Fekky, Krept & Konan and Scorcher star in new heist drama, The Intent
- Credit: Archant
Actor/director Femi Oyeniran talks about making movies and running film workshops for youngsters
Music fuses with action thrills in Femi Oyeniran’s heist drama The Intent which stars a slew of rap stars in debut acting roles. The Abbey Road resident was 17 when he attended an open audition and landed a lead role in Noel Clarke’s Kidulthood.
The gritty tale of drugs, sex and violence among a group of west London teens set the former St Aloysius pupil on an acting career path via a law degree at LSE.
He has since branched out into writing, directing and hosting online chatshow Cut the Chat from D&L barbershop in Hornsey Road, where he grew up.
“I got into film when I went to an open audition for a low budget British movie one of the ex-college students was making,” he says.
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“Prior to that I was a normal student. It was a mind blowing experience, I went from someone who had never acted to getting offered these roles which made me think ‘this is what I want to do.’”
But after a year in which he struggled to make acting pay, Oyeniran decided to produce his own projects making his debut feature comedy It’s A Lot.
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He describes The Intent – co-directed with Nicky Slimting Walker as “Donnie Brasco meets The Departed heavily pitched at teenage boys”.
Set in London it deals with a group of friends who opportunistically rob a shop to make a quick buck.
But as their now infamous gang is drawn into a turf war, trust, greed, ego and betrayal lead to their downfall.
“An undercover police officer sent to infiltrate the gang develops a close bond so is torn between his obligation to the police and relationship with the robbers.” says Oyeniran, who came to the UK from Nigeria when he was 10.
While rapper Scorcher had already appeared in Channel 4’s Hackney-set drama Top Boy, other music stars like hip hop duo Krept & Konan and “rap royalty” Fekky hadn’t acted before.
Oyeniran says: “We helped them through it but ultimately these artists are experienced performers who have a heightened awareness of selling their wares on social media.
“The musicians add flavour and relevance. Fekky is one of the founders of grime. I grew up listening to him on pirate radio.
I’m part of the first generation of grime consumers who are now 30. Now a second generation are enjoying that sound, it’s becoming a mainstay.”
Oyeniran took inspiration from 90s and noughties movies DMX, Belly and Juice starring music stars such as Tupac Shakur.
Like those movies The Intent has a thumping soundtrack full of exclusive work by Ghetts, Scorcher, Tanika, Stomrzy, Fekky and Ms Banks.
“The style of those American classics that cast rappers are a template for this film.
“There’s a lot of excitement about UK Music and a lot of pride around that. It’s the right timing.”
A committed Christian, the father-of-two has shared a platform with David Cameron talking about youth offending and taken part in Speaker John Bercow’s digital democracy commission to make the legislative process quicker and more accessible for young people.
He also runs film making workshops for youth offenders and give talks in schools and youth clubs.
“It’s the most rewarding thing that I have done. I look at a lot of the young people in there and think ‘that could have been me’.
“Like them I grew up on a council estate, I was one of those kids hanging around McDonalds on Holloway Road, but I was very fortunate to have strong family support and I went to a good university.
“Hopefully I am able to contribute something. It’s hard making the transition, coming out of prison as adults to find there’s not much support for them.”
He adds: “It’s important to speak about what I do and run workshops for young people.
“When a teacher introduced me to Noel Clarke and said he was auditioning actors I asked ‘do you even make money from that?’
“I had never met an actor in my life and never knew it was a viable career. There’s lots of opportunity in this country but it’s difficult for young people to see beyond their present circumstances.
“They have to make a lot of big decisions very young when some of them don’t come from healthy backgrounds.
“It’s important kids can see there’s no limit to what you can achieve.”
The Intent plays Hackney Picturehouse July 29-August 1.