Juliet Asante is a brilliant lady who has done so many productions but when she finally decided to produce her maiden movie, it didn’t disappoint. Her new movie titled: ‘SILVER RAIN’ was recently premiered in Accra, Ghana, and the praises it is getting is awesome. It brings back the personal experience of Juliet’s Kayayoe girl about 10years ago. The strength and pride she exhibited was unimaginable under the conditions she lived under. She was 17-years then. Though Juliet lost touch with the girl, but her unimaginable strength has seen what will be arguably one of Africa’s best movies in 2015. Ytainment.com caught up with the head of Eagle Production, to throw more light on what she meant by, “…why it will take her company a while to recover from the expenses”.
Thank you for making time out to talk with us, first of all, let us congratulate you and your team for putting up such a wonderful premiere for your new movie-SILVER RAIN. How much of hard work went into that premiere night?
Work on this project has been hard and long. We believe in an integrated process and that publicity even before you take the camera on set. Silver Rain therefore made it a point to reach out to audiences right from August when pre-production started and they in turn, have rewarded us well. Off course, this meant constant engagement and work, but we are happy with the results. It was a-two days continues premiere, which is very rare, but both days were packed and people sat on the floor! For us, Silver Rain is its own reward. We therefore kept the event very simple and connected to the audience. It worked well. We are all really really tired, but very happy!
This year alone, so many movies have been premiered and some have had backlashes, some have been praised and good enough your movie has received accolades, does this mean that you gave you all and what would you have done had the night not gone as you wised?
Silver Rain has gotten very good reviews, but we are not at all surprised. It is a well thought out story. Silver Rain got special acknowledgement from the head of Sundance film festival (Michelle Satter), which is one of the largest film festivals in the world! The ability of Silver Rain to connect to both the poor and rich, carry such a serious message and still be so entertaining and funny, the witty dialogue, great cast and the rich African connection of the story, made it a sure winner. It was showed to 3 different audiences before the main premiere and each time, the response was over whelming! We believe that hard work pays, planning pays, good work and talent pays and that is what is clear in Silver Rain.
Your team did a great job, what has kept that bond with you guys, because we saw that synergy work through out
First of all, for a team to work, everyone must believe in what they are doing and feel connected to the process. We must also be willing to listen to each other. For the team on Silver rain, it was never about money or fame, it has always been about pride and telling our story like no one else can. Communication was key! It has been a very long and difficult road and many have felt weak along the path, but the team as a whole carried the load. What you see is the result of 100% input from everyone. Even those with the very little roles to play as crew and cast, put in 100%! It was just a beautiful thing to watch and experience. I personally as the Writer and Director of Silver Rain feel very humbled. This shows that we can do it as Africans. We did this under very challenging conditions environmentally and financially, but it looks like a million dollars!
To the movie proper, what brewed the concept of you creating a ‘voice’ for the Kayayoes?
I personally met a Kayayoe girl about 10years ago and she just blew my mind! The strength and pride she exhibited was unimaginable under the conditions she lived under. I spent about two weeks with her and traveled with her to the northern part of the country. A town called ‘Walewale’ and met her family. Her dad had about 4 wives and forty kids and she had left home around the age of 12. When I met her, she was 17. The story doesn’t end well as she refused my help to my chagrined. She later gets raped and gets pregnant as well. I lost touch with her thereafter, but her spirit stayed with me and I just became very obsessed with her strength. During my own many difficult times, I would think of her. These are people of live literarily next door! People like her and her kind are in every African community. The gaps between rich and poor in Africa is unbelievable; but most importantly, the aspirations that keep Africans going, despite the many challenges. This is what inspired me to write the story. I believe strongly that Africans have beautiful stories that we need to tell and this is the key to engaging the world.
Most film makers sometimes do their movies based on real life stories which they may have found themselves in, did any scene in the movie really talk about you Juliet?
