The BUFF Blog (by Arnold Oceng – April 2012)
Traditionally in the UK, the most-watched programmes on television are always scheduled on a Saturday night. The last few years have seen a more aggressive approach to win hearts and minds with the UK’s 2 biggest broadcasters (BBC & ITV) going head-to-head and scheduling their ‘MUST-SEE’ programmes against each other. In the last 6 months alone, Strictly Come Dancing was beating The X Factor when previously the ITV juggernaut was winning hand over fist.
On Saturday March 24th 2012, BBC1 launched a brand new series of The Voice UK an hour before ITV1 launched its’ latest series of Britain’s Got Talent. In the 4 weeks since then, The Voice UK has consistently won the Saturday night ratings war which led to ITV conceding defeat and putting its’ 5th episode (on Saturday April 21) back by half an hour, allowing The Voice UK to run a full show without a clash.
On the same day, the British Urban Film Festival returned to TV screens for the first time in 5 years with the launch of #buffpresents screening 4 films previously shown at BUFF. One of the films featured marked the directorial debut of Aml Ameen with ‘Drink, Drugs & KFC’. Those of you who’ve read Aml’s BUFF Blog will know that Aml has a clear vision as to how he sees the future of urban independent cinema having been a part of its’ birth with Kidulthood. It just so happened that BBC 3 screened Kidulthood at around the same time that viewers would’ve been watching Aml’s film – co-incidence or brinksmanship?
Who knows, but it did mean that Aml was on 2 channels at the same time appearing in 3 films – a unique hattrick if ever there was one. It also meant a feverish night for the British Urban Film Fraternity both online and on-air, flipping channels, setting their sky plus’s and providing live commentary via Facebook and Twitter hashtagging #Sky539 and #Virgin233. The viewing figures are out next month and it will be interesting to see whether the programming clash between BUFF & the BBC had the desired effect.
Another of the featured films from #buffpresents was ‘Before They Were Dubz’ which not only featured Fazer, Dappy & Tulisa but also contributions from Wretch 32 & Arnold Oceng who happened to know them when they were starting out as 14 year olds. A lot has happened for all of them since then and in this month’s edition of the BUFF Blog, Arnold ‘SnakeyMan’ Oceng (in his own words) guest writes for us and talks about how he himself started out to where he is right now, bagging a role in Adulthood along the way – the monster which grew out from Kidulthood…
In the words of Daneao ‘Hello, hi’. Many of you know me as Arnold Oceng, some of you know me as SnakeyMan the award winning musician. I will formally introduce myself as Arnold ‘SnakeyMan’ Oceng!
In ALL interviews I get asked 2 questions – one being ‘how did you get the name SnakeyMan?’ and 2: ‘if you had to choose between acting and music what would it be?’ As I’m sure you will emphathise it does get a bit tedious, though I am of course grateful to get as much press as I do. What is refreshing is that I get the reigns on this one, HA!!
My journey into the spotlight of the media started when I was 6 so from pretty early on I guess you could say it was my destiny – which is a gift and a curse. My acting didn’t really become the focal point for so many people until I was 12 when I got the role of Calvin Braithwaite in ‘Grange Hill’ – which I was fortunate enough to do for 6 years. That was pretty cool as it was like I had 2 schools… imagine going to school every day with people like Reggie Yates!! Within 6 years on set I had achieved more than what most actors do in their whole career and through the success of the show I embarked on the start of another part of my journey without even knowing it.
It was at the Kids TV Choice Awards in 2001 where I first met Noel Clarke. He approached me about Kidulthood and kind of put me on the spot. I was actually with my agent and they chose to do their ‘agent’ thing and take over the conversation. Little did I know that Kidulthood would become so big, no one did! It got a bit political and my agent advised against me featuring in the film. By the time Adulthood came around and Noel approached me for the second time, there was no way I wasn’t going to be a part of it.
Because of Grange Hill and all the prior TV work I was able to pick up beforehand, life was nice before Adulthood. I had also started my music career and had already won Best Newcomer aged 21 at the Urban Music Awards. However Adulthood did change my life for the better, but in truth in has changed British cinema forever.
