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August 29, 2006

Bola (football) at Barclays Sports Complex

BY SOTIRIS, LUSAKA

Hey Guys!

I'm blogin from my bed, since my injury from football on Saturday (must be old age or posing too hard for the cameras).

I'm fine... just sprained my knee and it's all swollen ans stuff. I look funny on crutches but what the heck... life goes on.

I am so glad you made time to get out of your busy filming schedule to socialise with others coz it would be so boring to be doing the same ole things every day.

The next adventure I have for you is to go to Adventure City (our version of a miniature waterworld) and hopefully the whole cast will join us so we can get to know each each better (typical Zambian saying). We can let off some steam by playing water games or even better... paint ball war (ouch for some???).

Time is running out and soon you'll be leaving. Let's capture every last moment together so that next time you come to Zambia you have more time to see many places at your own time.

I bet Livingstone must of stunned everyone, now you know why I'm sooo confused (cuz I was born there). Did you know that that's where they invented Hyundai, Hamburger, Honda and a lot more.

So if ever you forget my name "Sotiris"... being a Tonga, you can call me "Hatiris"

See you all soon

Hatiris

August 26, 2006

Powerful Performances from Zambian Actresses

Mutinta_slapping_chilufya.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – We're at the end of week two and we've had some wonderful performances turned in this week. We've had some logistical nightmares and challenges getting all of the cast together but, in the end, when we're rolling, we're getting some terrific performances!! This photo was taken on the set during one of the key transformation scenes for all of the main characters.

Kudos to Mike Montesa for capturing this photo of the confrontation between Mutinta and Chilufya. The photo reveals the power of the performance and the scene.

In response to what Sotiris wrote about the history of film in Zambia ... I'm going to have Jabbes respond to this because he understands it a lot better than I do. Jabbes said those other films were made by other countries (Britain) and they didn't star Zambians nor have a Zambian director nor were they written by a Zambian. Whatever has been attempted and/or completed before doesn't really affect what we're trying to do. We're simply doing the best we can to support the Voice of this African Nation. So, we head into the last week in high spirits and with high hopes for something that will really be something that Zambians love ... their own story, told by their own people.

August 25, 2006

Film history in Zambia

BY SOTIRIS CHRONIS, LUSAKA

I stand to be corrected by my good friend Mr. Angel Phiri of MUVI TV that its not the first feature film in Zambia but the first was TOUCH OF THE SUN by Eddie Manda with the guy in gladiator... Oliver Reed.

How could I have forgotten (dullo youngster then) they actually used my dad's antique car the Impala Chevrolet classic in this movie and we kept on cursing the guy driving it cuz he drove it like a madman in the bush.

The next film was RED FLOWER featuring that confused rasta colored graphic artist, Teelo Ross. Teelo even designed a sticker saying..."DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE BECAUSE YOU WILL SPILL THE BEER". He never did I just want to bully him. There were more attempts by some copperbelt guys and other movies not heard of. Its a good start for Jabbes and he likes Jabbes persistance and ego.

I'm looking forward to the last scene where Gino terminates his involvement with Don Pelekan (Augustine Lungu) cuz he's a mean, mean man (chi foreigner).

August 23, 2006

Sundance... Here Comes Zambia

BY SOTIRIS CHRONIS, LUSAKA, ZED

Ciao!

Gino Bonano here and missing you guys.

I am soooo happy that this is finally happening for our LOST COUNTRY and all thanks go out to the history makers...Jabbes and Samuel ... this is another natural wonder of the world after my hometown Livingstone's Mighty Victoria Falls. Bow down Zambians cuz this will open a lot of doors for all.

If only we were more united in our crazy world, but instead most people have Ph.D. degrees and not from studies but degrees in "Pull Him/ Her Down". WHEN WILL THE JEALOUSY STOP???

When Tsotsi was being made in South Africa, there was so much support from everyone, radio, TV, posters and in general, everyone was proud of it.

The least you can all do is to go on the website www.filmzambia.com browse and if you have a bit of time, send a small message. When something is a hit, then everybody wants to be part of it. Remember Cherise in the Big Brother house... politicians attacked her first then even the churches attacked her but she had a presidential welcome. Lindiwe was the next victim before winning Idols Africa.

Where is our government, Ministry of Tourism especially the Visit Zambia Campaign crew and the media support for history in the making? The media should make the making of the making of the documentary for the film (if that makes sense). Q-FM... you have Live Outside broadcasting, use it man! This could be a great platform for electronic and print media competition. Muvi TV, you're new and full of fresh ideas since your competitors (no offence ZNBC) have been around for so long -- capture this moment and make something out of it. In the end Zambia is the winner you know. Anywhere in the world when you help someone, they will thank you so imagine how patriotic you'll be if you help these guys. Even the Bible says you should help without expecting anything in return.