We are always reflected in the work we do. My life has been very rich with experiences and many of them have been very defining. One day, I will tell my personal story too. I believe that my life, as well as my observation of others, all impacted on the story. As a writer, my backburner is a massive storage. I have a photographic mind that captures the essence of my experiences and observations and it serves me well. What is important is my ability to go into an experience and capture the core drivers. That is what I use in my stories. As a woman who has come a very long way, yes, Silver Rain speaks to my aspirations and struggles as well, just as many Africans!
Since making this movie, how far have you seen some kind of change in the environment that spurred you to do this?
One of the key things I hope Silver Rain will do is to both create awareness and start a conversation. Realization is a key to action and I think Silver Rain is already doing that. You should see and hear the reactions in the room when people watch it. My thinking is that people will be talking about this for a long time and many people will be driven to do something. It is already happening. You should see the mails we get. We also think that the movie will impact the industry positively. Many colleagues have called me and congratulated the effort. Some made it a point to come watch it. All good. As a film maker, I believe that film is a very powerful tool to impact society. It has been used for centuries to both record, change history and to direct present and future realities. As African film makers, we don’t have the luxury to do film for just entertainment. We have a responsibility to be mindful of the impact of our work.
The message is solid, the cast and crew gave their hearts out doing this movie, as a new producer in terms of movie making, this is your maiden project in movies, tell us what and what really went in financially in bringing this out
Lord, Silver Rain is probably the one most expensive project I have done individually! It will take my company and myself a while to recover, but I believe in living our passions and doing what we believe in. That is what life is about. I feel the rewards 10-fold already. I am grateful to the cast and crew who worked mainly on credit and have been very patient with the process. For a global film, this is a low budget film, but for an African film, this is unbelievable massive budget. We casted from 5 African countries and shot in two! Many times I had to go to friends to help along the way and I was amazed at the help that came my way. As the executive producer, it was my responsibility to find the money and this sometimes interfered with my creativity, but I sailed through. I believe that Africans will support the work and we will be rewarded in time for putting our souls into this.
From Joselyn Dumas to Eyinna to Offie Kudjo to the South African actor to everyone, they all gave their best, how well did you ginger them to put up such splendid prowess?
First of all, I was lucky to be both the writer and Director. I probably therefore had an insight into the story better than most Directors would if they were doing someone else’s story. I also believe that a Director should know what they want. That gives a lot of confidence to the team. My past life as an actress is also very helpful. My team teased me many times that I took them to school! I gave them books to read, and remained a close partner in every scene. I see things in pictures and I was very confident of my cast. My self, the casting director, Selima Awudu and the Producer, Yemohley Yemoah worked very closely to get the perfect cast and it paid off. Casting from all those African countries was tough as it took us way beyond our comfort zones, but it worked out perfectly. We also did some rehearsals before the actual production started. For instance, we brought real ‘Kayayoes’ into our space to interact and teach our cast how to behave like them. It paid off I think.
In the past few years, Ghana has been providing great movie makers who are women, you have come to join the lots as a woman, do you want to concur that the time for women has come in this industry?
Women form over 50% of the population. Africa cannot afford to leave its women behind. It needs the collective effort of its entire people to bridge the massive gaps we have. The time for Women has always been and if women are doing well, I hope it makes the case for empowering women to be 100% contributors to the continent as well! I believe it is the time for everybody and at the end of the day, whether you are a man or woman, what will define you is your work. We need to rise above mediocrity and our propensity to lower the bar for ourselves. We need to challenge ourselves a bit because we have what it takes!
Talking about financing, some countries get their government to fund, they get corporate bodies to fund their movies, and did you get anyone to assist you on SILVER RAIN productions?
Countries and governments have to come around to understanding the impact of this industry on many levels. It is a great source of employment for one. In the 6 months we worked on Silver Rain, we employed over 100 people in both Ghana and South Africa alone! They are also parts of the industry that required low skill sets. On a continent that has over 60% youth unemployment rates across board and gaps in education all around, this is a very low hanging fruit!
