ROFFEKE is proud to partner with Additude Africa

ROFFEKE is proud to partner with Additude Africa
"Additude Africa promotes time credits as a means of encouraging the youth to be involved in community building activities in order to add a new dimension in their lives and make a positive contribution to their communities."

ROFFEKE is proud to partner with

ROFFEKE is proud to partner with
"Looking for a way to pitch your idea for a television show or movie? offers a next generation platform for creators of original ptiches for TV, film and digital media to connect directly with Hollywood producers and studio executives."


Friendship (networking), Fun (experimentation), Freedom (purpose, empowering, transparency)


ROFFEKE logo by Jozie of Kenyan band 'Murfy's Flaw'

ROFFEKE is a member of the Universal Film and Festival Organization

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Comments on "The ABC of ROFFEKE" Screenings (September 2015 at iHub)

I liked all the films especially the one for Superman [“This is Joe”] and the last one which was longer [“ Frontman ”]. I look forward to at...

The Indie Bible

Thursday, August 31, 2023

ROFFEKE Chatbot via

I (Mildred Achoch) created a ROFFEKE Chatbot courtesy of, using content from the ROFFEKE blog. I then asked the chatbot some questions. Below is a sample of the answers:

What is ROFFEKE?

ROFFEKE, pronounced "rafiki," is a rock 'n' roll film festival in Kenya. Its mission is to promote rock music in Kenya by dispelling myths and misconceptions through the medium of film. The festival showcases local and international rock 'n' roll films and music videos for educational and entertainment purposes. It also organizes workshops, forums, and seminars related to various aspects of rock music and the film industry. Additionally, ROFFEKE provides a platform for emerging and established rock bands, both local and international.

What does ROFFEKE do?

ROFFEKE has several objectives. Firstly, it showcases local and international rock 'n' roll films and music videos for educational and entertainment purposes. Secondly, it organizes workshops, forums, and seminars related to various aspects of rock music and the film industry. Lastly, it provides a platform for emerging and established rock bands, both local and international. These activities contribute to the promotion of rock music in Kenya and help dispel myths and misconceptions associated with the genre.

How can I get involved with ROFFEKE?

To get involved with ROFFEKE, you can consider a few options. Firstly, you can submit your own rock 'n' roll film or music video to be considered for the festival. You can do this by visiting the festival's page and following the submission guidelines. Secondly, you can attend the festival as an audience member and support the showcased films and bands. Lastly, you can explore opportunities to volunteer or collaborate with ROFFEKE by reaching out to their team directly through their official channels. Remember, being part of the rock community and showing your support for the festival's mission are great ways to get involved with ROFFEKE.

 You can ask the ROFFEKE Chatbot your questions HERE

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Of Little Wings and Elevator to the Top Floor

 On 14th July, 2023 I attended a virtual event to commemorate World Youth Skills Day, which is celebrated every 15th of July. Later that day, I listened to a podcast that really resonated with me and that I felt was timely advice for today’s youth who will face unprecedented challenges…and opportunities!

Below are some of Jason Fried’s thoughts that struck a chord with me as the Founder, CEO, Chief AI Officer, JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion) Officer, Marketer and Cheerleader of ROFFEKE😄

Minute 11:38 – “There is no secret sauce here…this is hard, all of it is hard so you’ve got to find a way to do something that is going to be enjoyable. In that joy, you find more ease. It’s easier to do something hard when you like the way you are doing it…the amount of pressure that’s put on you by other people to do things a certain way, to perform a certain way, to show results in a certain way is not enjoyable and it doesn’t bring an ease to the work. It brings stress and anxiety to the work.”

Minute 16: 33 - “You have a choice as an entrepreneur to decide what [business] model you want…but you also need to check your ambitions a little bit too, grow slowly, grow under control. You have to be able to handle it ego-wise, that maybe you are not going to have 7 million customers…it doesn’t matter what your economics are compared to someone else. What do you need to cover your expenses and generate a profit? If you can keep your ego in check, then you can recognize that you are not competing with other people’s egos, other people’s company size, just do your own thing. If you can get into that mindset, it’s a really wonderful place to be…"

[The short film Elevator to the Top Floor deals with this issue of keeping one's ego in check. Read the ROFFEKE interview with the director,Litvinov, HERE  Excerpt from the interview: “We had little time to shoot (about two days) and a very modest production budget. But thanks to the help of like-minded people and the production company "Potential", we were able to cope with all this. The shooting was not easy due to my inexperience. Many of the things that I wanted to see from the actors didn't get to be fully realized. But I'm not ashamed of the result - it's important."

Minute 10:48 - “The other thing that’s nice about staying small is that you can achieve profitability faster. Your overhead is lower, your costs are lower. This is strangely a forgotten thing in the tech world; cost. Everyone is thinking about revenue. Cost is important. Hugely important."

Minute 10:21 – “…constantly thinking about what really matters and what doesn’t. It requires you to figure out what not to do…build a muscle that helps you figure out what not to do. That’s a good habit to form.”

Minute 13:54 – “For us we value independence more than anything else. Do we miss opportunities? I’m sure. We left money on the table? Absolutely. But we wouldn’t have traded any of it for what we have.”

You can listen to the entire awesome podcast episode HERE

This episode reminded me of the lovely bluegrass-flavoured protest song “Little Wings”by Kris Delmhorst:

“Now I don't want to be a jet airliner, I just want to be a little bird

I don't want to rip the skies wide open, I just want my song to be heard

And I don't want to be state of the art, I don't want to get there overnight

I just want to be part of all this beauty, want to be part of all this flight on little wings"

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Public Participation Workshop (2023) and ROFFEKE Conference (2020)

In 2020, during the Covid Pandemic, I (Mildred Achoch) organized an online ROFFEKE Conference where various players in the Kenyan rock community shared their triumphs and challenges. On June 19th and 20th, 2023, I attended a Public Participation workshop organized by KICTANET and ICNL. The workshop was informative and hands-on and it inspired me to go back and reflect on the 2020 ROFFEKE Conference in light of Public Participation principles.

