Interview – Femi Oyeniran

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Femi Oyeniran

After interviewing Femi Oyeniran, it felt like I was being ‘Parky’ and he was the down to earth guest as he spoke to me with kindness, confidence and coolness. ‘The Intent’ is an action thriller that he has written, directed, produced and stars in. Although I didn’t pat his knee like ‘Parky’ does with his guests, it was a pleasure to get many answers out of him as he truly delivers a passion for film, the people he’s worked with and the new project that he has brought to the screen.

Femi, thank you so much for talking to me. Some questions will be from your past films and most will be for your new project ‘The Intent.’

Q.In ‘Kidulthood’ there is a classic scene where you react badly to eating onions. Do you really hate onions on your burger as your hatred and reaction to onions was so real or was that great acting?
It was amazing acting. What can I say? The truth is, I don’t even eat burgers. I’m a pescetarian, onions aren’t that bad really.

Q.If there are any traits that Menhaj Huda, Noel Clarke or Adam Deacon have in terms of direction, is there anything that you observed or learnt from them in order to direct ‘The Intent.’
Not really. It’s my second film, ‘It’s a lot,’ a comedy is my first film I directed. I had an amazing co-director, Kalvadour Peterson for ‘The Intent.’ Although I speak to Menhaj Huda regularly, he did not influence me in terms of his style of direction. My films are more raw and I didn’t take their style. I’m more influenced by Spike Lee and Steven Soderbergh, but I have the upmost respect for (Hoods) Menhaj Huda.

Q.Would you work with any of the aforementioned names again if the right project came up or is it best to move on with your own projects without the original crew you worked with?
I’d work with Menhaj again at a drop of a hat. I’ve got a great friendship with him and talk to him regularly. I’d work with Adam Deacon again if the right project came up. I’ve maintained my friendship with him since ‘Kidulthood.’ I haven’t spoken to Noel Clarke for a while but if it happens, why not?

Q.When actors work closely together, it is known when the gig is over you lose touch. Aml Ameen, the lead in ‘Kidulthood’ has had great success with ‘Sense 8’ by the Wachowski’s and ‘The Maze Runner.’ Is it true if you break into Hollywood, you lose touch with the original crew you worked with or is there still communication?
No absolutely not. I saw Aml about two weeks ago. He messages me nearly every day and he came to see me in a play I was in. Whenever he’s in the country, we try to hook up. It’s great to maintain friendships and keep in touch with past colleagues even if they have broken into Hollywood.

Q.In your new film, ‘The Intent,’ your character Mitch is a criminal but wants to move away from that life as he has found God. Do you believe in the term once a criminal, always a criminal and even if you have found God, it’s too late that you must pay the price?
I believe you must pay the price. I also believe that God forgives as I’m a Christian, but if you commit a crime, you must pay the price regardless of having God on your side.

Q.Gang culture is a harsh reality of South London. The film presents a rise and then a fall. Have you ever known any gangs that maintain an all time rise or will karma get them in the end?
This film is fictional. I don’t associate with gangs and never have, so in all honesty I wouldn’t know if they have maintained their rise or not.

Q.Was everyone professional on set and if there wasn’t, as a director how do you reprimand or negotiate with that actor to get their take right?
I’m glad to say that everyone was committed to the project and there were no problems. I think communication is key and to respect everyone as an individual. This will form a successful film if these qualities are intact.

Q.Although the budget is confidential, how hard is it to raise money to make a film? Did you approach the contacts of past colleagues or how did you raise funding for your film?
In all honesty, we raised the money from private investors. They were people who we knew. That can be a beneficial advantage with whom you know, and that they have the money, but they believed in our project and that’s what counts. With my previous film, that was funded by a studio, so we had more money, but our private investors is what made ‘The Intent’ possible.

Q.There are elements of ‘Point Break,’ ‘Dead Presidents’ and ‘Kidulthood’ in ‘The Intent,’ do you take your influences from film and make it your own like most directors do?
Absolutely! Using your influences is what makes a film come to life. However, my film influences were from a film called ‘Belly’ starring DMX, ‘In too Deep,’ starring LL Cool J, ‘Paid in Full’ starring Mekhi Phifer and ‘Juice’ starring Tu Pac Shakur. All these films have something in common. They star rappers acting in proper film. We wanted to make ‘The Intent’ look like a Hip Hop video. We wanted rappers or UK’s leading grime artists acting with actors, hence the influences speaks for itself and makes ‘The Intent’ the powerful film that it is.

Q.Is the British Urban genre still powerful as ever or do you think one day this genre will fade out?
I don’t think the term ‘British Urban’ can be labelled as a genre. I see ‘The Intent’ as an action/thriller. If you call ‘The Intent’ ‘Urban,’ it’s putting it in a niche. ‘Kidulthood’ is a Drama; ‘Anavahood’ is a comedy. Just because it has black people in it shouldn’t mean that we should a labelled genre called ‘Urban’ in the title.

Femi, thank you so much for your answers. It has been a pleasure to interview you and good luck with the film. I have no doubt it will reach the audiences that you desire.

You can read Aly’s review for The Intent at this link.

Interview by Aly Lalji

THE INTENT is in cinemas, digital and DVD from 29th July
Twitter: @theintentmovie | Instagram: @theintent |Facebook: THE INTENT