Two De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) graduates are hoping to change the narrative of stories told about ethnic minority groups, through the powerful medium of film.
Economics graduate Benjamin Opoku (Producer) and Creative Writing and Film Studies graduate BeBe Solabi (Co-Creator) are part of a group working on a film called Penny Up.
The film is a coming-of-age comedy based in South East London that follows a group of high-achieving students who decide to leave their mark on their secondary school by executing a heist on the last day of year 11.
It explores the ups and downs of brotherhood, parenthood, community, relationships, culture and much more.
Bebe said: “Viewers should expect to be taken on a wild familiar ride.”
The group believe the film challenges inaccurate themes that are often perpetuated in the stories told about ethnic minority communities in films.
Tomi ‘MRMTMMG’ Okeowo (Director and Co-Creator) and Fola Abatan (Director of Photography) are taking power into their own hands by raising money through a Kickstarter campaign and telling the story themselves.
Tomi explained: “I think our project is important because the way people have told stories about where we're from, what we've experienced and what we’ve gone through has always seemed one-dimensional to me.”
Fola added: “In the past, stories from our demographic have been marginalised. The stories that do make it to production tend to portray us in one light and we hope to break that trend with this film.
“We have many layers and facets. Penny Up is the perfect opportunity to showcase that with authentic, compelling characters coupled with a feel-good story to boot.”
Since launching their Kickstarter page, the team have raised more than £3,000 of their £13,000 goal, and donations are open until 23 February 2022 to help them deliver their ambitious project.
Benjamin, who is also an Assistant Producer at global advertising agency BBH in London, said: “Access is a huge barricade for members of our ethnic background and once this obstacle is overcome, we have the possibility to scale up the project to the industry standard.
“Technical execution is key to the creative and for us to get the best visual out of the script, so our Kickstarter will enable us to invest in creative specialists, high quality camera equipment and great locations.”
Bebe credits her DMU degree in Creative Writing and Film Studies for giving her the skills to tackle this film, and encourages others to explore their ideas too.
“Developing a simple idea into something layered and tangible isn’t easy, it takes a lot of creativity but with that being said, it’s easy to get lost in your imagination,” she said.
“What I learnt on my degree helped me to categorise my thoughts and get rid of unhelpful distractions that add no value to the desired outcome. It’s taught me what’s needed and what can be put to the side or brought forward later.
“To students who want to become writers, my advice is to always note down any significant ideas that come in when they come in.”
Tolu Sarah Martins (Writer and Co-Creator) concluded: “I encourage everyone to read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and read a lot of scripts. Study film and theatre and see how your favourite productions are written. Take in a range of art - go to museums, concerts, musicals and stage plays, and don’t forget to network.”
Posted on Monday 21st February 2022