Below is my preliminary attempt. The goal is not perfection, rather, it is to begin putting into practice what I learned during the workshop.



“Cost of equipment. This equipment is not cheap…the cost of insurance is also very high…it is difficult for artists to buy the equipment, store the equipment, maintain the equipment and pay for insurance…” - George Gachiri, rhythm guitarist of Kanyeki. Also guitarist of Hybrid Intuition.(Minute 5:16)

  • Policies about instruments?
  • National Creatives Summit : review of policies and legal instruments. Progress of policy reviews?

“The main challenge we face as a band that plays predominantly rock music is that…you are competing with other genres…If other genres of music have a larger audience, that means from a marketing standpoint, you find radio station playing them…” – George Gachiri, rhythm guitarist of Kanyeki. Also guitarist of Hybrid Intuition.

  • Summit: digital platform for creatives.
  • When?
  • Process of submitting creative work?
  • Guidelines to reduce bias and discrimination?

“It’s not easy to shoot [music videos] in Nairobi. Getting permits is a problem. With “Hello Light” we went at night… set up quickly, shoot and move out before anyone notices anything…if you wait to get all the permits, it’s just too much of a process.” – Murfy’s Flaw. Question 5, minute 1:18

  • Governor Sakaja: permission for filming to be done in Nairobi. 
  • Is it actually safe to do so or will there be running battles with Kanjo? (“Sakaja waives permit fees for photographers and filmmakers in Nairobi. September 28th 2022, “Sakaja stated that he was keeping his promise to the creative economy to make a living without being harassed by authorities.”

“…support or finances to foot the video-shooting bill.” – James, Lead singer of Kanyeki. (Minute 3:11)

Wishlist: Soundtrack for film and TV. “It would be a great thing to have bands’ music playing to support the local scene.” –Cyrus, Kanyeki drummer. (Minute 2:19)

  • Creatives summit: free legal services. (Minute 1:10:01 and 1:11:26) 
  • Process of accessing legal services?


Sunday, June 4, 2023

Interview: Martin H. Samuel - Award-winning songwriter born in Kenya

Mildred Achoch: We met via You commented regarding my contest "The African Roots of Rock ‘n' Roll": 'Pleased to virtually meet a fellow Kenyan… I was born in Mombasa, started playing drums at an early age and proud of my band's commemorative brick, 20 rows directly above 'John', in the Liverpool Cavern Club Wall of Fame.'

Apart from your memories of being abducted by a monkey and enjoying the spectacle of flamingos in Nakuru, what other memories do you have of Kenya, especially memories related to music?

MARTIN H. SAMUEL: Some time after the monkey episode, we visited Lake Victoria where I waded out 'til the water was over my head and my Mother had to rescue me as my Father, who wasn't afraid of crocodiles, couldn't swim!

In Nairobi, as we lived nearby what was then known as the Coryndon Museum, I went there frequently and met Mary and Louis Leakey who invited me into their laboratory to show me what they were working on.

How cool was that!

The couple asked me (and my pals) to collect anything that hopped, skipped, jumped or crawled, which we did, and donated to what was to become the Nairobi Snake Park.

Other than my first gig as a drummer in kindergarten, my musical memories of Kenya have unfortunately faded... except for... when I was in the cubs, one 5th of November, Nairobi-born Roger Whittaker was hired to entertain the pack.

We were seated on the ground around him (having 'dibbed' and 'dobbed') and after each song I would light a coloured firework-type phosphorous match ~ on which he commented.

I may even have started the later trend of flicking lighters at concerts!

Mildred: You started playing drums at an early age. Was that a natural inclination or were you encouraged by a mentor?

Martin: Definitely a natural... I always knew I was a drummer.

Not only do I have as close to perfect time as any man can have, I can play differing tempos with my hands and feet at the same time and keep them in time (or not).

It's totally useless unless considered some odd form of jazz!

No mentor per se but, as a kid, I learned orchestration, such as it was, by jamming with the locals who taught me not to 'step on the toes', musically-speaking, of other musicians.

In other words, play your part, nothing more nothing less, at the correct time, never earlier nor later and, especially, if it's not called for, don't play.

Mildred: Good advice! Did your parents encourage you and if so, how? Was there anyone who discouraged you from playing drums and how did you deal with that?

Martin: No encouragement at all in the beginning... years later, they bought me my first and second drum set.

Being ambidextrous, I set my first drums up right-handed but left-footed!

When I saw a photo of Ringo behind the drums with The Beatles I thought, 'Something looks odd here' and switched mine to right-footed.

Only to find out, Ringo is left-handed but plays a right-handed drum kit.

At first, my parents were disappointed in my career choice but, as I explained to them, it's not a 'choice', it's a 'calling'... you either have it or you don't.

Mildred: Why was your band (Heatwave) honoured specifically at the Liverpool Cavern Club Wall of Fame?

Martin: The original Cavern Club honoured every Artist who 'walked the boards' (performed there) between certain years and, having played there for an entire week in 1970, we received our very own personal brick.  By coincidence, our lead guitarist was from Liverpool.

Mildred: You were interviewed by Frank Carlyle on the Frank Carlyle Show in 2016. You recounted your experience playing again at the Cavern Club, saying that you couldn't quite remember exactly how the songs went but you gave it your own unique spin and played your version, and that ultimately, it was about having fun. ROFFEKE's motto is "Friendship, Fun, Freedom". In your opinion, how important is it to have fun, not only in playing music or pursuing any other passion but also in life in general?

Martin: The band leader, whom I'd not met before, kicked off every song without telling me what the band was about to play... it may be a tradition as, in my experience, drummers are not considered musicians!

I had heard most of the songs and had even played some previously, but it was all so long ago, however, we must have sounded OK as the dance floor filled instantly on every song and even the doorman abandoned his position and came downstairs to listen.

It is my belief we're all born with a built-in 'Fun Meter' which should be checked fairly frequently as, if we're not having fun, what's the point?!
One should not expect 'said meter to constantly be in the red (Fun zone) but, if it rarely is, then something needs to be changed for the better.
That writ, I wrote a silly song called 'Fun With You': 
Also, a song about Freedom:

Mildred: According to your LinkedIn profile, you have won many songwriting competitions. What's your secret?

