David Knight - 10th Aug 2020

Shan Phearon follows his impressive brace of videos for Ocean Wisdom with this slick and fast-moving visual for London Afrobeat star and rapper One Acen.

In the action-packed video for Nigeria, One Acen confronts a gang of white-boilersuited intruders to his plush countryside pad, attempting to dodge death with enhanced powers and cool aplomb. And he does this again, and again, with a slight variation each time. 

This repetition comes within a framework of chapters, which follows the pattern of all successful movie franchises going through a range of iterations: Orginal, Sequel, Prequel, Remake and 'Interquel'.  In each case, things become more sophisticated, more futuristic - until we reach the Reboot, and then things get seriously off the wall...

Shan Phearon explained to us about how he came up with the idea for One Acen's Nigeria, and the making of the video.

SHAN PHEARON ON MAKING ONE ACEN'S 'NIGERIA' VIDEO:

How did you come up with this intriguing concept?
SP: I think I just ended up down an IMDB rabbit hole one evening. And the most dangerous thing that can happen after that is an OPEN brief landing on the desk…!

I’ve toyed with elements here for some years in my head and it only takes one vehicle to prototype. There may be analogies around ‘battling your demons’ in the piece, and the overarching [concept] here speaks to the theme of ‘time’ - we can try to bend it, but it endures, it destroys, it births, it cycles. I find myself cycling back to that every so often.

We can try to bend time, but it endures, it destroys, it births, it cycles.

And how did you convince One Acen that it would work?
We talked on the phone one-on-one, late, a Sunday night. We both had appreciation for progressive hip-hop filmmaking from the last 25 years. We spoke about Marvel's Cinematic Universe, Fast & Furious, Star Wars and the last decade of film trends too. I shared with him my intrigue with some thoughtful lines in his writing: “...suicidal, so depressed”, personal demons the artist may have battled in his past. Acen also takes a big interest in the craft of film. The chemistry just clicked.

Following that, the amount of trust Acen, his team, the label, our commissioner Nicola Sheppard and our executive producer Kareem Adeshina invested - they empowered me to do my thing for everyone with a high-level of creative freedom and captain the team, so I’m thankful for that dynamic.

Are you referencing a particular movie or movies?
Growing up I absorbed Spike Lee, Hype Williams, Wong Kar Wai, Gaspar Noé, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, amongst others. Those are some heroes, so maybe something from each of their schools of filmmaking ebbs into my processes now and again.

I feel also deeply influenced by musicians, like Timbaland and J-Dilla, borrowing their philosophies. So there’s a few cross-pollinations in this video, whilst fusing some post-Covid world textures. On every project I ultimately set out to design something that sits in the modern world and speak to it now and to what might come next. Nostalgia’s fine, but my heart’s in futurism.

We shot economically and with precise intent, whilst leaving room for lightning-in-a-bottle moments.

Did you manage to do it all in one night? Where as it filmed?
It was a strategic 2pm till 2am operation! Plus copious pre-production, my storyboarding, etc., and Avengers assembled. We shot economically and with precise intent, whilst leaving just enough room for sporadic lightning-in-a-bottle moments that can never be foreseen in pre-production.

I have to show love to the streamlined but deeply dedicated crew on this one as well, for their respect, and for exemplary support and production from Greatcoat Films. Pulling this humble production off in a post-Covid climate, we’re all proud.

We also filmed somewhere in England… and the rest is movie magic ;-)

I guess it could be seen as a satire on movie franchises. So are you pro- or anti-Franchise?
That’s interesting, I am a big fan of satire in a world that takes itself quite seriously. Everything is some sort of construct, everyone has their version of the truth, so maybe that’s a subtle nihilism.

I do want to speak to modern cinema though; I love big blockbusters as much A24 arthouse and I don’t believe very much in divides between high culture, or low culture, or film elitism, or pop trash. There's craft in it all. Especially in Europe and in video culture, film pretension lauds those trying to be Bergman, but what if you just feel a bit Michael Bay?

I don’t believe in divides between high culture, or low culture, or film elitism, or pop trash.

So whilst franchises have been painted as the death of mid-budget cinema, the writing and structural craftsmanship that goes into building one is undeniable and they can be fun as f**k. The gift and the curse.
A cheeky side-note, like any good franchise - there are actually 'Easter Eggs' hidden in the certain frames of 'Nigeria'. If anyone spots them…

And what's going on with the 'Reboot'?
Well, I guess it’s a metaphor for anyone who ever felt like they needed a real second shot.
But by all means, if anyone wants to help us expand our cinematic universe, holla.
 

PRO Credits

Credits

DirectorShan Phearon
ProducerGil Kolirin
Executive ProducerKareem Adeshina
Director of PhotographyCourtney Bennett
GafferIsaac Whittingham
Art DirectorSheena Brobbey
WardrobeKashmir Wickham
Make-upSimi Virdee
EditorShan Phearon
ColouristAlex Gregory
VFXShan Phearon
CommissionerNicola Sheppard
LabelAtlantic Records
Other creditsMotion Specialist / Operator: Steve Santa Cruz Grip: Tom Solt PA: David Amoah Transit: Kez Kaiser Additional VFX: Jae Hwang, Brandon Wallwork

David Knight - 10th Aug 2020

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