Come on you guys, this is truly Zambian and our benefits are unlimited. Let's make these guys heroes before they are (as usual) discovered by outsiders. Let's also make the American film crew feel at home by showering them with good words and gifts from FRIENDLY ZAMBIA.

My heart also goes out to the AMERICANO'S... welcome to Zambia and I wish it mesmerizes you and gives you an unforgettable adventure. Find time to get out and enjoy the nightlife or even on your free days to just mingle with the people where they hang out.

I wish to acknowlege from the crew the following people who had an instant impact on me. These are:
1. The English football player ALAN SMITH look alike, Shawn Downs.
2. Carlos Espinosa, not only cuz I like his name but he strikes me as a wonderful person and he handles his camera very professionally. You can see why he never spoke about a girlfriend in his biography.
3. Michael Montesa, another guy who's madly in love with his camera and I saw the combination between him and Carlos. Thanks for teaching me things (just by watching you guys) without you knowing there's a student.
4. M. K. Racine, a true marketeer (figure of speech), your smile and PR could put anyone in a joyous mood in an instant. I like you for that.
5. Gingher Leyendecker, I love you for your magic hands... talk about magic hands, you should see the magic on her hands, she's got these beautiful (must of been very sore) tatoos. This gal is gifted... she can draaaaaw man!
6. Cyndi Greening, the iron lady but also bags of fun and laughter. This lady has experience flowing out of her ears and if I could, I'd have a bag near her to pick up what overflows. How do I know? I dunno, just a gut feeling. I don't know her from a can of paint but I think I know what Jabbes feels (lucky dog). Good luck to you Cyndi and I wish you get the best out of the Africa tour (I know you will). We are grateful for your support.
7. Jeniece Toranzo, last but not the least. There must be a chemistry between us. I feel as if we met before. Besides her giving me a face lift she also gave me a new friend. Thanks a lot Jeniece but just get that camera outta my face please (ha ha ha).

Lastly, (phew, finally he's ending) I feel for all the crew and wish you guys a lifetime experience during your stay.

Looking forward to the next scene.

Later
Gino... eh! sorry, Sotiris

I Can Do This

johnphan.jpgBY JOHNPHAN MVULA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, AFRICA – I have always been camera shy and I always said to myself that I couldn’t act. So when Uncle Jabbes told me that I was going be part of the film, my body started to shiver.

The few times I have been in front of the camera it has been with friends goofing around. After each shoot I have always insisted that the tape be erased. Now I know I cannot erase the tape. There is no going back. As I waited for my first time on the BAD TIMING set I kept telling myself, “I can do this. I can do this.”

Make-up on my face, microphone hidden in my jacket, lights on, camera rolling, the director called ACTION!

Then I was doing it! Everything went smoothly. The feeling I had was one I had never felt before. Everyone said that we did a good job. I am not sure if I was able to act well because I was trying to impress someone or because I just wanted to prove that “I can do this.”

August 22, 2006

Missing My Family More Than Ever

jabbesWithFamily.jpgJABBES MVULA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, AFRICA – When I arrived at the Lusaka airport 14 days ago I was so busy getting the crew’s passports and luggage issues resolved it took me quite along time before I was able to greet my friends and relatives. I would walk by the exit and I could hear them yell and scream for me. I wanted so badly to go greet them, but I knew I had to take care of business first.

That has been one of the most difficult things on this trip. I really would like to spend more time with my family, but it has been very, very difficult. We have 25 days to film this movie in Zambia and I feel torn every day. Last Sunday I was able to spend some time with my little girl, Thoko. We went to the mall and walked around. When I was in Arizona it was so difficult to be away from my little girls. I could not wait to be back in Zambia and hug my children.

jabbesFamilyCrane.jpgI can see the wisdom in not having your family on set. The crew is fortunate in this. They are able to concentrate just on filming the movie. I on the other hand need to spend most of my time filming. I wish I could spend more time with my Mum, my kids, my family and my friends. I am unable to do so. This has been very difficult for me. I want my family to know how much I have missed them and how much I want to spend more time with them.

