THE INTENT is a gritty, modern, crime thriller set in London’s underbelly. If that doesn’t excite you, all your favourite UK rappers are in it too. This completely independent project, which has already sold out several picture houses across the capital, has not escaped the usual, negative assumptions made about a film like this. To try and dispel some of the negativity before the film’s release, we had a chat with the directors Femi Oyeniran and Nicky ‘SlimTing’ Walker.
First, the plot in their own words…
“The film is about an undercover police officer sent to infiltrate a gang of robbers. He develops a close bond with them and he is then torn between his relationship with the robbers and his obligations to the police. But does he have the intent [short pause] …to hand over his new friends.”
FAULT: This is a self-distributed film, that you have chosen to make available for purchase on the day of release (to combat piracy). How lucrative is a project like this, in this format, to yourselves?
Femi Oyeniran: We don’t know yet. It all depends on whether people go and watch it or not. Normally you would go through a distribution company, but this time we aren’t, so the ticket sales go back to us… but then we have to distribute them to our investors. Our investors… some of the cast have shares in the film, some of the crew have shares in the film so… The money technically goes to us, but it doesn’t, if you know what I mean? I want everyone who has worked on the project to get paid so it’s not like, the film makes money, we take all of it and that’s it. That’s not how it works.
FAULT: The storyline is quite intriguing. What gave you the idea to do a film like this?
FO: Nicky and I worked together on a film called ‘It’s A Lot’ which is a comedy/drama. We did that and it was a cool project, but what we wanted to do was do something completely different. We wanted to do an action/thriller. We drew on inspiration from our favourite American films, ‘Belly’, ‘In Too Deep’, ‘Juice’, ‘Paid In Full’, these are like, the classics for us, people watch them time and time again. We wanted to create something like that, but something that was based in London, that took rappers and put them alongside actors to crate a rounded project, so that’s what we did. The thinking was to create something like these American classics that we grew up to love. We love the style of Hype Williams (who directed Belly) he’s a key inspiration in the visual style of this film.
FAULT: It’s funny, because when you look at hip hop in America and the films that came out of that genre, such as ‘Belly’, ‘Paid In Full’ etc… People always regard them as classics, but when films like that are released over here, people tend to follow a very different narrative. For example ‘The Intent’ had a lot of “We’ve seen this before”, “boring, more guns and drugs”, “make a film about something else” type of comments. Why do you think the same respect isn’t shown?
FO: I was just saying this earlier on today. Here in the UK we love to criticise our own, but if Drake made (CH4’s) ‘Topboy’… Even if Drake made ‘The Intent’, everybody would say, “it’s amazing, it’s amazing…” But familiarity breeds contempt, because we made it and some of the actors are people we see around, who some people may think they know, they just assume.
You’ve never seen a film like this before. I’ve been in all the ‘KiDULTHOOD’s’ etc… And this film is completely different. People say “it’s the same as everything else” what is everything else? How many films have we really had in the UK? We haven’t had that many films. We’ve had about ten films in the past ten years? So people saying they’ve seen it before, I’d like to ask them where?
Where have you seen Krept & Konan, Fekky, Sorcher and DVS, alongside myself Ashley Chin, Sarah Akokhia, Jade Asha, Nicky SlimTing. Where have you seen all those people in a film before? You haven’t.
You don’t know the story.
FAULT: Films like these are quite important actually, because they document the culture.
FO: Yes! With ‘Kidulthood’ that documented the time then, that’s what the kids were doing then. It captured the culture. If you go back to ‘Babylon’, that film captured what the youth were doing then, so these are really important moments for our culture, because they record what is going on or happening at the time and that’s important, that’s what we need to do.
FAULT: These are a few comments I’ve seen in regards to the trailer. I’d like to give you an opportunity to respond.
1. These types of films are fuelling negative stereotypes…
FO: It’s not, because you haven’t watched the film.
Nicky ‘SlimTing’ Walker: People always say the trailer is like this, or that and the film is completely different. It happens with all films.
FO: This film has a Christian narrative. It’s about undercover police sent to infiltrate a gang of criminals. How many times have we seen that on television. The things people say fuel negative stereotypes, they all still watch anyway.
FAULT: ‘Scarface’, ‘The Godfather’… Some of the biggest films ever made…
FO: Exactly. You can’t say it’s fuelling negative stereotypes when Nicky and I have made all kinds of different and non related films. Trailers are supposed to tap into things that people are used to, to create a visual reference to be lured in to watch something, so that’s what we’ve done with our trailer, but because you’ve seen the trailer doesn’t mean you’ve seen the film.
NSW: We’ve employed so many young actors and put money in their pockets, taken them off the streets… we’ve nurtured young talent.
FO: Look at us! We are two boys from deprived areas in London, who have gone and made a film of a high quality, put it out in the cinema, put it out on iTunes, all this independently. That has never happened in England before. Why don’t we celebrate that?
FAULT: 2. The film stars Krept & Konan, DVS, Fekky and Scorcher who are all rappers from the UK, but can they act? Or are they only in the film because they are rappers?
FO: Yes. If they couldn’t act they wouldn’t be in the film. Krept and Konan personally approached us and said they were interested in acting and I think they are great in the film, they are actually good. Secondly, there are commercial reasons. Rappers have more commercial value than some of the cast in the film, but besides that, they are good in their roles. If you watch ‘The Intent’ and you think that Krept and Konan are not good in their roles, @ me on Twitter, say why and I’ll give you back your money. We’re not doing things just for the sake of it, everything you see here is organic. We have been talking to Krept & Konan about working together since 2013.
Nicky has been talking to scorcher about working together since 2010. It’s not like we just thought, “oh Krept & Konan are hot let’s put them in” Krept & Konan weren’t megastars when we approached them. They only had one big song.
NSW: Also we are independent. We have to think about how we are going to market this film. When you have a big Hollywood budget behind you, you can spend millions of pounds on marketing a film with people who are not known in it, because you have the money to get to people. With us, we don’t. We have to be wise with who we cast, we have to use the power of social media etc… Our screenings are sold out. We’re selling out picture houses like a massive studio. Huge films don’t even do that, so for us, our strategy is working. I know for a fact, a lot of people will follow our format.
FO: Watch what happens in the next few years, people are going to copy exactly what we did. You just have to have the balls and follow your dreams and follow your heart and be precise about what you want and that’s what we’ve done.
FAULT: 3. Why are there no white people in the film?
NSW: There are. There aren’t that many though.
FO: We approached white actors but they declined the roles, or tried to charge ridiculous amounts. It’s nothing deliberate.
NSW: It’s not a black movie, it’s just a movie. We’re not black film makers. Yes, we are black, but we make films for everyone. It’s a film. It’s entertainment. How many black people so you see in ‘Downton Abbey’ anyway? [laughs]
FAULT: Finally, why should we go and see ‘The Intent’?
FO: I think it’s fresh, it’s original, it’s got a great cast. I think it’s got some great performances, I think it’s a cool story, it’s got a nice little twist in it. Again and obviously, we couldn’t reveal that in the trailer, because it wouldn’t be a twist. I also think it’s visually one of the best films to come out of the U.K.
NSW: …and it’s definitely a brilliant film. The best parts of the film are not in the trailer. It’s brilliantly shot. It’s a well put together, well shot and well produced, movie.
‘The Intent’ is out this Friday, 29th July.
Words: Trina John-Charles