Martin: Dedication, determination, persistence, a way with words (as a lyricist) and a 'good ear'.

Mildred: Any tips for budding songwriters?

Martin: Follow your heart, do what floats your boat (even if you're landlocked).
If a composer writes for anyone/anything but him/herself, he/she's doomed him/herself to disappointment... even then, when writing for oneself, there's no guarantee you'll be appreciated or recognised.
Rick Nelson said it best in 'Garden Party'... "You can't please everyone so you got to please yourself."

Co-writing, as I have done and still do, is a major plus as two, or more, heads and hearts can (sometimes) be better than one.
e.g., Lennon & McCartney, Bacharach & David, Goffin & King, Gilmour & Waters, Holland–Dozier–Holland, Jagger & Richards, Leiber & Stoller (some of my favourite songwriters).

If any Kenyan composer cares to collaborate, I'm always up for co-writing.

Mildred: In your opinion, what makes a great song?

A lyric the audience can relate to/identify with, or tells a good story and a memorable melody over a catchy beat.

Mildred: What would you say are your top ten favourite songs of all time?

Martin: Aaaaagghhhhh!!!!!

OK, here's five of mine followed by five by others... in alphabetical order: 
'Can't Stay Mad', written/recorded solo and aired on the BBC. 
'Heart Full Of Love', co-written with and recorded by Lisa Nemzo. 
'If Love Makes The World Go Round', co-written with John Franta, recorded by Brion Bell. 
'Slave To The Grind', written about my Father who worked for E.A.R. & H. and my Mother, secretary to the Speaker of the House in Nairobi Parliament, co-written with Brian Hadley.
Be My Rock’, co-written with Renard Cohen, recorded by Ms. Nancy Reed: 

'A Whiter Shade Of Pale', co-written by Brooker & Reid (and Johann Sebastian Bach), recorded by Procol Harum.
'Over The Rainbow', co-written by Arlen & Harburg, sung by Judy Garland.
'She's Leaving Home', co-written by Lennon & McCartney, recorded by The Beatles.
'Sultans of Swing', by Mark Knopfler, recorded by Dire Straits.
'Time', co-written by Waters, Gilmour, Wright & Mason, recorded by Pink Floyd.

Mildred: Your views on artificial intelligence?

Martin: The name says it all... artificial!
No thank you.
Referring to AI, Alan Turing, 'Grandfather' of the computer, said, "If a machine is expected to be infallible, it cannot also be intelligent."
I believe the reverse is also true, 'If a machine is expected to be intelligent, it cannot also be infallible.'

Mildred: Any tips or advice for Kenyan rock bands?

Martin: Draw on local music and make it your own – e.g., if Paul Simon had not visited South Africa, he may never have heard and used their rhythm(s).
Do it for love, as in a labour of, or don't do it at all.

Links to me and some of my music:
Heatwave: (Here and Here)
Bright Eye Band: (Here, Here and Here

Sunny 'n' the Cut: (Here

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Africa Day, Africans Rising, Borderless Africa, Mastercard Edtech event at Ihub, African Diaspora

On 25th May, Africa Day is celebrated in Africa and all over the world. I first celebrated it in May 2019, when I attended “Google’s Africa Day Outreach: Creative Bootcamp” at Nairobi Garage. 

I'm in the purple checked sweater.

In 2023, ROFFEKE celebrated Africa Day with Africans Rising under the theme of “Borderless Africa”. The ROFFEKE Borderless Africa YouTube playlist features short films and music videos submitted to ROFFEKE since 2015, that have been created by or feature Africans in the continent or in the diaspora. 

The Kilimanjaro Declaration 2.0 was adopted on 31st August 2022 in Arusha Tanzania. In the declaration, the 2022 All African Movement Assembly (AAMA) declared that:

1. Africa is a rich continent, and her wealth belongs to all her people. We commit to fight for economic justice qualified by socio-political development.

2. Africans have a diverse, rich, and powerful heritage that is important to heal ourselves and repair the damage done by neoliberalism to our humanity and environment. Being Africans and embracing African philosophies such as “Ubuntu” are sources of our pride.

3. African youth and women are a critical foundation for building the success of our continent and must play a central role in building the Africa We Want for Unity, Justice, Peace and Dignity. We are committed to building an intergenerational dialogue and strategic collaboration with our elders to advance a shared vision.

4. Africa’s diaspora, whether displaced through slavery and colonialism or part of modern-day migration occasioned by political, economic and climate change factors, is part of Africa’s history and future. We commit to ensure that their reservoir of knowledge, skills, resources and passion are part of advancing Africa.

Also on Africa Day, I attended (virtually) an event titled “The African Diaspora, Trade, and Investment Symposium”. The event’s YouTube video description: “This #AfricaDay, OECD Development Centre and Minnesota Africans United are gathering investors, policy makers and diasporic groups, to share examples of the many ways African #diasporas engage in private sector development to the benefit of both “mother” and “new” home countries.”

The next day, on 26th May, I attended Mastercard Foundation’s EdTech event that was held at iHub. In the past, iHub has played a role in helping ROFFEKE achieve its mission of promoting rock music in Kenya via film. In September 2015, ROFFEKE held a screening of short films and music videos at iHub. Read some of the attendees' comments HERE

ROFFEKE is passionate about education. On January 24th 2023, ROFFEKE commemorated Education Day with a document highlighting the knowledge shared by ROFFEKE alumni from all over the world. On January 24tth 2022, ROFFEKE commemorated Education Day with a report highlighting the hashtag #edumental which ROFFEKE first used at an Education Day event on January 20th, 2020, right before the pandemic. In that report, I wrote: 

“Why is ROFFEKE – a rock film festival – interested in education? There are many reasons but in short, education is part of the objectives of ROFFEKE. Also, education plays a crucial role in the achievement of ROFFEKE’s mission: to promote rock music in Kenya via film by dispelling rock ‘n’ roll myths and misconceptions.”