August 20, 2006

Support and Success

jabbesDrNgomaAirport.jpgJABBES MVULA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, AFRICA – I must admit I was very worried about making this movie. I was concerned about how the revised script would be received. I was concerned about the safety of the crew while traveling and visiting Zambia. I was worried about the cast and locations and props. It seemed that my concerns were warranted because last week was very difficult. We were all trying so hard to accomplish so much that at times I felt nothing was being accomplished! At the end of the week we were so exhausted and frustrated that I began to worry more. We took the week-end off. I slept. On Monday morning we started again. By the end of the day we had done 11 pages of the script! It was a great day. I realized then what Cyndi had known all along. The first week is hell. Everyone is trying to find their place and how to help. After six days everyone settled down and we accomplished more then we had planned for. It was amazing. I feel so grateful to everyone and their patience.

Everyday we shoot we become better at what are assignments are. Our shots are getting better. Our lighting is even more amazing. Our sound continues to be exceptional. Everyone is working together. Now as we work hard to accomplish so much we are accomplishing more. As we view the daily shots I am so proud of the crew and the cast. They are capturing my vision. This movie is going to be even better then I imagined.

August 19, 2006

Zambian Talent

sullyna.jpgJABBES MVULA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, AFRICA – It is very interesting that the country has not produced any films and yet it has an abundance of talent. It has been wonderful to work with the actors on BAD TIMING. They have been so responsive to any direction I give to them. I must admit I was worried. Most of the actors have strong theatrical backgrounds. I am so grateful that they are as professional as they are and respect me in my role as director. It has been a joy to have my vision of this project materialize day after day during the scenes we have shot.

August 18, 2006

The End of Week One

talentZambia.jpgJABBES MVULA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA, AFRICA – The first week is finished. We have had some hiccups in the road, but the crew has fixed them. They have been so wonderful and very professional. One of the difficulties has been the small rooms we have had to use as sets. Putting in all of the equipment, the lights, the cameras, the sound equipment and I often wonder where we will fit the actors! At the end of the day we have managed to get the shot. I am so grateful to the crew. The lighting has been so wonderful and the sound has been terrific. They have worked so hard to help me make this project a success. I am not so worried about the rest of the shoot. I know what ever hiccup comes up next we will fix it.

August 16, 2006

Zambian Child Actress "Precious Bridget"

preciousBridget.jpg


NCHIMUNYA SIABEENOU, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – My name is Nchimunya Siabeenou. I am in grade 5. Next year I will be in grade 6. I live in Mtendere. I am very, very happy because today I have seen many different things. I have been able to see the actors act and the crew shoot. I have been on the set from the first day. I love being on the set. Tomorrow I will be acting for the first time. I am very excited. Ginger also let me do a small art with her. I am so happy. May God Bless You.

Determined Dreamers

Benne.jpgBY BENNE BANDA, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA– This is such a great experience for me. It has been a long time since I have been in front of the camera. It has been fun seeing how a full scale production is run with all the cameras and equipment and crew.

Jabbes and I spent a lot of time together before he left for the United States. We talked about his dreams and plans for himself, the art community and Zambia. I learned that he is a very determined person. We talked about how to bring the film industry to Zambia. When Jabbes left he was the President of the National Association of Media Arts. After he left, I became the President.

Zambia is in dire need of such determination as Jabbes’, that would give it a place on the world map of the arts and film, especially that there has been a very poor film culture in this country. Such initiatives as this one if successfully accomplished would contribute grossly to the enlightenment of corporate and potential funding entities. If these get to know, then they would germinate some favor towards the film industry here.

Thankful for the Opportunity

chikuLeeNonde.jpgBY LEE CHAAGA NONDE, LUSAKA, ZAMBIA (CHIKU) – What I’d like to say about this say is that God has shown me what I want about life. I have always been dreaming about being in a production like this. When Auggie came to me and told me that Jabbes was coming with his crew to do BAD TIMING I talked to God and said, “Why can I not get this part? I really want this part. Then God answered my prayer and I got the part.”

I have gotten a lot of experience working on the local soap, Kobanana, I have always wanted to act with big men like Benne Banda Augusta. I have never acted with them in a production. Of course there are a number of new faces, Muneca, Annie (Muntinta), and Leena.

Of course, I like the foundation that Jabbes has laid. From there, I believe we will be able to see a number of productions in Zambia. I’ve come a long way in the system. I have a lot of experiences . It took awhile to break into the acting community, but now I feel like I belong and am accepted. I won best actor in National Theater Arts Association of Zambia twice. I would like to thank my fans for the support. I also want to thank my wife to be and my family.

August 14, 2006

I am so happy

BY JABBES MVULA LUSAKA AFRICA - I must admit, I have been very preoccupied. Ever since I knew I would be directing Zambian actors in BAD TIMING while being assisted by an American crew, I was worried. I would often wonder how they would relate to each other. I also felt like I was caught in the middle. On Thursday when the crew met the cast everyone was introduced, it felt awkward. I became more concerned. I knew it was very important that we mesh together in order for this movie to be made.

