At a divergent point in their lives, two lifelong friends (Ivanno Jeremiah, Parys Jordon) meet at their favorite South London fried chicken shop.
The directorial debut from Abraham Adeyemi, ‘No More Wings‘ in the Don’t Look Back program was the winner of the Best Narrative Short Competition at Tribeca 2020. Once you experience the film for yourself, you’ll immediately understand why. With captivating storytelling, in a mere 10 minutes, you will experience two lifetimes of memories, regrets, and choices. There is a heavy cyclical feeling you cannot shake as you watch. The authenticity of the writing, directing, and performances will stick with you long after the credits. I was lucky enough to interview Abraham during the festival and get to peek behind the curtain of the process and the mindset. I cannot wait to see what is coming to audiences next.
Abraham, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me about this extraordinary short. This feels like a major labor of love for you. Can you describe the specific inspiration for a story that will undoubtedly resonate with so many?
Hi Liz, thank you for having me and for the kind words about the film! Sure thing. Well, whilst this film isn’t biographical… My upbringing wasn’t too dissimilar to the two characters. I was raised in South London, went to a Grammar School… What really inspired me was spending some time thinking about two friends I grew up with whose lives have turned out quite differently, and imagining what it might be like if they were to meet at this point in their lives. And, above all in some ways, trying to understand why their lives have turned out differently when things were so similar for them.
What did you learn from your mentorship with Sam Mendes?
There was something that Sam said to me on set of 1917 which I actually wrote down… He said that I needed to make sure there was somewhere on set that I could be to concentrate and watch takes alone, without anyone’s opinion and that I always needed to be sure for myself that “this is what I wanted”. As I learned whilst on set, there are times where – for a host of different reasons – people might think they hit a scene but if it’s not how you imagined it, even the smallest detail, then it means it needs to be done again until it is. And whilst I didn’t have the gigantic set-up that Sam had – it was like a blacked-out marquee with TV screens and all sorts of tech that probably cost more than our film – in our own low budget way, we were able to ensure that I could concentrate and watch takes back without anyone else’s opinions but my own.
Being both writer and director, did you find yourself changing the script as you shot?
There were no major changes whilst we were shooting, no. I did quite a lot of work on the script beforehand. I initially wrote the script with just my writer hat on. Then, eventually, I had to switch to the director hat. On the morning of the first shoot day, I made a final few tweaks – things that probably came off the back of the rehearsal we did the day before – but I went in pretty happy with what we had on paper and I was more concerned about getting great performances and how things looked visually. On occasion, actors may have asked me if they could tweak a line, or just done it off their own volition and I’m usually fine with that as I trusted the actors I was working with and their understanding of the characters they were playing.
Thank you for adding subtitles. It was helpful to put regional slang in context. It was reminiscent of how our vernacular changes when we are most comfortable.
Ah, thank you! I’m really glad the subtitles helped. That was actually a suggestion made by Sharon Badal at Tribeca and I’m really glad I took the advice if it means ultimately that it made it more accessible for a wider, global audience.
How long did you shoot for?
We shot the film over two summer nights, which also meant shorter nights! Once that sunlight even began to creep up… It was game over. The first night we shot felt straightforward but the second night… The pressure was really on. But it could have been worse, up until about ten days before the shoot I was still clinging tightly to an ambition of shooting the film as one continuous shot and my first thoughts – maybe an hour into the shoot – was that I was so glad that I was convinced to scrap that idea.
Having three distinct roles, writer, director, producer, which was most enjoyable, which the most frustrating, which did you learn more from?
Ooh I love this question! I enjoyed all of them but the one which I am without a doubt most in my element with is the writing. I always say in life that I am most at peace when I have my head buried in writing and, actually, in these strange times it’s been the saving grace for my sanity. I’d have to give the frustrating award to producing because there are just so many things that go wrong but I can’t complain because, for all the hard work I did, my producer Abiola Rufai did 100x more in producing! So my frustrations must be so minimal compared to all she has to deal with… Without a doubt, I learned the most from directing. As a producer, I’m always learning but you have to remember, this was my first time directing and prior to this, I hadn’t been to film school nor taken a conscious interest in directing. From the moment I won the competition that gave me funding for this film (where one of the rules was that whoever wins must also direct the script), I had approximately ten weeks to learn how to direct. That was reading books, studying the art of filmmaking, the great advice that my more experienced peers were able to give me and so much more. Directing was definitely a steep learning curve but I’m so excited to get behind the camera again (something I never thought I’d say!).
Can you give us any clues about your upcoming feature-length script?
Which one?! There’s a concept for a No More Wings feature.
But, as for the one I reckon you’re asking about… I’m holding it tightly to my chest but what I will say is that Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise is one of my favorite films. The entire trilogy, in fact, I love those.
Abraham, congratulations on Tribeca. I cannot wait to share your film with our readers.
It’s been a pleasure talking with you, thank you for taking the time to watch the film and talk to me.