(from l-r: Kamara Bacchus, Aml Ameen, Sheila Nortley, Najan Ward)
For many people, British urban cinema came into its’ own with the premiere of ‘Adulthood’ on June the 20th 2009. 2 years on, the genre has now spawned its’ first spoof with the cheekily titled Anuvahood. It was at the Adulthood premiere when BUFF first caught up with messyrs Aml Ameen & Kamara Bacchus. It wasn’t your standard red carpet interview. Such is the beauty of the English language that a word can mean so many things to so many people – let’s just say the word BUFF was used in a completely different context!!!
The next crossing of paths occurred just a few weeks ago. Its’ the launch of Ameen Dream Entertainment at BAFTA headquarters, Piccadilly London. Once again, BUFF was armed ready with its’ questions for messyrs Bacchus, Ameen, Nortley (Sheila Nortley) & Ward (Najan Ward) – otherwise known as the powerhouses behind this newest of film franchises. And having watched the 3 debut shorts on the night along with the film & TV actress (and newest member of the BUFF board – Anjela Lauren Smith) the temptation was there to ask a question about buffness given that all 3 films had something of the buffness about it. But no – this was a different atmosphere. In an audience littered with members of Aml’s acting school, fellow actors, actresses & peers, fans, observers, film directors & journalists – this was another watershed moment in British urban cinema – and naturally BUFF was there to see it happen. And to think that 24 hours previously, BUFF was in the very same building attending a Q&A which was headlined ‘Making a drama out of diversity’ – highlighting the supposed paucity in creative talent from the minority ethnic communities. Anyway, we’re delighted that for this month’s BUFF blog, Kamara has taken the time out to put together in her own words how Ameen Dream Entertainment has gotten to this point…
The Idea behind AmeenDream Entertainment had been a long-standing idea and dream of Aml’s for a while. It wasn’t really until ‘The Pick Up’ came about, that everything really started to fall into place. THE PICK UP was initially a script presented to Aml by a student of his drama school ASA (soon to be AmeenDream Entertainment). It was this script by Najan Ward (who went onto produce it) that really put the wheels in motion; it was exciting and vibrant – just the right tone of film that was needed to be our first project. And so Aml and Najan had many meetings regarding how it would work. I eventually came onboard one evening when we had the initial script breakdown at a restaurant called ‘Los Toreros’, and it was literally the 3 of us sitting in this Spanish restaurant secluded from the busy streets of London planning and plotting how we could make this film amazing and inclusive of all the best ideas we had. It was important to Najan that the film was supported by an upbeat club soundtrack – an element that was new to both Aml and myself.
Najan really educated us with this as he had successfully owned both a record shop and a record label (‘Lost my dog’). It was understandably important for Najan as a writer to keep this interest running throughout the film and marry his two worlds (music and acting) together. Neither Najan, myself or Sheila (Nortley) had been given roles at AmeenDream at this stage – we were all just kind of hoping for the best… Flash-forward a year or so and after many rewrites and Aml’s’ input and development of the story, the script was ready:
THE PICK UP Synopsis
THE PICK UP follows two 20 something socialites Jay (Najan Ward) and Adrian (Aml Ameen) on their quest to win the attention and possible one night-stand bed posts of feisty university club queens Roxanne (Elizabeth Kostantino) and Hannah (Amy Connery). The adventure turns sour when the boys’ squeaky- clean mate David (Sam Underwood) sticks his nose in. With fast-paced club action and slick dialogue set to the backdrop of popular House music, THE PICK UP is set to capture the magic of nightlife in London – the greatest city in the world.
Everything was a bit of a blur from this point on, there were many casting sessions, I think they saw in excess of 100 actresses for the roles of Roxanne and Hannah – it was crazy!! It was literally a case of divine intervention during the later stages as everything kind of fell into place by accident. Elizabeth Konstantino was a favourite for Roxanne from pretty early on; Amy Connery was a wild card that came in right at the end shortly before filming – their chemistry just lifted everything off the page. The same can be said with Sam Underwood – he rose to the challenge and was an actor that Aml had spotted in another short previously. Sam subsequently would sign up to play David – with ease and style as it turned out – and just like Aml thought he would. Looking back, the cast of THE PICK UP was very impressive and diverse, and gave AmeenDream a group of actors and perhaps more importantly, access to a group of willing and lovely human beings who we would continue to work with throughout the next three projects. One of these amazing human beings as it were, was Sheila Nortley – an award winning short film producer (‘The Hydra’ – BUFF 2008) who humbly came on board as an assistant. I guess I worked with Sheila the most on THE PICK UP as we both were running around trying to keep everything in place. We had in excess of 250 supporting artists who all came down for nothing, just to be there… amazing (There are so many people that need thanking on this journey). Ok, so after the successful shoot on THE PICK UP, the team was pretty much established: Aml – at the head of AmeenDream; Najan as his resident producer plus Sheila and I who would go on to claim roles as co-producers, working closely with Najan.
