After selling out in cinemas, reaching number three status on the iTunes chart and attaining a worldwide Netflix deal, the creators of The Intent are back; however this time the magnitude and execution is expected to be delivered at a far greater level as the film travels over to Jamaica.
Entitled The Intent 2: The Come Up, the film acts as a prequel to its first, in exploring the contextual links between the characters, as well as presenting the origins of their stories. With a brand new plot, The Intent 2: The Come Up has brought back a number of its original cast members, though its makers have enlisted an assortment of new faces such as Jamaica’s own Popcaan and BET nominee and grime pioneer Ghetts to develop the movie series even further.
The movie also proudly establishes a brand new partnership between Island Records & Vertigo Releasing; a deal which sees a major recording label collaborate with a Black British movie concept, something that has been untested in the past. Written by and starring Nicky Slimting Walker (It’s a Lot) and Femi Oyeniran (Kidulthood, Adulthood), The Intent 2: The Come Up looks to take things to the next level in its filming in both London and Jamaica alike.
The movie itself, slated for an Autumn 2018 release across UK and Ireland centres around Jay (Ghetts), whose big dreams and ambitions are crippled by his allegiance to both his crew and Hackney crime boss Beverley (Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Top Boy). Jay sets about laying the foundations for his own organised crime ring with the help of Mustafa (Adam Deacon). Things are going well until Beverley discovers his disloyalty. An ill-fated robbery in North London, and a trip to Jamaica, tears the crew apart and all the while, their actions are being monitored by an undercover Met Police officer Gunz (Dylan Duffus), who has managed to infiltrate the crew.
With the movie really focusing on continuing to display a true representation of Black British culture and the elements that have sincerely inspired it over the years, we managed to speak with Femi, Nicky, Ghetts and Alex/Twin (Island Records) who all gave us a deeper insight into what we can expect.
The Intent 2: The Come Up sees a brand new collaboration between Vertigo Releasing and Island Records, what did this partnership being to the table?
Ghetts: “Ok, let me speak on this yeah [laughs]. This is going to be the new wave, what these guys have done is mad.”
Nicky: “One of our main concerns was the way black culture is presented in the media and in film. Alex at Island has been doing this, from way back, DJ’ing, mixtapes, breaking artists and most importantly, he just understands the culture.
“I needed to find someone who understands how to market a film like this, and this partnership was so organic. The main person I had to find was someone from a label, not a film company, cause they don’t understand the culture, they don’t release black movies, there’s only really been a handful if you look back.”
Femi: “I remember even during the first film, Nicky would say that we need to partner with a label and I used to question it, thinking why would we do that? Then he told me he had a meeting with Alex from Island and that’s when it clicked.
“I realised there aren’t any people of working at these film companies. Nicky and I have been going through these offices for seven or eight years now and everyone in film and TV can talk about diversity all they want, but until people of colour make real decisions and execute their own ideas, there won’t be a true picture of ethnic diversity.”
This is where it all fell into place. Vertigo just understood us, they were the first company to approach us after the success of The Intent; they asked us if we would you like to work with them from then. It made sense. With Island, I don’t have to explain to Alex about Black British culture, he gets it and that is why we are here, when I was going to other meetings, it took me ages to paint a picture in just trying to explain to them who Stormzy and Krept and Konan were.” [Laughs].
Alex/Twin: “For us, actually having our own urban focus department with people who actually care about the culture from top to bottom was everything. We approached this the same way we did when we worked with Giggs and Michael Dappah, because they could respect where we come from.
“Don’t get me wrong, we are a record company, we’re all about the music but these guys understood it. It reminded me of when Dame Dash and those guys did Paid In Full, the representation was just absolute and it was all there.
“It helped us curate the soundtrack too, like Ghetts is on it, Popcaan too, we just had fun with it.”
With a brand new plot and fresh ideas, how can we expect the intensity to increase in The Intent 2?
