Science fiction is one of the most successful genres of all-time, Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien anyone? However, with all of its box office success and worldwide fandom, there has been a telling lack of Black representation.
Eric Kole’s upcoming short-film The First Time I Never Met You is seeking to change this. The film stars Isaura Barbé-Brown (Fantastic Beast: Crimes of Grindelwald) alongside Eric Kole and tells a refreshingly unique time-travelling love story with two Black leads at its centre.
We spoke to Kole about his ongoing Crowdfunding campaign to secure funding for the project; the importance of mastering all aspects of film making; and how he hopes that The First Time I Never Met You will inspire more Black involvement in science fiction.
Please introduce yourself?
My name is Eric Kole, of Malawian heritage, and I am an Actor, Writer and Director.
Please share a word or sentence which best describes your life right now…
I don’t want to be the one who regrets not doing the things I could have done.
The concept of the film is so refreshing that it is no surprise that your crowdfunding has received a lot of support from fans and fellow filmmakers. What led you to go down this route to secure funding?
My producer (Reine Issa) and I applied to various funding bodies but it didn’t end up going our way, despite getting close a few times. So we turned to crowdfund as a last resort.
You mentioned in the crowdfunding video for The First Time I Never Met You that the romantic relationship in the film resembles one that you experienced in real life. Has making this film been a therapeutic process?
Most of the therapeutic process happened before I started writing the script. But once I’d made it to the other side of accepting the end of that relationship, my hindsight had a 20/20 vision when looking at the emotional pitfalls I was stuck in, which provided plenty of inspiration for the script.
Your previous films, Hold, Fifty Pence, and Not Far From The Tree also explore versions of romance, as does your upcoming project. However, this is your first film with a strong sci-fi element. Have you always wanted to venture into this genre and if so, why has it taken you a while to get around to it?
I love sci-fi and what you can do and say with it. With my first couple of short films, I was probably intimidated by the scope that sci-fi can have, and with good cause. There was still so much about the craft that I didn’t understand, and although I know more today than I did then, there is still so much more to learn. When it came to my 3rd film Hold, I started to experiment with how far I can delve into universal themes within the context of sci-fi, by setting the drama in a post-apocalyptic world. Even though Hold remains a drama at its core, the context and setting definitely allowed me to push the boundaries of the tension, the conflict and, by extension, the story. The First Time I Never Met You is even more embedded in the sci-fi genre than Hold was, which allows me to explore those boundaries even further.
Black filmmakers and on-screen talent have thrived in all genres of film, but sci-fi seems to be the exception. Do you believe that there is a reason for the lack of representation in this space?
There is probably a multitude of different reasons intertwined with each other behind that lack of representation in that genre, but it is slowly changing, and I hope my work helps with that change, even if only a little.
What was it like working alongside the amazing Isaura Barbé-Brown?
I’m very excited and looked forward to working with Isaura on this, I met her on the very first acting job I worked on. It was a short called Mosa (dir. Ana Moreno), that went on to screen at so many film festivals. And she was absolutely brilliant in it. And she’s been at it ever since, honing her craft and her talent, which is so invaluable to a filmmaker. It lets me know that my characters are in good hands.
Your career spans across all areas of film is there a particular area that gives you the most fulfilment or do they all fulfil your creativity in different ways?
They definitely fulfil me in different ways, but I think the common thread that ties them all together is my fascination with the power of storytelling. I am amazed at the notion that a human being can plan and construct a story that will elicit an emotional reaction when most of us don’t even fully comprehend our own emotions. Storytelling is like a magic trick, and I am obsessed with learning every aspect of this trick that amazes me every single time – from the story structure, the filmic language, and portrayal of real emotions, I’m in awe of it all.
Alongside your film career, you also run a YouTube channel where you provide useful tips to upcoming filmmakers. How important do you believe mentorship has been to your own development?
Mentorship is definitely something I have sought out, and really appreciate it when I do receive it. But it’s not something I have access to as often as I would like, which is partly why I started the Film Talk series on my social media channels. I wanted to learn more and to learn better, then I remembered a saying I heard when I was younger that went along the lines of “if you can’t explain it simply, then you don’t understand it well enough” (I think it was an Einstein quote) – Film Talk is my attempt at improving my craft by explaining filmmaking and storytelling concepts as simply as I can, in order to understand them better for myself.
Do you hope that The First Time I Never Met You will be a catalyst for more sci-fi films with Black leads?
If it could lead to more sci-fi with black leads that would be a huge achievement. And with it being a film that explores grief, which is something that no one is immune to, I also hope it helps with the perception of black leads in films about universal themes.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU
- A book you have to have in your collection? Actions: The Actor’s Thesaurus Paperback by Marina Caldarone and Maggie Lloyd-Williams
- A song/album that defines the soundtrack of your life to date? Time – Musiq Soulchild
- A film / TV show that you can watch/have watched repeatedly? Lessons from the Screenplay – Youtube
- The first stage production you saw and what it meant to you? The first play was probably The Imaginary Invalid by Molière – I remember being fascinated by the words I had previously seen on a page, coming to life and almost gaining a new meaning with each of the performers’ intonations and movements.
- What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week? I spoke to my mum – that made me glad!
To find out more about Eric’s crowdfunding campaign please follow the link