The main objectives of ROFFEKE are:

1. To showcase local and international rock ‘n’ roll films and music videos for the purposes of education and entertainment.

2. To organize workshops, forums and seminars related to various aspects of rock music and the film industry.

3. To provide a platform for emerging and established, local and international rock bands.

The Mastercard Foundation Edtech event was inspiring. I sat through the first few presentations by talented Edtech startups namely Snapplify, Easy Elimu, Funky Science, Silabu, Elewa, Arifu and Virtual Essence. Clearly, a lot is being done by Kenyan entrepreneurs to tackle the challenges of education in Kenya and Africa.

Later, as I was reflecting on all these events, I could not help but connect the dots. One speaker at The African Diaspora Trade and Investment Symposium, Christopher Brooks, is a venture capitalist of African descent with a passion for Africa. He pointed out that he was on the lookout for projects he could invest in. I strongly believe that the projects I saw during the Mastercard Foundation Edtech event are ripe for this kind of Afro-cenric investment. Christopher said:

“I have a bias when it comes to this kind of conversation. We invest in tech. We invest in tech specifically because it scales quickly, creates enormous value quickly and then when there is some sort of liquidity event or exit, you can redeploy the gains and it just becomes this ever-expanding economic pie. I’m a big believer in tech. Africa is actually producing right now some of the world’s best innovative technologies. (From minute 49:22 to 49:50)

At this African Diaspora Trade and Investment Symposium, I was inspired by all that the diaspora is doing to help Africa. However, as an African in Africa who sees a lot of opportunities in the “motherland” I begun feeling uncomfortable with the narrative of Africans always being recipients of aid, even if it is from fellow Africans. I asked via the Zoom Q and A feature: How can Africans also help Africans in the diaspora?

In the chat, I made a small contribution that challenged the narrative that African youth only want government jobs. While it is true that many Africans look to government jobs due to the stability they offer, many African youth are entrepreneurial, as evidenced by the Mastercard Foundation Edtech event. I pointed out in the chat that many Africans are interested in and are active in the creative economy.

“The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism triumphs in the West and fails everywhere else” by Hernando de Soto was mentioned by Christopher Brooks. He said: “What I learned as I read that book was that talent is equally distributed among the human population but opportunity is not.” (From minute 40: 49 to 41:08)

I would argue that even this lack of many opportunities in Africa…is actually an opportunity!

Christopher Brooks went on to say: “Our venture capital firm has the goal of creating a world where transformation capital is accessible to all not just to some so that is how we invest. We find really great entrepreneurs of colour with really great ideas and we deploy strategic capital in the right amount at the right time to help those entrepreneurs scale their businesses and eventually exit their businesses creating brand new economic value." (From minute 42:52 to 43:17)

He also said: “I wanna actually go a couple of layers deeper than the current conversation. When Africans were imported to America as slaves, we were told, we black people, were told that we were not fully human. America told black people that they were three-fifths human, and that meta-narrative of less than human has been indoctrinated in people throughout American history." 

(Check out "ROFFEKE University: Lesson 1 - Slave Trade, The Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll" and “Of 'African' Products and 'Mzungu' Music”)

"So one of the things that we must do, we all must, even members of the diaspora, must examine our worldview and ask ourselves, do we really believe that talent is equally distributed across the world, because in many nations, especially developed nations, we’ve been taught that talent is not equally distributed. We’ve taken this darwinistic approach, survival of the fittest, and we’ve basically said that the developed nations are the fittest, the nations that are developing or less developed are not as fit, are not as smart, are not as good, and that is just diabolical and patently untrue. I think the root, the foundation of any solution that has to do with the continent of Africa must be, Africans are brilliant. Africans are capable. Africans are investment-ready. Africans have the best solutions for Africa. If we really believe that, even those of us who are members of the diaspora, we will continue to tap into the genius of the African people that live on the African continent and we will build a better society because it will be deeply informed by those who live and breathe the African air every single day. That’s how we at Brown Venture Group and that’s how I as an individual investor and practitioner look at the world and that’s how I’m approaching the work. The best solutions for Africa come from Africa.” - Christopher Brooks. (From minute 1:06:14 to 1:08:00)

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Artificial Intelligence, Human Rights, Mozilla Festival, Borderless Africa

Artificial Intelligence. As a techno-optimist, I feel like a surfer who is looking at the biggest wave ever. Yes, there is the ever present danger of “wiping out”, of the artificial intelligence wave wiping out humanity – or humanity as we know it. More knowledgeable people than I have spoken, written and made films or documentaries about the negative side of artificial intelligence.

Kenyan rock band “Rash” sung about “Sons of Robots”

Wearable Android (#ROFFEKEOFFICIALSELECTION2015) by Keita Nishida is a fun look at the human-technology relationship.

Me? I am a techno-optimist. Frankie Valli and The Four Season sung in Walk like a man, “The world isn’t coming to an end” and REM pointed out: “It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine”)

In May, I watched a webinar by 6 seconds titled “The Inside Path - Trust and Optimism for the Future”. Artificial Intelligence was one of the things that was mentioned as causing people anxiety.  The three sub-topics that were covered in the webinar were: 

The role of optimism in creating a positive outlook on the future and fostering hope and excitement about what’s to come.

The importance of trust in building strong relationships and communities that can support us in achieving our goals.

How combining trust and optimism can create a sense of empowerment and agency in shaping our own future.

6 Seconds is “a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase the world’s emotional intelligence.”

I am a big fan and student of Emotional Intelligence. I thought Emotional Intelligence was one area that humans would dominate for a long time. Well, I recently learned about from the YouTube Channel “AI News Daily”. The title of the video says it all: "Hey Pi - The Best "Real" Conversation I've Had with an AI Chat Bot"

I tried it out and used to get a review of some sentences from my short story about The Shenganiguns titled “Office Romance”. Watch it here.

One of the things that is causing concern about the fast-pace of AI development and deployment is that there isn’t adequate regulation. There is concern that AI will excarcerbate already existing problems like bias. Enter Claude, an AI that takes into consideration the Declaration of Human Rights. I learned about it from this YouTube video titled “Claude: The Quantum AI that Surpasses ChatGPT (AI with a Conscience!?)".

