An Audience with “The Novelist”

With Nadia Denton, Director BFM Festival

I was most privileged to be invited to World Premier Screening of the “The Novelist” by Jason Young,  a British filmmaker and new kid on the block as far as black British filmmakers are concerned. This was Jason’s first ever feature-length film. A group of us gathered at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) to witness this debut public screening of Jason’s labour of love. This World Premier Screening was part of the 2009 Black Filmmakers (BFM) International Film Festival.

A few weeks before the debut public screening Alica Gbella one of the Festival organisers interviewed Jason.

Alice: ” Could you pitch your movie in a few sentences?”

Jason:  “Ideally I would have liked to have made a swashbuckler on Julius Soubise (18th century swordsman ): titled ‘The Swordsman of Trelawny’. As that was not going to happen I thought I may as will write about the journey of a novelist who writes about the same subject matter”.

Support from friends - invaluable at a momentous time like this...

The weeks turned to days then to hours and suddenly there we were at the ICA waiting for the show to begin. We gathered in the reception area waiting to enter the theatre where the screening of “The Novelist” was to take place. Amongst those who gathered there were the actors, actresses, and crew of the film. I was the ‘unofficial’ photographer so was trying to identify who was who and take their photos.

Top: JY & Simon Blight (composer of "The Novelist" score). Bottom: from l to r: Picture Editor - Alessandro Sfligiotti, Production Manager - Olivia Chisci, and Production Assistant - Francesca De Marche

It was almost 8.30pm when we were asked to enter the theatre. The seats were quickly taken and after the initial greetings and pleasantries with familiar faces and not so new ones, we all settled down for the screening. After a warm welcome and few remarks the screening began – yes, the World Premier Screening of “The Novelist”. My word, there was a hush as the bars of Simon’s beautiful opneing track came wafting through loud and clear. It was a electric. All eyes were on the screen firstly, because it was a film of a friend and secondly because it was a film by a black British filmmaker. The third was the theme of the film – an all too familiar story of the people struggling to make ends meet and have a life.

The cast: Top: Tracy Green and Wesley Theobald, Middle: with Wesley Theobald, Bottom: Claire Buckingham, Tracy Green and Darcy Ida

It could have been anywhere but this film had a British stamp on it – it was British and it was an all too familiar story found in many parts of Britain. I was held captive by the strong emotional undercurrents displayed in the film between the characters. Each to his/her own most of the time. I can see the differences between Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Britain of life in cities. In PNG we have the wantok system which involves extended family and family through marriage and other relationships. In Britain it is the individual by choice and by design sometimes. The other aspect of the film that haunted me was that all the characters were young people. So it would seem this is a film about young people and their struggles as independent human beings trying to make it in the big wild world around them.

“The Novelist” is a story of triumph over adversity and poverty of opportunity.

Embarking on this project sometimes had more anxious moments than exciting ones. Each obstacle overcome with a deep sense of commitment to succeed. Jason who was also the Director and Producer of the project played an amazing juggling game for a whole year from casting. When one aspect of the film seemed to be coming together there would be a significant hiccup that he had to straighten out. It seemed never-ending. But never one to give up he pushed on. Reward was sweet if not sweeter – a world premier screening of his first ever film. He has passed  the initiation ceremony but the litmus test is yet to come.

Triumph over adversity...monumental!

The anticipation and preparation for the world premier screening was one interesting, exciting and life changing journey. This filmmaker braved the odds to produce his very first ever feature-length movie. It all started over a year ago. The development of the script was at times daunting and there were moments too familiar with any author – the dreaded writers’ block. But these moments were few and far between and in some cases blessings in disguise – as these ‘blocks’ created some fascinating ‘aha moments’.

Light banter with some heavy social messages

The film took a year to reach this stage – a feature-length movie. Then came the momentous world premier screening at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in London.  By the way, the ICA is situated on the Mall – to the right is Whitehall and to the left is Buckingham Palace. Information on the ICA can be found on their website at: http://www.ica.org

After the completion of the script came the big task of advertising for actors and actresses and putting together a crew who believed in the project and believed in the filmmaker. Finding the locations etc etc – the journey was dotted with minor and major setbacks at times but small steps of progress nonetheless. It was, in my humble opinion, perseverence redefined! It was a steep learning curve in some places and a lot of strategic thinking and planning invested to reach completion.

From start to finish was four weeks – 3-week shoot and a 2-day re-shoot. Here is the link to the trailer.

http://www.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK//video/wab/vi3727753753/

In a previous post on this blog, I featured the Synopsis of “The Novelist” film. For more information and details of the film, visit at your leisure:

http://www.thenovelistfilm.com or http://thenovelistfilm.wordpress.com/

The ICA: About Finding The Hidden Gems

I took out a year’s membership with the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) today. I was a member before but it kinda lapsed. These things do happen. Then last night after the 11th Black Film Maker (BFM) International Film Festival world premier screening of Jason Young’s ‘The Novelist’ at the ICA, I decided to join up. So now I am a member of the ICA.

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)
ICA Membership application form

The ICA is described as, ‘… one of the world’s most innovative and influential cultural institutions, presenting a dynamic and daily programme of contemporary arts, ideas, film and culture.’. Established in London in the 1930s, ‘…it continues today as a committed proponent of now, a truly original centre for exploration of the new, dedicated to presenting work from emergent artists, film-makers and radical thinkers in bold and experimental frameworks.’

The screening of Jason Young’s debut feature film last night is testament to this commitment. It is so encouraging that an institution like this can publicise and promote new and innovative creative ideas through film and art etc. Visit their website at http://www.ica.org.uk for more information.

I look forward to making maximum use of my membership with ICA this time around. A great place to stop by for something new, exciting and educational. Here’s to a great year with ICA.