From the beginning, I feel this project has been a collaborative effort. Many friends and family have sacrificed so I could go to the United States to pursue my dream. While I was there I met an amazing woman and her students who embraced me and my dream.

Now we have returned to Zambia. I am bringing my new friends, some I consider to be family, to meet my old and dear friends and family. It is important that the two cultures find common ground. For right now the common ground is me and this project.

Today was our first official shoot. I had to leave the shoot to locate some technical supplies. My crew could not go do this without me because they do not know the area or the people. I was so nervous to leave, but I had no choice. When I came back I found the rest of the crew working with the cast. Jeniece had done make-up on the actors. They were teasing her. She was laughing. Pamela was interviewing the cast so she could put in their blogs. Susan was visiting with the other actors. I could feel the unity on the set. This made me very happy and relieved.

I know now that everything will be alright. I am no longer caught in the middle. I am a part of a wonderful group of people who are helping me make my dream come true. I am so happy

August 08, 2006

Why Film in Zambia?

whyZambia.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PRODUCER — When you think about how complicated it is to take 14 students and 4 faculty members to another continent to shoot a film, you might wonder why we made that choice. Here's a short piece on why we think it's important to shoot BAD T!MING and VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION in Zambia.

Film in Zambia (lg)

Film in Zambia (sm)

How Jabbes Came to Mesa Community College

JMatMCC.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PRODUCER — Sometimes, it's amazing to realize how serendipitously this all came together. How did Jabbes come to Mesa Community College? Why did MCC sponsor such a project in Zambia? This piece might clear it up.

Jabbes at MCC (lg)

Jabbes at MCC (sm)

August 07, 2006

The Inspiration for the FilmZambia Projects

inspiration.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PRODUCER — We leave for Zambia tomorrow. Principal photography begins on BAD T!MING on Monday, August 14. The following video will help you to understand what inspired these projects.

The Inspiration (lg)

The Inspiration (sm)

August 06, 2006

Just Another Sundance Weekend

BY CYNDI GREENING, SUNDANCE INSTITUTE, USA — After an amazing Friday at the Sundance Independent Producers Conference, I was hoping they could keep it as interesting on Saturday because I had noticed that the day began with Film Distribution. Distribution is the thing that I was MOST interested in and found most mystifying. With the two films that we're making in Zambia (the feature AND documentary), I really wanted to know how the distribution thing worked.

marcushu2.jpgI had already noticed that Marcus Hu and Mark Urman were on the panel. I knew these guys would be great because I'd heard them at Sundance before. I'd been tracking Marcus Hu for years because I loved the sort of films he released at STRAND.   (The Zambia films are a more difficult fit for him but I was anxious to hear what he had to say anyway.) The new folks on the panel (new to me) were Sony Classics Michael Barker, Fox Searchlight's Matthew Greenfield, Picturehouse's Bob Berney and Stratosphere's Paul Cohen. Agents on the panel Cassian Elwes and Kevin Iwashina. Barbara Boyle was the only female.

Every person on the panel was freaking brilliant. Seriously, these are some of the brightest bulbs on the planet. Distributing a film is a complicated puzzle, a Gordian knot that cannot be easily severed. The people who dwell on the question of how to distribute a film (remember, we discovered earlier that EVERY film is different so there is no single answer) are bright, bright, bright people.

In a classical advertising model, AWARENESS is the cornerstone of marketing. If the client is unaware of your product, they cannot buy it. So, a theatrical release of your film is often the platform that creates the awareness of your film. This often leads to a more lucrative DVD and cable deal. In the "old days" (the last three to five years), selling to foreign markets was the traditional path to generating initial funding and a completion bond. According to the panel, the foreign markets are not as easy because they got too much mediocre product and they've become more sophisticated buyers.

In the Finance Panel, there was a lot of discussion about how to MODEL a film. Basically, it's looking at the elements of the film (genre, talent, etc.) and determining what the VALUE is of that film. When the value is determined, the key is to budget the film BELOW the value of the MODEL. This difference creates the profit for your investors. The distributors are the folks who help you to generate that value with theatrical, foreign, DVD and ancillary sales. So, just like in the publishing world, finding a distributor who has marketed similar product in the past is a good starting point.

One of their key recommendations: Attend the American Film Market in LA or NY to find out what sells. (Or Cannes or Toronto.)

Later in the day, there was a dialog on LOW or NO-BUDGET FILMMAKING. Two of my favorites on the panel were Gary Winick and Ram Bergman. These are the gurus of low budget filmmaking. Bergman made BRICK for $400,000 and Winick's Indigent makes all films for $200,000 or less. The crew gets $100 per day and profit participation.