On December 10th, 2022, ROFFEKE celebrated Human Rights Day with a YouTube playlist of short films and music videos that highlight the declaration of human rights. You can watch it here. Some of the films in the Human Rights playlist are also in the ROFFEKE Borderless Africa playlist, which is part of the Africans Rising “African Liberation Week” events taking place between May 22nd and May 28th.

During Mozilla Festival (March 20th to 25th) my session, titled “Techno-optimism through ROFFEKE rock ‘n’ roll films” featured the Human Rights YouTube playlist that showcased how tools such as YouTube playlists can help people in the global south participate in closed off or not easily accessible spaces. Mozilla Festival had some AI-themed sessions and even some of the non-AI themed sessions did touch on AI in terms of ethics and mental health.

So what is my current stance on Artificial Intelligence? Well, I am riding the AI wave with both excitement and caution. Surf's up!

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Interview: IVA ("Run" producer/singer/performer) and Camilla Natta ("Run" music video director)

1. Camille, this is your directorial debut as a solo director. What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of working as a solo director versus collaborating with another director (as you did with Erick Zonca on the Golden Bear nominated feature film "Julia")?

This is such an interesting question, because in film making, everything is collaborative.  You never make a movie by yourself, you rely on an entire team to make a film, and that's both what makes this medium so exciting to work with because you are supported in so many ways and it’s also what makes the role of the director so challenging because you have to choose the right people for each piece of that puzzle and then coordinate all those voices so that one single clear vision comes out of this teamwork process.  On “Julia”, Erick Zonca was really the main experienced director and I was getting my training wheels, so I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity I got to work with him and learn so much during the writing process, the shoot and the editing.  I was really supporting his vision and I carried that onto the set of “RUN” by making sure I surrounded myself with the best, most experienced people I could find.  In relying on me, Erick really taught me how to rely on others when I was at the helm of this project with IVA — understanding that there is no single person making the movie, but there is one person who takes on the responsibility for the project and being a director is really being willing to take on that responsibility.

2. IVA, what inspired your song "Run" and how much input did you have in the making of the music video?

Run was inspired by a friend who jogs in the north of Sweden in the winter when it is dark all day long. I remembered my winter days of feeling depressed, trapped indoors in dark, cold Sweden and felt this song was about overcoming what we were all feeling during the pandemic lockdown in the States. We were not allowed to leave our homes save for grocery shopping and caring for loved ones, and didn’t have contact with friends and family living close and further afield. That time was painful for so many. My friend Tracy reminded me that running in the darkness can help us find the spark of inspiration that we need in difficult times. I wanted to share that possibility through this song by showing how the act of running, and its symbolism of committing to something we love and seeing it through, can help us find our fulfillment.

Camille had been coaching me on my acting during the recording of the song, and we decided to turn it into a video. It was a complete collaboration so I could give as much input as I wanted to, yet Camille’s vision was well thought-out and I felt in good hands, letting her take the lead. She had the brilliant idea of making much of it about my eyes, as they are the windows to the soul. I’ve been through a great deal of loss in my life and have found a way to make it through with love and strength, partly thanks to friends and colleagues like Camille. She captures that spirit in the video.

3. Camille, the music video complements the song quite well. There is always a challenge regarding resources (time, money, etc) so if you had more time and money, what would you change about the music video? What would you not change?

Our superpower as humans is adapting to challenge.  The most creative part of being a film maker is figuring out how to meet challenge, so I love that part of the process.  Embracing it is what makes us grow as artists.  I like to remind myself of the pinnacle moment in Indiana Jones where he faces a bad guy wielding a saber and just as all seems lost, Indie pulls out a gun and shoots the guy down.  This quintessential moment filled with humor all came together because Harrison Ford was sick and they lost a couple days of filming so they had to cut the big sword fight number from the script and get creative with the scene, and it’s my favorite moment in the movie.  Limited time and resources force you to get creative.  I wanted to make an "in camera" movie as we were referencing classic 1980s music video making, so I didn’t want to use any special effects.  We shot one day on a sound stage and half a day guerrilla-style in the streets of LA and through my bathroom window to create the visual layers.  And we used mashed potatoes to create the effect of snow falling, with my ADs were furiously sprinkling IVA with mashed potatoes and moving branches above her to create shadows and the impression of wind.  IVA was very patient with us, getting mashed potatoes in your eyes is nobody’s idea of having fun! 

With more time and money I would have maybe wanted to tell a more narrative story, that we would have set in snow-covered landscapes in Iceland for example, but that would have been way beyond our budget!  But with analogue photography coming back to the forefront, I’m excited we got to work on this project with old school spirit.

4. IVA and Camille, how do you find your inner strength in a world and an industry that can be quite challenging for women?

CAMILLE: I’m excited to see things are changing in our industry, I think it’s an inspiring time to be a woman in our industry right now.  While only 22% of Hollywood directors are currently women, we’re still making changes faster than other industries like neurosurgery where less than 10% of neurosurgeons are women.  I have made an effort to surround myself with smart women in my industry (like IVA) who have been so generous in sharing their experience and supporting me.  Because of the importance of mentorship in our industry, we still have some way to go.  When you consider that twice as many main characters are male than female and then you break it down further, you see that in films with at least one woman director and/or writer, females comprise 57% of protagonists, whereas in films with exclusively male directors and/or writers, females only account for 19% of protagonists, it becomes very apparent that, as women, we still have great need of a greater pool of role models and it’s so important to support each other.  I’m grateful to be part of the female directors who can lead the way for the next generation of filmmakers, I want to be there for them, to encourage them.

The daily practice of showing up is also something IVA and I worked on together.  We’ve had a ritual of warming up our voices together every morning for the past 18 months and it just set us up for success.  It’s kind of like meditation, but we did it together, so it added a dimension of showing up for another person so you double up on your accountability and also your sense of achievement as a team.

