ALL it took was one look at Spike Lee’s 1990 musical drama, ‘Mo’ Better Blues’, for Kojo McPherson to know that film was something he wanted to be part of.
He was just eight years old at the time, but the combination of cinematography, imagery, music and all other captivating aspects of the legendary film simultaneously sent the message that film needed to be part of his life.
And though this calling was impaled in his mind, Kojo went in a different direction, becoming a writer and photographer as he became older.
But his dream met him halfway in 2011 after he attended a workshop under the President’s Film Endowment Project, a collaborative effort between the University of Guyana Centre for Communication Studies and the Ohio University.
“It’s like a Master in Fine Arts Degree crammed into a four to five-month period, and it was an idea brought to the government’s attention… We had to put our ideas into a bag, and mine was drawn out, so I had real practical experience,” Kojo said.
But Kojo doesn’t regret occupying his prior years as a writer and photographer. In fact, he believes that writing for the popular radio show, Merundoi, for four-and-a-half years, and operating as a freelance photographer were unconsciously entwined into his ultimate filmmaking pathway.
“It was important, because it informed a lot of my choices as a filmmaker,” he said. “Stanley Kubrick, who directed movies like ‘The Shining’ and ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and other films actually started off as a photographer, so it feels like I’m in good company.
“After being able to tell stories with words and pictures, it felt like filmmaking came as the next logical, progressive step.”
Since then, the budding filmmaker has had a hand in quite a few short films, and has developed a signature for sharp cinematography with poignant, hard-hitting messages.
His current project, Adero, is a short film which was a winner in the 2015 Caribbean Film Project, a brainchild of the Caribbean Film Academy.
Co-Founder of the Film Academy and Executive Producer of Adero, Romola Lucas explained that the project is one which seeks to afford emerging filmmakers from countries with a not-so-vibrant film industry the opportunity to make their work a reality.
“We’re approaching it from the ‘it-takes-a village’ perspective,” Romola explained. “And we’re using the project as a means of helping to develop emerging filmmakers, and providing an opportunity for them to experience watching their stories come alive on the screen, with the help of some of the best Caribbean filmmakers, whose interest is also in seeing new filmmakers develop.”
CARIBBEAN FILM PROJECT
The Caribbean Film Project began with a script competition in Guyana, Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, Dominica and the “Diaspora”, which latter category the Academy treated as a country.
Entrants submitted short film scripts which had to adhere to script-writing standards. The year 2015 was the first for the project, and the Academy received about 20 submissions. A winner was chosen from each country, with Kojo’s film representing Guyana.
Each winner was paired with a writing coach who worked with the winners to help them make their scripts production-ready. Coming out of the Project, the chosen winners are now working on the production of their film, and are currently in the pre-production stage.
Kojo’s work has been commended by the Caribbean Film Academy as being of an admirable standard. “Kojo is a great storyteller,” Romola said. “It is no surprise his script was one of the winning scripts.
“He went to the film festival in Trinidad & Tobago in 2015, the largest Caribbean film festival; competed with filmmakers from all across the Caribbean; and won the pitch competition with the very story he won the Film Project with.”
She also commended Kojo for working well with the team, adding that he is open to suggestions and ideas from members of his team, which, in addition to Academy members, also include local names like Melissa ‘Vanilla’ Roberts, who is producing the film, as well as Yaphet Jackman, who will do cinematography.
Adero is about a man living in corporate Guyana but who, while undergoing an existential struggle about who he is and where he is from, ventures out into the Rupununi after having recurring dreams relating to his struggle; a journey that will provide him with unimaginable experiences.
Kojo is currently holding casting calls for Adero, and is encouraging persons to respond, so as to be part of something that promises to be memorable. “The team is as deliberate as we can be about every frame of the film, so this is going to be something like people have never seen before. And that is a guarantee,” Kojo said.