To have shelved the film for such a long time and get such a great reception is an unbelievable feeling. Then to top it off with winning the Fan Favourite award at the American Black Film Festival is pretty sensational.
Nii: It’s bittersweet. I think because the film has been completed for a while, the release probably hasn’t had the impact if COVID never happened. Other projects have started since, so in a way, it had been put to the back of my mind. But the response to the film has been amazing, and really put me in a place of gratitude.
Nii: Coffee also just had a run at the prestigious American Black Film Festival. How was that experience for you as a writer?
Honestly, this was one of the things on my vision board. It’s just sad that we actually couldn’t physically be there!!
Both: Are there any plans to turn this into a feature? – If so how do you plan to expand this world and the story to suit a cinema.
Jordan: No current plans. It’s never been a discussion we have had actually. I think we’ve always been on the same page that Coffee is a standalone story. But who knows, Nii may get some further inspiration down the line!
Nii: I don’t have any plans to turn this story into a feature, I very much think this film says all it needs to say in its duration…..Although that said…..I do sometimes think about exploring the backstory between mine and Adele’s characters!
Jordan: What is it about the short film format that you enjoy and what is the importance of short film storytelling?
Short films are challenging, as you don’t have the space to say as much as you would with a full-length film. But, overcoming that challenge is what draws me in. You are forced to focus on the story more intensely and not waste a second. So you hone in on the truth or core of the story and what resonates with an audience in a compact and impactful way.
I also think shorts are important for the culture; filmmakers can really find their voice. And because it is so accessible and you are able to just experiment with not much risk. It’s a great way to develop your skills, build your team and keep engaged with what you love to do.
Jordan: BBC’s Casualty actress Adele James stars with Blanche Williams, her ever wise grandmother. How did you go about casting the actresses and what was it about them that made them perfect for telling this story?
I had worked with Adele before. Once on a film which we both acted in and then on my previous film What Would You Do?. We have great mutual respect for each other and this creates a strong working relationship. Nii and I thought she’d be a perfect fit, having worked with her prior and knowing how hardworking and committed she is.
When Nii initially approached me with the script, he was unsure who to cast for the role of the grandmother. It was difficult to find someone in that age bracket with an authentic Jamaican accent. As soon as I read the script, I said “I know the perfect person!”. I had worked with Blanche many years ago in a play where she played my grandmother also. I was blown away by her performance and always wanted to work with her again, so I saw this as the perfect opportunity… I just knew she’d be perfect.
Nii: You are male and of Ghanian descent, how were you able to authentically tell the story of how a Jamaican grandmother imparts wisdom onto her granddaughter? Why not tell the story from a male perspective (which I believe we need more of on these subject matters).
I was working on another script and became conscious of whether my “female” voice was authentic and not cliche. Then during some good old internet procrastination, I came across this story and immediately knew that I wanted to re-imagine this from a black female perspective. With regards to telling the story from a male perspective – I’m currently working on another script which is a two-hander between a father and son, so hopefully, that helps to re-address the balance!
Jordan: Pulling this project together, you worked with award-winning Director of Photography Lee Daley and Geoffery Williams. How did you decide on working with them and what was the process?
Geoffrey is co-founder of One Umbrella Productions, so that was a given. Lee and I have worked together for many years – in addition to being DOP, he is one of the producers on the film too. We are working on The Retro Lounge Show together also and the upcoming films/documentaries.
With regards to the process, I pulled these guys together alongside my other producers (Yousaf Sharif, Christopher Jenner Cole, Kwame Mante and associate producer Kashif Boothe) as we’d all been having separate conversations about being active and creating… so we got to work first on What Would You Do? and then on to Coffee and Hi John.
Both: What’s next for you? And are you planning on working together again in the future?
Nii: I’m working on developing a new talk show about first moments, as well as more writing. Jordan and I have had a feature idea for a couple of years and I think the timing is right to get the wheels in motion.
Jordan: This was most definitely the end of the road for us, I’m never working with him again haha… No, I’m joking… Yes, we have been in talks about some of the other projects and also the potential of a feature… So watch this space!
GETTING TO KNOW YOU…
A book you have to have in your collection?
Nii: The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Jordan:Humility – Andrew Murray
A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date?
Nii: Teyanna Taylor ft Lauryn Hill – We Got Love
Jordan: The Blueprint – Jay Z
A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly?
Nii: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels!
Jordan: The Sopranos
The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you (play, dance or concert)?
Nii: The first I think was Kwame Kwei-Armahs Elmains Kitchen. Seeing all those actors on stage, speaking words of a black playwright, I knew it was possible.
However – the performance that stood out the most, for how impactful it was with just one actor and no props. Nadine Marshall in Debbie Tucker Greens – Random, a close second is The Brothers Size by Terrel Alvin-McCraney.
I realise I’ve mentioned three, but you activated memories of all these great plays!
Jordan: Oliver! at the London Palladium. I was in it but got to watch it on one of my nights off. This was the first production I had seen of this magnitude and I was blown away.
What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week?
Nii: Sad- The stabbing of a 12-year-old girl in Liverpool. Mad- The ongoing pandemic situation. Glad- Celebrating my Aunties 70th Birthday
Jordan: Sad- Migrant Crisis. Mad- The cold weather and the potential of another lockdown. Glad- that Coffee won ‘Fan Favourite’ at ABFF and it’s finally released to the world
Coffee was released on November 29th 2020 watch here.