IVA:  We had a beautiful, wild ride creating this video together, and we have collaborated many times, which made our working relationship even more powerful on this film, both when things went right and if things went wrong - like losing a much desired makeup artist at the last minute or facing a large budget and finding ways to make it smaller while holding true to the vision. We had inner strength from a mutual trust and respect for each other’s artistry, and from having each other to lean on. Camille and I have a very strong friendship. We lift each other up when our self esteem is damaged by the industry, and help each other navigate through when life and work becomes challenging. We have a pact to be fully honest with each other, and we can hash through differences and fight sometimes and then discuss openly what happened with no hard feelings. As a musician, I focus on sharing my truth in the most effective way I can, which I find is through my music, and Camille helped me emanate a deeper, stronger version of myself in this video. A few years ago I lost my mother suddenly, and was also in a romantic relationship where I was a victim of domestic abuse for many years. I was grieving for a long time and felt somewhat defeated, and Camille helped me feel ready to “Run” with passion again. Camille and I also provided firsts for each other with this video, she as lead director and I in having the creative direction of someone of Camille’s caliber and deep knowledge of me as an artist. I was able to look into the camera with my full being, unafraid of being seen. That has given me a new perspective on my artistry, and about who I am. I know most of all that standing together is our strength, and I am grateful to have a friend and colleague like Camille who gives it to me straight and loves me with all her heart, as I do her. I hope that as two women creating this music video together we will be able to reach many more people and inspire other women to realize their creative visions fully, and as often, as possible.

5. IVA, what advice would you give to musicians who want to make their first music video?

Find a director that you trust who also has the skills and vision necessary to make an effective music video. Also be sure to prepare yourself for the screen as it’s quite a different means of communication than through music. Most of all, enjoy the creative process. Camille and I absolutely did, and it was hard work! I have an even deeper respect now for all those who work in film and feel very lucky to know multi-faceted artists like Camille (who also did an incredible job editing the video.) And she respected our budget and did her best to keep things economical, which set my mind at ease. Also, work with the director to put together a great team who can help you realize the vision. And, if you can, raise a budget that allows you to take care of everyone well, making sure everyone has the equipment, space, and food necessary to do their best work. It makes a big difference for rapport on the set, and for the film itself.

6. Camille, what advice would you give to directors who want to make their first music video?

Have fun, take the time to experiment.  Music videos really allow for a lot of experimentation. 

Also, STORYBOARD.  I cannot underline how important storyboarding is, especially in short format story-telling.  I’m grateful to my first AD, John Claflin, for forcing me to storyboard the entire video, phrase by phrase, and really thinking through the musical changes, rather than just the broad strokes.  This was so helpful when I was editing, so I wouldn’t end up stuck because I was missing one tiny shot.  The moments where IVA is spinning for example are four different shots for each turn and she had to start and land those movements very precisely while singing the song and looking natural.  And the layers where multiple versions of her are floating or flying by her all had to be shot on exact moments of her singing and timed with the music and lyrics, every single one of those is a different shot with multiple takes, it you look closely at her lips, you’ll see none of them is a repeat shot.  All of this had to be precisely calibrated and storyboarded in advance, otherwise it would never have worked.  I also had to make the decision on set to cut several shots from our shoot day as we ran out of time and the precise storyboarding allowed me to make the decision of what cut very quickly in the moment, without compromising the editing. 

The other piece of advice I would give is make sure you have people on your team who really understand music, because you're cutting a film to support the music, to enhance the audience’s experience of a song, so it’s very helpful to have people in your crew who understand what’s going on musically.  RUN is a complex piece of music.  IVA makes it look easy, but there aren’t many pop artists who have the chops to do what she is doing musically in this song.  She’s a full on opera singer by training, so her voice and the musical choices are complex and mature.  So it was important to me to surround myself with a team who could really appreciate the complexities and challenges of the music.

7. Camille, what three things, places, events and/or people stood out for you on your trip to Kenya?

I was very young, I visited Kenya as a toddler.  I know my parents hiked up Mount Kilimanjaro and I am fond of this picture of me with one of my uncles, clearly excited to be coming along for the ride.  I have memories of the rain and dancing, and eating ugali and irio — which is dream food for a toddler as you eat it with your hands ;).  I hope to visit Kenya again soon, maybe I’ll be flooded with early childhood memories.

Watch 'The Making of "RUN"':

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

International Women’s Day, “Run” (Directed by Camille Natta) and “Earn the Day” (Written and Directed by Jane Shepard)

Happy International Women’s Day! 

According to UN Women, the 2023 theme is: “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” It is aligned with the main theme for the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women: “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”

I subscribe to the e-newsletter of filmmaker Ela Thier and she recently recommended a short film titled “Earn the Day”. I watched it then I understood why she mentioned in her short commentary that she was halfway through the film and she was both laughing and crying. After watching the film, I wrote in the comment section: “Funny, fun and so inspiring!”

The music video for IVA’s beautiful song “Run” was directed by Camille Natta and is her directorial debut as a solo director. “This is an experimental music video about a woman finding her inner strength to run in the cold in the dead of winter in Northern Sweden.”

I would say that the essence of “Earn the Day” is about the protagonist finding her inner strength to run away from the cold, harsh criticisms of her inner voices. Two powerful images appear both in “Run” and “Earn the Day”: a carefree little girl running freely, joyfully, unencumbered, unashamedly. In “Earn the Day”, the little girl appears when the protagonist is in the flow, when she is being her authentic self, when she has silenced those inner critics, when she has given herself permission to rest. In “Run”, the little girl appears during the chorus of the song, a simple chorus, reminiscent of the chorus in that Sheryl Crow song (“Run, baby, run, baby, run, baby, run, baby, run”) but in IVA’s song, the chorus is made up of one repeated word: “Run, run, run, run, run, run…”

When we women can reconnect with that little girl, or at least, that little girl’s energy, optimism and hope, then we can be transformed and run further than we ever imagined.

At the end of both “Earn the Day” and “Run”, the protagonists are transformed into more powerful versions of themselves.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Interview: Daniel Lir and Bayou Bennett - directors of "Time is Eternal"

ROFFEKE: “Time is eternal” is a visually stunning work of art. The story behind the glory is usually inspiring so please share some of the challenges you faced as you were bringing this powerful film to life and also some lessons you learned?  