According to Gary, "Movies about people that deal with emotions can always be made for $200,000 or less." According to Ram, "You need to honestly assess the value of your movie in the market and make it for less!"

markurman2.jpgAs usual, some of the most profound words of advice came from Mark Urman (THINKfilm). "In the end, it is irrelevant what it cost. My only concern is whether I respond to the material and what do I think it can make in the market. Most independent films lack the polish, visual diversity and visual sheen to be successful in the marketplace. The shots must be alive and we must respond to the characters."

August 04, 2006

TGIF at Sundance

BY CYNDI GREENING, SUNDANCE INSTITUTE, USA — sundanceCanyon.jpgThe schedule at the Sundance Independent Producers Conference is intense! We're booked from 8:00 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. We can hike down the canyon, catch a shuttle or take the rental car (guess what I chose) to start the day with a communal breakfast. Everyone is excited. There is a networking frenzy in the air. It's early in the weekend so the industry professionals can move through the crowd with relative anonymity. We are wearing our "FilmZambia" t-shirts. It's effective. We are noticed. It also doesn't hurt that Jabbes is one of very few black faces in the room. We stand out.

The first panel is on documentary and feature Film Production. Our panel consists of Danielle Renfrew, Ron Yerxa, Ross Katz, Cathy Schulman, Cara Mertes, Sheila Nevins, Gary Winick, Diane Weyermann, Ram Bergman and Sunmin Park. One of the things I like best is that they do NOT take the time to introduce the panelists. Moderator Cara Mertes tells us that we're professionals now. We were given a book of bios. Surely, we prepared by reading them, she says. No reason to duplicate the effort. Fortunately, I had a lot of time on Thursday and have thoroughly read it all. I am ready to hear what they have to say.

There is a lot of discussion about the changing market, changing platforms, changing audiences AND the fear that is moving through the industry because people are having a hard time finding something that works reliably. I find myself wishing I had taped the sessions because I want to take down nearly every word they say. The content is so rich. The icons of filmmaking say things that are incredibly profound. It seems to me that many members of the audience don't really hear what they're saying. For example, documentary producer Sheila Nevins says, "I trust people to say the true lines of their lives and that's what makes documentary so powerful." Ron Yerxa says that he loves contradiction in story and in life. What people say they're about versus what they do is at the heart of a good story. Gary Winick of Indigent says, "It's simply having something to say AND knowing how to say it well." Sunmin Park talk of the "knot in her throat" caused by contemplating "honorable warriors." Nearly all of them talk about the importance of having a good story. The panel inspires and challenges me.

cathyschulman.jpgIn the short session afterwards, I have the chance to tell Barbara Boyle, Cathy Schulman and Ricky Strauss about the FilmZambia projects. I talk about the documentary and the feature. It turns out that Cathy Schulman is considering a project in Africa. I'm thinking her connection to Don Cheadle (after CRASH) may be continuing. Ricky and Cathy have sweet smiles and kind demeanors. Barbara is sharp as a tack and quite an education snob. I think she would look down her nose at Mesa Community College. They seem very excited about and interested in the project. Jabbes is sitting beside me so he talks about BAD T!MING (the feature). I'm happy.

rickystrauss2.jpgIn the afternoon, we have the Film Financing Panel. In this panel, I think I'll find out all of the things I've done wrong in mounting this production. Again, I hear things that I think are incredibly deep and profound. I feel like I'm being given the keys. (I hope I have enough time to write about this before I go to Zambia.) Among the many things I learn, we are told that the BIGGEST CHALLENGE in filmmaking is that EVERY FILM IS UNIQUE. Financing and distribution are totally dependent on the story, the cast, the perceived audience and the P&A. The particpants in the IFP ask a variety of questions about how to find funding and they are told over and over again, "Depends on the film." It's absolutely liberating! There is no "right" answer. You just do what it takes to get it done. At different times, the panelists laugh derisively and tell us that they make lots of mistakes and, at the end of the day, do what it takes to make the things they love. Don't get me wrong, they say financing is tough. Prices are high, profits are low. The talk about the financing for Maria Maggenti's PUCCINI FOR BEGINNERS.

In the next breakout session, I again visit with Ricky Strauss. (I'm afraid he'll think I'm stalking him.) Roseanne Korenberg and Micah Green are also in our mini-group. Ricky is still great ... engaging and supportive. He talks about how he thanks God every day that he gets to do what he does. He clearly loves his work. I think Micah Green is a razor-sharp genius. He's a packaging agent at CAA and he is clearly one smart cookie.

