Making A Place In The Stars is the hardest thing I have done in my whole life.
What started as a film scheduled to be finished in 6 months from start to finish, ended up taking over 7 years to complete. In many ways, I am still paying for making the film.
The ambition was simple; make a Nigerian film that would resonate with audiences worldwide. To achieve this we will spare no expense in employing the best of technology and production values. It would be finished with top end post production from audio to pictures and even a fu orchestral score. As with the adage, everything that could go wrong with the making of this film, went wrong. It would take illogical obstinacy to have it make it to screen.
First, we began preproduction in 2007 but couldn’t begin shoot by end of that year because all the funding was not in place. So we took a break and some smart Alec advices me to invest the money I had at this point in the stock market. The idea was, the market was hot and the money invested would yield good returns by the time we are ready to shoot. That was not how it panned out. By February the following year, the Nigerian stock market crashed and the 15m+ I had put in there had lost more than 50% of its value. You can imagine my frustration at this point. But the show must go on.
I had to pull all the tricks in the fund raising book to get additional funding to go to principal photography. We shot. about 50% of the movie and had to go on a hiatus. We had ran out of money.
Between 2010 and 2011 I raised additional funding, shooting and stopping in between. Finally we. completed principal photography. I thought phew! Now to post production, but yet another cruel turn awaited me. I went back to the U.K. after completing shoot and spent Christmas with my family.
January 2012 I met with my editor and handed him the drives and tapes containing the footage of the film. You see we started shooting with the Sony 900R and finished with the Red. Yup, that’s how long it took, even technology changed on us. In any case, I handed Antonio my editor the materials and headed off to Nigeria.
No sooner had I landed that I get a call from a very frantic and agitated Antonio. Something was wrong with the all the footage shot with the Sony 900R. They were soft, and mostly out of focus. First he thought it was the deck he was using for playback. But having tried other decks in other outfits, he had ended up at Molinaire one of the UK’s top post production facilities.
There he was told what the problem was. Something about the lens not sitting well on the adaptor and…. by this time I am woozy, something about flanging and how what you see on the monitor is not what is going into the tape. I was devastated. At that point I thought surely, this must be the end of this project. That’s 50% of the film, bad.
I asked him if there was anything that could be done and he said, nothing. Absolutely. According to Molinaire, it would work if released direct to video, as the image looks manageable on the small screen but certainly won’t pass QC for cinema. Giving how much I had spent making the film at this point, there was no way I could recoup the investment. That’s not to mention the fact that we hadn’t started post production yet and what that would cost. At this point I was faced with two options, actually, three; 1. Release the film as a straight to video and recoup whatever part of the investment I could. 2. Just count my losses and abandon the project or 3. Find more money and complete it. All of these were tough calls.
I decided to find additional funding and finish the film properly. I think what helped in getting to this decision, was the fact that my sons who had been 3 and 5 years respectively when I started the journey of making this film, were now teenagers. I thought to myself what sort of lesson would I be teaching them, if I abandoned something they had watched me work on literally all their lives at this point? What would I be saying to them about starting and finishing whatever you started? The support of my wife who up to this point has sacrificed a lot on the home front and personally because of this project was also instrumental. It is for them that I had to finish the film and finish it well.
So off I went to find more money and return to reshoot most of the movie. Raising the money in retrospect was the easy part. A lot of things had changed irreversibly; 1. The lead actress was now pregnant and it was showing. This meant we couldn’t shoot most of the romantic bits the way we did the first time. Most we had to just cancel. For continuity, we also couldn’t shoot most of the scenes we already did with her as well. This meant the film’s ending had to be altered. 2. Locations we had used were also no longer available to us as were some of the actors. In the end, it became a game of compromise to get whatever we could done and finish the reshoot. Because of this I believe the movie we ended up with was way different from the movie I set out to make in the first place.
Regardless I am proud of the film we made. The film premiered in November 2014 to critical acclaim. I felt vindicated. It had a really short run in the cinemas and was pulled before it could find its audience. (A sad phenomenon that bedevils many good films in Nigeria to date.) Since then I have kept the film stored away as most offers for its release on various platforms didn’t make sense. During that time many people have asked the question “where can I watch A Place In The Stars?” The reply was always, “No where yet.” You can therefore imagine my joy to finally have an answer!!
It’s on Netflix!!!
It’s been a crazy journey. And it wasn’t just for me. My first son Josh and I had a conversation recently that made me thank God I did what I did. He told me that when they were kids, he use to tell his friends his dad is a filmmaker. He said for a long time they’d ask what films has he made and he would say to them I was away making a film. In the end they started making fun of him and he had to stop telling anyone I was a filmmaker when asked. He said his happiest day was when A Place In The Stars was finished and he could finally say to his friends I had finished the film. Today he says the fact that he can point people to Netflix to watch my films makes him proud.
Wow! Can you imagine what not finishing the film would have done to his psyche?
While I won’t make another film that way, ever again, the experience has shaped in many ways the filmmaker I am today. I do not regret making this film at all. I am still paying for it in many ways but I also believe I am benefiting from it in way many more ways.
A Place In The Stars is now on Netflix, I hope you enjoy it.