Daniel Lir and Bayou Bennett

DANIEL AND BAYOU: The performance genius of the film, actually, is that Berite Labelle plays five unique characters in "Time is Eternal". 

This challenge put our filmmaking to the highest test to show dialogue scenes where Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt seamlessly talks to women's rights activist and educator, Mary Wollstonecraft as well as elaborate dance scenes with Berite playing all roles. Bayou studied movies like Flashdance to see how to expertly work with body doubles and we perfected it in the film.  It took a great amount of technical skill, knowledge of lighting and correct composition and previsualization to make this flow together perfectly.   This taught us that exceptional filmmaking is about study, study, study, testing and an A list team

The second big challenge was in finding a location so stunning as to represent the world of the film.  It had to embody the worlds of both of these deep and fascinating historical characters.  The universe of the production really came together when we found the location of the Paramour which is a work of art. The owner traveled all over Europe and the world collecting high art paintings, furniture, design and art objects- it was naturally the perfect location for the home of the writer's character and the world of the film.  It was shocking for us as creators that some of the props that were in the script were naturally existing  at the Paramour-it was pure magic. 

For Daniel Lir having worked with fashion icons, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Bella Hadid, Patricia Field who does the clothing for the Netflix hit series, "Emily in Paris", it was a huge challenge to interpret Cleopatra in a novel way.  The film "Cleopatra" starring Elizabeth Taylor was such a work of art in the 1960's, how could we give her an imaginative modern twist and not be slaves to what came before?  It took the inspiration of Middle Eastern designer Zuhair Murad and a huge amount of visual research to re-imagine Cleopatra and interpret Mary in a highly memorable way.  With the genius of our stylist Wilford Lenov, we decided conceptually to represent both characters in gold. Cleopatra in a bold, shiny luxurious gold and Mary Wollstonecraft in a soft, delicate white gold with a custom gown co-created by designer Michelle Hébert.   We learned from all this again that study, study, study was key and working with the best and most talented artists allows you to reach the highest creative heights. 

Lastly, it was a big challenge as Directors to make every frame look like a painting which was our ultimate goal.  All with the purpose of alleviating the suffering of people from the pandemic through beauty. With the help of Michael Rizzi, our cinematographer, our art department team and the wardrobe styling of Wilford Lenov (Bebe Rexha, Saweetie), the visuals were awe-inspiring. 

 ROFFEKE:  “Text me” was your first film as a duo. If you had the experience and resources you had for “Time is eternal” what would you change about “Text me”? What would you not change?

DANIEL AND BAYOU: This is one of the very best questions we have ever been presented with.  Bayou feels she would have liked to film the characters in their own lives before they meet each other on their blind date so that we can better understand their journey and the pre-conceptions they had of each other before they met. 

We both would have liked to have a location that was a stable one for us to shoot in.  We loved the restaurant visually so much but there was something sketchy about the owner and we didn't really have money for a location fee along the lines of what is normally paid for location fees.  So during the production, the owner became really difficult to work with and put a lot of stress on the production which made creativity strained. The mafia theme of the film became real!!

"Text Me" is a film we still celebrate to this day and a film that has truly captured the texting and social media generation.  We are very grateful for having been the first ones to show texting on screen in a film and the minimalism of the film is perhaps what makes it so brilliant so in the final analysis, we love the film as-is. 

ROFFEKE: Bayou Bennett, in your Donut Princess interview “How to build your brand with your significant partner”, you said you were a teacher in Jordan, Amman. What did teaching teach you? What skills did teaching give you? What lessons did you learn?

BAYOU BENNETT: It taught me that all people have different needs, points of view and cultures and you have to really understand these aspects to do the best job as a teacher.  I arrived as a young WOMAN in a culture often dominated by men, there was inherent prejudice.  I learned to be the best I could be despite obstacles and deliver the best and most caring education I could and viewpoints shifted and changed.  I was accepted and loved and seen for who I am.  That is the magic of education in that you break down barriers and open minds to new ways, new methods of living and a bright new future. 

ROFFEKE: You are a couple, parents and co-workers. In the same Donut Princess interview, Bayou, you said that you navigate this situation by wearing different hats (mother, wife, co-worker) at different times. How else do both of you maintain your work-life balance? How do you take care of your mental health?

DANIEL AND BAYOU: Yes, this is so very important.  We do many things to achieve sanity and balance in this wild, rushing and demanding world.  We eat very healthy, nutritious food, we surround ourselves with a very inspiring, able and positive team and don't associate with negative "it can't be done people", we exercise frequently with Daniel doing martial arts and also follow the wonderful Way to Happiness which helps us to make the right choices in all areas of life. 

https://www.thewaytohappiness. org

ROFFEKE: Your thoughts on artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, the metaverse and the future of filmmaking?

DANIEL AND BAYOU: This is an area we are just entering and are fascinated by it. William Gibson's novel "Neuromancer" changed Daniel's life and he also worked for legendary director Ridley Scott who directed "Alien" and "Blade Runner" after graduating from NYU Film School.  Ridley has been a giant influence on Daniel as a Director and successful business person.  I think in the next couple of years you will see a science fiction project from us but as with every project by the Dream Team Directors it will be thought-provoking, inspiring and open your eyes in new directions.  Thank you so very much for this interview and for featuring our film "Time is Eternal" in your amazing film festival. 

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Interview: Jeff Gross - Writer, Director, Producer of "Return to Eden"

Like in the case of Jonathan La Poma (who at that time - 2015 - had won 67 awards and honors for his projects), I felt that, though I could not select "Return to Eden" - a feature film by Jeff Gross, I still wanted to interview him. He was gracious enough to agree to the interview and I am thankful for the insight and words of wisdom he shared.

ROFFEKE: You are the writer, director and producer of "Return to Eden". In your interview, you say: "In retrospect, I wouldn't say that wearing that many hats is good for your health." How do you take care of your mental health? 