We have dinner and spend the evening at a documentary panel. It feels a bit familiar after the morning production panel. Maybe I'm just tired. It's been a long day.

Leaning on Friends

JABBES MVULA, SUNDANCE INSTITUTE, UTAH - Making a film is one hell of a difficult task. As a first time Director, I have had to face my own challenges, but am so grateful that the support that I have received all the way has always lifted me when I felt low.

Firstly, my good lady Cyndi, has been my greatest darling especially during the script development stage. Cyndi happens to be my Executive Producer and at the same time my Professor in Digital Film Making at Mesa Community College in Arizona. Being my professor, she played a big role in guiding me through out the stage of script development. I would always take my scripts to her for guidance. Even after the first draft was ready, she sat with me for about two weeks guiding me in re-writing the second draft.

After we had the final draft, it was time to do the script breakdown, locations and props breakdown. It was a ladies game this time, Cyndi, Gina and Pamela who worked all their lungs out, trying several kinds of ways to make the breakdowns easily managable for a first time crew. I can just say hats off.

storyboarders.jpgAm very bad at drawings, and I just did not have any clue as to how to handle storyboards. Someone had to help me again in putting on paper my ideas and interpretation of the film. Jacob Felix, Eric Aguire, Heath McKinney and Mario Carbajal were just the perfect guys I needed, I enjoyed working with these guys. It was a very hectic stage, but it was also very refreshing for me working with people who could do just anything to make my work much easier. Storyboards gave me a chance to direct the movie well in advance, making me more prepared. The period gave me a chance to get more closer some of the crew than we were before.

Two days ago, I was talking to the Chairman of the National Arts Council of Zambia, Mulenga Kapwepwe, who was very encouraging and motivating to us. Yesterday, I was talking to the Director General of Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation, Joseph Salasini about the project. Joseph who happens to be my former boss, was just so awesome and refreshing. Everytime I talk to him, and Dr. Edgar Ngoma, our main sponsor in Zambia, I always feel highly motivated.

I have been away from Zambia for the last one and half years, and as such I couldn't have managed to know all the new Actors and Actresses that have come up lately. I knew most of them, but there were a few that I had no clue. I just do not know what I could have done if it was not for Augustine Lungu being there for me doing the groundwork. He has just been awesome and upbeat to get things moving such that as of now, almost everything is in place.

We had some problems on the ground in Zambia late yesterday, as usual, when I felt low, Cyndi gave me one piece of advice, "If it was easy to make a film, everyone would do it, and you wouldn't be making the first film in Zambia, just pick yourself up and face the challenges". That was all I needed to tackle the problem, within two hours, we were back in business.

A friend that I value in Cape Town, Precious Gumede of Shell South Africa, was kind enough to send me a cool attachment to make me smile when I told her that I was feeling so low. I needed a smile at that particular time, and I just could not believe that she could be so prompt. Later Thursday afternoon, the Press Attache at the Zambian Embassy to the United States in Washington, Mr John Mulutula, called me just to check on our progress and to encourage us. Both Cyndi and I felt so overwhelmed with excitement at the feeling that people from the embassy are so much behind us.

As we drove back to the lodge after the screenings here at Sundance, I thought, "Thank you God for all the friends that have been there for me and have lifted me whenever I've been down". My task couldn't have been made more easier than this if it was not for the support from everyone.

August 03, 2006

BAD T!MING Cast Announced

BY CYNDI GREENING, PHOENIX, USA — We're about one week from landing in Zambia to begin the filming of BAD T!MING. I'm pleased to announce that the major roles have been cast! Within the next few days, images of all the actors will be posted.

LeeNonde.jpgCHIKU will be played by Lee Nonde. Lee is one of the lead actors in the Kabanana "soap opera" on the national television station, ZNBC. Well known in Zambia, Lee has the charisma to capture the goodness of Chiku and, at the same time, show the terrible pressure and conflict he faces by his enemies.

MUTINTA will be played by Annie Katamanda Musukwa. Annie had the role of Mutinta in the original stage play by Samuel Kasankha. As the bride of Chiku who must share the public humiliation with her husband, Annie will also be able to show the strength of character that imbues Mutinta. She is one of the leading actresses on Zambian Radio Drama and Sewero programs on ZNBC.

HON. HACHINDUMBA-NDUMBA will be played by Jacob Chirwa. Jacob has a degree in Drama from the University of Zambia and is featured in the Kabanana soap, as well. A well-connected, powerful and wealthy politician, Hachi is the father to Mutinta. A talented and versatile actor, Jacob will bring excitement and energy to the role. Jacob is also the Deputy Director of the National Arts Council.