When done right, it can create a good opportunity for investments and FDI. South Africa is ahead in this game. When you shoot in South Africa, using South Africans, at a certain level of investment, you get over 50% back from the government! Cape Town for instance is selling itself as the movie location for Hollywood and other big budget films. The rest of Africa is very slow to the table. Even Nigeria that has Nollywood as one of the largest contributors to GDP. As an Executive producer, getting the funds to move the project forward was a nightmare. At the end of the day, friends who believed in me came through. Not even my bank that my company had been with for almost two decades and as soon as we started to move forward, the tax people descended on us. Off course, we became easy targets. Not that I have anything against the tax man, I am just intrigued by what drives our institutions and thinking as a people and our priorities! This could easily become a missed opportunity and I hope that people who understand these things will step forward
In terms of promotion after the premiere, how do you intend to push this movie, looking at the brilliance of it?
Thank you for calling Silver rain ‘brilliant!’ Acknowledgement from people like you go a long way to pushing others to watch it. We believe that this is one of those movies that will be around for a long long time. Our next stop is Nigeria. We are happy to say that we got the interest of a major film house and we are finalizing the details to begin our push in Nigeria. My thinking is that Enyinna Nwigwe and Uru Eke will blow the minds of Nigerians and that they will also appreciate the talent of Joselyn Dumas, Chumani Pan, etc. Social media has been strong in our drive and we will continue to use it.
What would you say to the President of Ghana if you had the opportunity to have a chat with him on issues around your industry; how would you present your inner most pain on movie making in Ghana?
I believe that the President and people around him may genuinely think that there are more pressing issues to deal with and very limited resources to do so. The industry may therefore fall at the bottom of the food chain. However it is exactly when you are in that situation that you should be concerned about imaging for one, and finding opportunities that can leap frog investments as well as create opportunities for employment. There is however so much noise that that the jewel of this industry is lost. The industry is a self-starter and does well to sustain itself. What is needs is good guiding policies and framework. Like the example of South Africa! Kwame Nkrumah understood this and built the Ghana film industry with labs too to ensure that the industry thrives. We also have one of the best film schools on the continent. It is a shame to see it all regress right before our eyes and we are now reduced to a nation that lives on Latin American soaps that have to be translated. When we have young talented people in our country hungry for jobs! What more can I say?
One of your casts, Joselyn was nominated in the last AMVCAs, she and other Ghanaians who were nominated didn’t pick up any awards. Speaking with some industry enthusiasts and fans, they have said that these nominees didn’t get maximum support from Ghanaians, do you share same thoughts?
Talent and value always come through and they are not always followed by song and dance. Awards are good. They motivate and perhaps when they are not given, may create the aspiration to work harder to get them. Joselyn is a brilliant actress and I am happy that Silver Rain has given her the opportunity to show her range and commitment to her craft. Let’s see what next year brings.
What do Ghanaian movie makers have to do to put up great and challenging movies that will make continental headlines and go on to win awards?
Sometimes I wish the world would stop for us and wait for us to catch up; and it always does! In my dreams off course. The first step to being at the table in to meet the quality levels of that table. We need to understand that quality packaging is key! Even before content. Content off course comes second. On Silver Rain, we shot on a RED camera, one of the best cameras even in Hollywood. The question therefore of quality is not a question that Silver Rain faces. Viewers can therefore focus on the content of the story and on whether they like it or not! Let’s take away the distraction of bad packaging and then focus on OUR stories. We have beautiful stories that I screaming to be told. I believe in that and Silver Rain proves it!
What do you think fans and movie lovers have to do to support their own people?
Movie lovers should go out and watch movies and they should not buy pirated stuff. What you do always comes back to bite or kiss your behind! It is as simple as that. If you love movies, if you love your country, if you love you, don’t kill YOU!
So when next should Ghanaians be expecting your next movie?
I am already writing my next piece…
Thank you for your time and we hope to talk with you soon.
You are welcome.