JEFF GROSS: Not that well, it would seem. The making of a film, as I see it, demands a constant state of pushing the limits, of plunging into the abyss and coming up again, time after time. In my estimation, this process is unavoidable, the commitment that is the difference between something that touches people and something that is mediocre, but it is certainly not a recipe for health. To a certain extent, as an artist, the quantity of self-doubt, and the depth of questioning is what pushes you to come up with something more powerful, more pure, more electric. This is a state of severe imbalance and energy depletion which one must be very vigilant about. I have studied Oriental Medicine, which is one of the themes in "Return to Eden" so I have some understanding of how to regain that balance, but have also been fortunate enough to have very talented acupuncturists to help me when I can't help myself. 

ROFFEKE: In the same interview, you say: "I am completely uninterested in film as a product. I am of the school that artists must be the conscience of a society, the prophets with transformation and evolution of consciousness the goal." A ROFFEKE interviewee recently expressed similar sentiments, about the importance of art (and the artist) but he also pointed out the huge cost that goes with that, usually at the expense of the well-being of artists. How can we artists reconcile these two realities, especially in a world that is increasingly becoming fractured and thus (not surprisingly) is increasingly downplaying and even deriding the value of art and artists? 

JEFF GROSS: It's an interesting question. I'm not entirely sure it's possible to reconcile the two. The cost to the artist is unavoidable, being an artist is only rarely, or belatedly, a harmonious existence.  And yes, the artist and art have lost status, have been cheapened. A lowest common denominator culture spreading mediocrity as fast as it can, the cynicism of a Warhol, the stultifying narcissistic mediocrity of a Spielberg, etc... But for consciousness to change we don't need to touch everyone at once. We need to put our visions out there, and hope that we have done our jobs well enough so that we touch what people know deep-down but have never managed to bring to the surface. Clearly we are in a an era of darkness, of madness, but if "Return to Eden" is about anything, it is this is the darkness before the light, the return to a more Edenic consciousness, as prophesied. Does this mean that the status of the artist will be more highly-valued? Not likely. The role of artist and prophet is pretty much thankless, in that sense. Which is why I recommend that you not embark on this path unless you really have to. Unless you absolutely have the calling, the sense of mission. If you're looking at the role of artist as a good lifestyle choice, a path to riches, fame and glee, good luck...

ROFFEKE: You also say in the interview: "…many filmmakers have been neutered by public money, and the mafia that distributes this money, with frequently, terrible taste. It turns artists into high class beggars, waiting for a handout. A lack of dignity, a lack of pride, and a level of indolence and aversion to risk, which makes for unfortunate, predictable results." In your opinion, would technology - such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, the metaverse etc - make filmmaking more democratic or would it reinforce the already existing faulty systems? What are your general views regarding the above-mentioned technology and the future of filmmaking? 

JEFF GROSS: My words about film making and public money refer to the situation in many countries in Europe. And yet there are people in Europe who pop up from time to time with vision, philosophy and talent. The bureaucratic spirit is the enemy of inspiration, read Nietzsche, read Max Weber, so the further film gets from the charismatic spark, the worse will be the films. As I watched the US fall into chaos during the Trump years, I wondered how it was possible that nobody was making films about that. That no artist was there to stick his neck out and denounce the status quo. And not just the political figurehead, but the entirety of the madness. Which is how I decided I had to make "Return to Eden." As for your question about AI, virtual reality and metaverses, I find the whole thing quite sterile and uninspiring. A cultural direction designed to keep distracted people titillated. Trickery and novelty, instantly forgettable, as opposed to a psychological voyage, an emotional journey deep inside. I have witnessed the impact of film, have seen minds opened, lives transformed, people transported to ecstasy. That's the cinema I'm interested in, unabashedly. I'm not saying it's impossible to have that with AI and the gang, but I've never actually seen it myself.

ROFFEKE: You are a novelist (World of Midgets and The Book of the Earth) and a screenwriter (writing collaborations with Roman Polanski, including "Frantic" and "Bitter Moon"). There are differences between writing novels and writing screenplays but what would you say are the similarities between the two? 

JEFF GROSS: There are indeed differences. A screenplay is 20,000 words, a novel is 50K or 150K words. A screenplay is shorthand, a novel fills in all the colors. A screenplay is two months, three months. A novel is a journey you embark on with not knowledge of how or if you will ever arrive, a mountain so high that you think it is impossible to ever climb. And then, one day, you arrive at the top, and you don't know how. As for the similarities, as far as I'm concerned, the most profound thing we can achieve in art, is rekindling a state of ecstasy in the reader/viewer. This is a matter of rhythm, of pace, a constant awareness of how an avalanche of words or images will transport the heart, reach the deepest part of the soul, elevate the miracle of existence, the astonishing magnificence of human beings, despite darkness, despite madness.

ROFFEKE: Please share some words of advice to up and coming filmmakers, and to creatives in general, especially regarding our role in shining a light - no matter how small - during these dark, turbulent and fractured times? 

JEFF GROSS: When Moses went to Egypt to free the Hebrews, he brought plagues upon the Egyptian to prove that Jehovah was a more powerful god than Pharoah's gods. To prove to Pharaoh as well as the Hebrews. When they were freed, he parted the Red Sea, so that Pharaoh's army was drowned. And then he wandered for 40 years in the desert. The most advanced man of his era unable to find which way was north? Forty years, two generations, time enough for a generation to be born from the loins of slaves, and then create a second generation who had never known slavery. A generation ready for the mission of imposing a new civilization. This is where we are now, ready to exit the desert, ready to create the next civilization. The return to Eden, the opening of the heart, call it what you will. For this, we need wisdom, deep insight, artists and revolutionaries, missionaries and prophets, catalysts. "Return to Eden," is pretty much all about this question, among other things, about how consciousness works, and the vital importance of shining that light "No matter how small" as you say, Mildred. You will face endless resistance and opposition, you will have to pick yourself off the ground any number of times, you will want to give up, try something else. My advice to artists? You will need relentless optimism, perfectionism without concession, energy, endurance, pride, humility and heart. Or at least, that is my method. Up to you to find your own.