MAINZA HACHINDUMBA-NDUMBA will be played by Gertrude Nkonde Kasankha. One of the founding members of Zambian Radio Drama and Sewero, Gertrude is reprising the role of Mrs. Hachindumba-ndumba from the stage play. The mother of Mutinta, Mainza is supportive of her daughter's plight and suffers a mother's anguish. It's an excellent role that will be well captured by Gertrude.

pelikan.jpgDON PELIKAN will be played by Augustine Lungu. A tremendously gifted actor, Augustine is one of the most sought after actors/comedian/producers in Zambia. The powerful and well-connected businessman, Don Pelikan is a neighbor to Chiku and father of young Rose. As you can see from this photo, Augustine can summon that dominance when needed! For those of you who read this blog regularly, you may recall the wedding photo of Augustine and his lovely bride in early July. We saw his sweeter side in that image.

sweetAugustine.jpg


ROSE PELIKAN will be played by young Mirriam Zulu. As a young character, it's only logical that Rose would be played by a young actress. One of the newer faces to the Zambian stage, Mirriam has won the plum role of the conflicted, troubled teen daughter of Don Pelikan.

KAPAMBA KATWISHI will be played by Henry B. J. Phiri. A talented stand-up comedian and lead actor on Kabanana Soap, Henry is reprising his role of the fun-loving and loyal friend of Chiku. He will bring humor and heart to the film.

SAMPINGILA will be played by Joemwa Mtsinje Mwale. A celebrated actor, comedian and writer like Augustine, Joemwa has written many of the Zambian Radio Dramas and Sewero plays. He is credited as having played a major role in shaping the dramatic career of Jabbes Mvula. We are excited that he will now be able to share in Jabbes' latest project.

SULLYNA TEMBO will be played by Kamwengo Vunda Lungu. In the role as Chiku's assistant at CHILDREN'S PARADISE, Sullyna carries the heart and devotion of many Zambians toward the orphaned children. Kamwengo has played roles of mother and guardian in building her acting career.

DANNY will be played by Danny Siulapwa. We are so pleased and proud to announce that Zambian songwriter, singer and performer Danny will appear as himself in BAD T!MING. In addition to writing songs for the film, Danny will perform in the film.

Crazy Lady

BY JABBES MVULA, SUNDANCE INSTITUTE, UTAH — If I was asked to describe my Executive Producer Cyndi Greening in only one word, I would say she is the most "CRAZY" person that I have worked with in a long time. If you are planning to work with her in the near future, my advice to you is you have to be prepared to run along in order to catch up with her.

In the next 10 days, we start shooting the first feature film in Zambia BAD T!MING. The documentary, VOICE OF AN AFRICAN NATION is already well under way as of now. The past months have been very hectic for both Cyndi and I, including the several other people that have been working on the projects. Now that the filming is just around the corner, I would love to very briefly share with you how I feel.

I should admit that am very nervous, and the thought that everyone on the set will be looking at me as the Director, sometimes sends a ripple in my stomach. Please get me right on this one, am not worried about director the film, rather, am worried about what my Executive Producer has done. Am currently attending the Sundance Independent Producers' Conference, and I just could not believe the level of appreciation professionals in the industry have for this film being produced and directed by first timers.

I've had the rare opportunity of meeting with both established and newcomers in the industry, and most of the people I met here at Sundance, seem to have been well informed about the project and they approached me with so much admiration. I will not pre-empt my interactions with other fellow professionals today, I will leave that for my post tomorrow, but the only point that I wish to state is that people are not expecting a film from a first time Director or Producer, but a professional film.

notSpeedy.jpgAm not scared of this fact because I have gone through a thorough drill to prepare me for the task from script development to the final stage, but my worry is whether everyone involved, from the cast to the crew, who all happen to be first timers, are ready for this challenge to be undertaken in ONLY three weeks. At first I thought I will be directing a first time film, but now I realize that people will be expecting a professional film from us. Thank God I came here, coz am now fully prepared.

Working with Cyndi is like the film SPEED (starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves), in which when the bus attains full speed, there is no slowing down, otherwise you end up crashing. One thing I have learnt with admiration is the way she has prepared everyone involved in the project, and as for me, well am also getting crazy.

Sundance Independent Producers Conference Begins

BY CYNDI GREENING, SUNDANCE INSTITUTE, USA — We arrived at the Sundance Institute at 11:04 a.m. Registration began at 11:00 a.m., so I was fearful that one of the small group sessions that I wanted would already be filled. We went inside to find hardly anyone in the Creekside room. Apparently, the IPC is NOT like the Sundance Film Festival. You don't have to arrive everywhere an hour early to ensure your place. I got all of the small groups I wanted. Cathy Schulman. Ricky Strauss and Micah Green. Marcus Hu, Kevin Iwashina and Mark Urman. It looked like it was going to be a very informative weekend.

