Was putting together the production team, yours and Nicole’s first step? Or was it best to put together the show’s cast? Also, what were some of the obstacles you both faced in developing a show with an African production staff?
NA: We auditioned for the cast first before we selected the production team. I had written the characters, so I had wanted to see the actors that could bring those characters to life. MaameYaa Boafo – “the Ghanaian Carrie Bradshawâ€ – was the first to enter the the audition room. After she read, I turned to the rest of the team and said, “This is a great sign! This is going to be a good thing.â€
MM: Casting most certainly came first as it always should. In my book, “Until you have the right cast… you have nothing but an idea.â€
Ngozi serves as the moral compass of the group with her virtues starting plenty of the discussions between the girls. In “The Belly Button Testâ€ episode, Ngozi has reservations about a potential mate examining your love below. Esosa, can you talk about your first thoughts about what “The Belly Button Testâ€ was all about?
EE: Ngozi is the one within the group who believes in true love, but also understands that true intimacy and a lasting relationship includes friendship and being willing to let go of superficial reasons for loving someone. As her friends are finding every reason imaginable to avoid intimacy or to break up with men, she calls them out on it. But again, she is also very naive when it comes to sex. Sade, who is the most sexually active of the group, plays a mean joke on Ngozi and tells her that there’s something called “The Belly Button Testâ€ and that if she doesn’t pass it, she may never keep a man.
Of course, this only flares up Ngozi’s insecurities because she believes the story full force, and then spends the rest of the episode worried about ruining her chances with the guy she’s seeing. When I first read it I saw it as just that, Ngozi doesn’t know much about her vagina (a word she’d never use) and she’s freaked out that she may not smell so great down below. I thought it was kind of silly, but really real too, because there are women out there who can be a bit clueless about their own female anatomy.
Esosa, can you update the readers about the progress of your first film, One Night in Brooklyn? How did your love of cinema first originate?
EE: Wow. I first fell in love with cinema while I was studying fashion design in college. I had planned to be a fashion designer and was so passionate about it, but along the way the acting bug bit me hard and I fell in love with storytelling. I started acting in short films and eventually writing and producing my own. For my fashion thesis, I made a film that featured my designs because I felt like film was the most powerful way to convey “fashion,â€ meaning, and emotion. Fashion for me was beyond dress, it was also about worldview and self-concept and film could contain all of those things. Film became important to me also because I eagerly studied the history of African-Americans in cinema and saw how powerful movies are in shaping worldwide perceptions around race and identity.
I wanted so much to be a part of that discussion; a part of creating powerful and fresh new images that could spark new opinions about humanity. My first feature film One Night in Brooklyn is a coming of age comedy about a group of twenty-something Brooklyn Bohemians on the night of a TransAfrican Independence Day Party. I was inspired to write it because I loved movies like House Party, St. Elmo’s Fire, and The Big Chill, but I’d never seen anything like those movies with a truly multicultural cast.
Right now, it’s still in progess. Very recently, I have started a conversation with a distributor who loves the concept and is interested in distributing it (even before it’s been made). I’m on the hunt for an investor. I have a good solid script, a talented cast, a business plan, and a dream to make an independent film that speaks to the African Diaspora and is profitable. I’m the type of filmmaker who thinks business too, and being a part of a project like An African City is wonderful, because it demonstrates what I have been trying to explain to people. There is a huge African Diaspora audience that is dying to see themselves onscreen. I want to give the people what they want.
With all the attention focused on developing Africa as a central hub for entertainment – what do you all think the future holds for the culture in Ghana?
MM: The future for the entertainment culture in Ghana is bright! Seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are currently in Africa, with 70 percent of the continent’s population living in countries which have enjoyed average economic growth rates in excess of 4 percent over the past decade. This steady progress has given rise to a growing middle class driving demand for the latest in entertainment. South Africa and Nigeria have all been touted as the entertainment hub for the continent, and I dare say Ghana is not too far behind. Ghanaians are hungry for shows that entertain, that we can relate to on all levels. The possibilities are endless for Ghana as well as our series.
EE: It is so interesting to ponder how social media and the Internet have made ideas so easily exchanged across and between continents. I’m Nigerian and I see this with Hollywood… that with time new global and cultural influences change the types of movies filmmakers are making. Ghana, specifically Accra, is a great place to do business and has already become a hub for investors and entrepreneurs from all over the world. The number of incredible Ghanaian’s in entertainment is growing rapidly and I was excited to work with Nicole and Millie who are on that list. I think that Ghana is going to continue to produce great content and great filmmakers, and that the entertainment industry there will blossom into one of the central hubs for storytelling in Africa. This is just the beginning.
An African City is currently embarking on producing its second season. You can check out the previous episodes on their YouTube channel.