With THE PICK UP in the edit we were all still reeling (literally) from the experience so we decided to strike again… this time it would by my script – SPECIAL DELIVERY – in the spotlight. SPECIAL DELIVERY was a film I wrote about a postwoman, which surprisingly was a very organic story for me. I just wanted something beautiful with a romantic element to it – that I would be able to star in also…
SPECIAL DELIVERY Synopsis
SPECIAL DELIVERY is the story of a postwoman (Kamara Bacchus) who is bored of her life, and trapped in a mundane routine in which she wants out. When the possibility of a new route arises, this changes her path, and she finds herself led on a journey of adventure and an unusual love affair. This short film, written by and starring Kamara Bacchus (‘Dr Who’, ‘The Bill’), and directed by Geoff Searle (‘Madness in the first degree’), is a truthful insight into the sometimes monotony of life and how one moment or decision can change everything.SPECIAL DELIVERY was the only one out of the 3 films we would go onto make, that was written with the director in mind. I wrote the film all the time thinking that it HAD to be directed by Geoff Searle (‘Madness in the first degree’). He is just a genius and I knew that in order to get all of the shots I had written (and specifically envisioned) – we had to use Geoff. I mean there was a shot in particular where the camera goes through the letterbox and, continuously, into the film – with no cut – and Geoff just said ‘Yeah I can do that’ and there was no problem. So I sent him the script, he was excited and confident about the writing, and so I got more excited. Najan and Sheila organised everything in a day. Aml took on the other acting role and there we were on the set of our second film – SPECIAL DELIVERY.
With the confidence of two shorts under our belt, Aml had this idea that whilst he was in America that we had to make another one… This would turn out to be the most ambitious of all the projects. ‘Drink Drugs and KFC’ was initially a feature film script that Aml had written a few years back. This script was now to be adapted into a short with Aml ready to direct on his return from America – over Christmas! There were so many challenges involved in scheduling a film over the Christmas break but it all worked out – and more than perfectly.
DRINK, DRUGS AND KFC synopsis
DRINK, DRUGS and KFC explores the dynamics of friendship between a group of young boys growing up in London. Comical, yet heart-warming and real, we watch young Nathan and his friends Max, Derek and Skipper head to an under-18 rave. Cue drama, jokes and fights all in the name of teenage bravado and hopes, impressing the most popular girl at college – the beautiful Montana. The night takes a turn for the worst when Skipper’s ticket goes missing and in their desperation to get into the club they end up pocketing the ticket of Gamu Simpson, the younger sister of two local bullies Jimmy and Jason Simpson.
As an introduction to the feature film, ‘DRINK, DRUGS & KFC’ sets the pace for the fun and often humourous fond memories young people share growing up in London. Initially Aml and I were both based in America – Aml was working on his show ‘Harry’s Law’ and I had gone out there to follow up on auditions and meetings. Long story short I came back to London and helped Najan and Sheila with the task of producing the film. We really wanted to cross new boundaries with this film and we used it as a way of learning how to make a feature as the film was running at about 25 minutes long. It was a long casting process – we had 7 lead roles to fill! Not to mention a number of minor roles to cast – we ended up auditioning actors for a total of 7 weeks – 6 hours at a time. Without going into too much detail, we ended up with such a stellar cast. Everyone gelled and worked hard. We looked into other areas on this project – we had PR companies wanting to work with us and propel things further (with just the 3 of us in London at the time)- going to meetings and producing the film, casting the film, catering the film, interviewing DOP’s and editors etc. Essentially it was all the work of a feature film in a short. I mean it was such a testament to us 4 as individuals and our strengths of character – obviously real life was still co-existing alongside this particular film. We had to encounter sicknesses in our families in addition to life testing situations – but the show has to go on because there’s no one else – just us 4.
I think its’ this attitude that we’ve all put in to our work at AmeenDream that has shone through – especially at the pre-press screening we organised at BAFTA (which we are still reeling from). To be honest the amount of work that went in to it was just like another film… it would not be wrong to say that the screening should earn the title of our fourth film!
The dedication, hard work and love that the 4 of us have for each other – is so real because we’ve lived each others’ lives throughout all the projects. We have produced successful work – and I say that boldly and confidently because I know that we started as outsiders; as just actors with a bit of knowledge. We have turned ourselves into a machine – we work hard, we seek to learn what we do not know and we provide opportunities for new and established actors alike to be part of a fun community. We actually filmed another short the weekend before the screening (though we had all agreed to rest). I just came onboard as an actor on this occasion, and it was great. So it’s something else to look forward to as well as the 2 feature films we already have planned for the summer – and so it starts again!
We would like to take this opportunity to thank absolutely EVERYONE who has supported us with all of our current and future endeavours