It took about 15 minutes to register. It was 11:30 a.m. We were told we couldn't check into our houses until about 2pm. The first gathering was scheduled for 5:00 p.m. We had a whole lot time on our hands. So, we sat on the picnic tables behind Creekside and read all of our many handouts. There was a bound book of participants and panelists. There was an enormous reference package and another small set of addresses and contacts. We enjoyed the strong wireless signal (although the firewall made it impossible to get my school email).

sundanceScreeningRoom.jpg We watched all of the folks arriving. While I'm a relatively social creature, I don't enjoy these forced networking experiences. I end up thinking about what I should be working on, what I might be able to blog about or what I should be doing for the film project. The one thing I know I don't want to do is "crawl up some industry professional's hinder" in the hopes of making a deal. It leaves me feeling too crappy for words. So, I dive into reading my materials and hope they talk with Jabbes or Alec. They tell us we can go to our accommodations and I am relieved to go elsewhere until dinner.

At five, the Sundance Screening Room (pictured above) is full of participants, panelists and film pundits. Geoffrey Gilmore tells us that we should spend the weekend talking to these incredible industry professionals. He tells us that some will be wonderful and some will be jerks. Welcome to the real world. "If you're too afraid to walk up to someone and ask for a meeting, you don't deserve to call yourself a producer," he says. They turn us lose for dinner and and networking.

rosskatzjpg.jpgI meet a fellow that I will come to love over the course of the weekend. He turns out to be the nicest fellow! He was one of the people I really wanted to meet. He produced IN THE BEDROOM and LOST IN TRANSLATION. His first film (as a member of the crew) was RESERVOIR DOGS. We're in the beverage line together and we introduce ourselves. I tell him that he was one of the people I was looking forward to meeting. He asks about our project. I tell him about the FilmZambia projects and he gets so enthusiastic and excited, he pulls Geoffrey Gilmore over to our group to tell him about it. He tells us a funny story about his mother at the screening of IN THE BEDROOM. I just love this guy. Ross Katz tells us to come to his screening of MARIE ANTOINETTE on Saturday. We tell him we wouldn't miss it.

sheila_nevins.jpgThen, there is a screening of BAGDAD, E.R. and a Work-In-Progress screening of HIROSHIMA/NAGASAKI. Both were produced by the Grande Dame of Documentary, Sheila Nevins of HBO. I'd heard her name many times before. Prior to the screening, I bumped into Sheila and her HBO cohort, Sara Bernstein. Alec and Jabbes had already spoken with them and told them about the Zambia projects. She said they sounded really interesting. If I'd had my wits about me, I might have asked her if HBO would be interested in the doc but it's hard to be witty in the bathroom. Sheila favored cargo pants in shades of yellow, tan and khaki. She has this great mane of hair and easy laugh that is totally disarming. I was completely captivated by her.

August 01, 2006

Leaning on Each Other

dynamicDuo.jpgBY CYNDI GREENING, PRODUCER, PHOENIX, USA — We leave for Zambia in one week (almost to the minute, in fact, since I'm typing this at 8:45 pm) and I can hardly believe it! I think we're all in a weird conumdrum . In the early months, there were days that it never seemed like it would never leave. Now, time is rushing so fast, we're wondering where the time went!!!

Tomorrow, Alec, Jabbes and I leave for Sundance for the Independent Producers Conference. When we found out in early June, it seemed a century away. On top of that, it delayed our departure for Zambia. NOW, I think it was a REAL GIFT to be selected for the conference just because of all the things we'll learn but, even more importantly, it was a major blessing to have four days to get away before we start shooting. It has forced us to finish everything up and it will allow us to recharge ourselves. Jabbes and I need the break and I am quite certain much of the crew needs some "down time" prior to leaving!

I have to give a lot of recognition to the storyboarders. JACOB FELIX and ERIC AGUIRRE have done an incredible job. They have been working with Jabbes non-stop since Monday. They were both there when I left tonight. HEATH McKINNEY has been terrific, too. He was also there when I left. All four of them look bleary-eyed and beat. Fortunately, MARIO CARBAJAL came in the last two days to lend a hand. A very detailed illustrator, Mario was great at rendering a number of pivotal scenes. Even better, he was a fresh set of hands to help visualize the film. It's really helping the rest of the crew be more successful. I know both Jabbes and I are really grateful for their hours and hours of hard work!

Life is a million details, now, competing for our attention. We keep leaning on each other and hoping we'll handle enough of them to make the film a success!