Never before had ‘Urban’ London been so cool – it just wasn’t given that much spotlight! With Kidulthood selling so many DVDs (over 1 million copies and still selling!), there was just so much hype around the release of Adulthood. The brand was already established and the new characters just added to the hysteria. It felt funny because most people knew what it was all about and it just felt like the people had finally been given what they had been waiting for. When I look back, I think I’m genuinely more proud of what the film achieved rather than me just saying ‘yeh, I was in that film’. I remember I went to the cinema to watch it and the way that people reacted to it on screen was just amazing, I was hearing that fights were breaking out in cinemas and ridiculous stuff like that.
I remember the week it was announced as a box office number 1 and the film titles below us on the list included Sex in the City and The Incredible Hulk. That was an amazing feeling man. I think it goes without saying, but the grass is not always green for an aspiring actor, or any other ambitious young person and the success of Adulthood hasn’t changed that reality. There have also been tribulations and this has forced me to understand the business side of the media. I choose to control my own destiny as well as style choice with the music that I put out. This enables me to stay away from scripts and just express myself.
I think that the film’s notable success was instrumental in how Noel (at the time) and more recently Adam (Deacon) have gone on to win BAFTAs. With all due respect, it’s not necessarily about the quality of their films, as that’s relative. In my opinion, it was because both their films represented the people; it was about the kids that needed these heroes in their lives. Both won the people’s choice award and that’s no coincidence! It’s logical – Noel inspired Adam and out of all the young people that Adam touched and inspired through Anuvahood, one will go on to achieve something big man – could even be another BAFTA for the streets.
Since Adulthood, I’ve starred in more UK movies which has been nice. Like I said, my Grange Hill days meant a lot, but in hindsight I guess Adulthood was kind of a deliverance, a deliverance in 2 different ways. I delivered on screen and also featured on the movie soundtrack alongside the likes of Plan B, Tynchy, Dizzy etc. which I don’t think a lot of people know. The second, in a more literal way, was deliverance from being a child actor to becoming a young, hungry, qualified actor who’d already done a bit.
I think I am most proud of my progression moreso than any one particular role. Like I stated in the intro, I always get asked the 2 questions. All that shows is that people can be stuck in the past, but I’ve chosen to look forward and be guided by a desire to succeed. In the humblest of ways, my career has progressed alongside all of the UK’s top actors (Ashley Walters, Adam Deacon, Noel Clarke etc) and of course I haven’t been in all the same projects but I can definitely hold my own when it comes down to our CVs. Apart from Ashley, the other 2 were not in Top Boy. Not many UK black male actors have ever had 4 films coming out in 1 year!
This year I have chosen to submerge myself moreso in the creative process of film and I’m starting to realise where the money is long term. This I believe is a natural progression, and also a healthy one as I’m keeping my eyes and my mind open. I feel a lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon a little now that Adam has turned writer/director though, so I’m carefully watching and waiting as opposed to becoming a jack of all trades, but master of none.
Part of that submergence is me becoming an ambassador for ‘Knice’ which has launched a nationwide film competition entitled ‘Priceless Moment’. 16-25 year olds across the UK have been asked to produce, write, edit, and/or direct a film. Not only am I proud to be an ambassador for it, but I’m also taking the role quite seriously as I could quite literally assist in finding the next potential Orange ‘rising star’ award winner.
The main reason I was attracted to this project was because of the prizes on offer. Film and in particular cinema is all about an ultimate experience in my opinion and I don’t think a lot of people still value that. Films are marketed to us in a way that makes us feel that we will miss out if we don’t go and see them with our friends. However, they don’t really stand for much. What I mean by this is that we often enjoy so much more and respect a film that we have an emotional connection with, an Aladdin or a Jungle Book. Everyone has a childhood Disney classic right? It’s all based on a euphoric feeling…
The prizes for the winner of this film-making project will change the person’s life as they can use the equipment on offer time and time again, hopefully making multiple films. In addition, getting the film shown at a film festival is priceless, and in time they will see that. Lastly, I didn’t go to a drama school – as mentioned I learnt on the job, so I’m a serious advocate for young creative people rolling up their sleeves, coming together and learning as they go.
In the words of The Guvnor, ‘I’ll be back’ on your screens with 2 films this summer… unless someone tells me otherwise.
Peace, love & laughter, Arnold ‘SnakeyMan’ Oceng
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