Femi: “So with The Intent, it was very independent, I always talk about The Intent like it’s a mixtape. It was always the mandem’s thing and it was all in house; The Intent 2 acts as the album. The ambition is bigger, everything is bolder, and we filmed in Jamaica, which helped the narrative grow more too. This time it’s all through our new character, Jay, who Ghetts plays. What we did with The Intent 2 was explore their come up in a real POV style.”
A more international reach is definitely a major factor in the release of the sequel, how will this change what we see this time?
Femi: “It just looks rich, you know. If you look at the tapestry of urban films in the UK, which I have been involved in from the very start, you look at the palette. The palette has always been very much council estate heavy and what you would expect to come with it; children badly dressed and in a way that’s very patronising and not at all aspirational.
“With this film, its different, it’s aspirational, even though it’s a street film. I was speaking with the editor the other day and we were discussing Nicky and I’s story as filmmakers in the UK, which really inspired Jay’s story and we just placed it within the film, you know. So its like, these are real life occurrences and young people from the hood are really living this.
“What we really tried to do with this movie is bridge that gap that’s always been there, displaying and widening our palette by presenting the influence Caribbean culture has had in London. We’re on the beach this time, there are guys on quad bikes, there was so much more we could do that we would not be able to if we strictly shot it on council estates again.”
I really feel as if you, Femi and Kalvadour did a great job by capturing and containing London gang culture in the first movie, have the foundations now been created so less focus will be placed on it this time?
Nicky: “No, no, we shot in both London and Jamaica this time.”
Femi: “The focus is still placed on both, its not like we are snaking London now [laughs].
“This is who we are, we just wanted to broaden things by expanding over into Jamaica and exploring links that have always been there, one; and secondly, with this one, we really want you to understand why the characters do what they do. It’s like why is Jay street? What does he get from it? We wanted to posit this question; what happens when a drug dealer wants a promotion? It was here that myself and Nicky realised that sometimes the road life is just a life people choose and they may just want to be the best possible version of themselves on the roads and not in an office, not in Tesco, you get me.”
Nicky: “This is the thing, that realisation made me comprehend that no street movie has ever gone overseas to a place like Jamaica. If you think about grime culture and just London culture in general, it has really been influenced by Jamaican culture. For example, if you look at Ghetts, where he came from; clashing, battling, these are all things that originated in Jamaica.
“So I just think that us taking this movie over to Jamaica made sense for where we are now; and when we do our next film, it will make sense for us to go to Nigeria because Afrobeats in Africa is on the rise and we’re embracing that ourselves now in London. Before times like these, we didn’t, people didn’t think it was cool to be black. But now we have our own black stars; we have Ghetts as our new main role and nobody thought he could carry his own in a motion picture, but when you see his performance you will be blown away.
“Ghetts’ role is very similar to what Tupac did in Juice.”
Femi: “I’m not even just trying to big up Ghetts but if you see his ability to perform and you sort of look at videos of Tupac performing, then you look at his acting, you really think to yourself wow, these guys can really turn it on and you can believe them, because they can actually draw such experiences they play from their own hearts.
“One of the most important things for characters on the screen is the ability to believe them and if you don’t, then it makes no sense.”
Alex/Twin: “Just chipping in from a label perspective, these guys called me when they were auditioning, cause Ghetts was always going to be involved through the soundtrack. Two phone calls later and it was like Ghetts is actually the best guy for this role and I was like nah, these guys are forcing it [everyone laughs], that’s bold, but that’s also the whole idea behind this, to be bold.
“This is why it’s exciting for us as a company, because it’s real. I remember wanting more artists in the film but the guys said to me they only want hand selected people who will actually do their roles justice; its not just for the sake of it.”
Ghetts: “You know what its like, It’s like announcing someone to be on main stage at Wireless [laughs].”
Nicky: “When Femi said Ghetts, I was thinking hold on, wait, he’s a rapper, he’s my friend…but Femi was so adamant, it just felt right even though he had not done it before, that is exactly why we did it, it’s bold and that’s exactly what this film was about.”
The first Intent movie had a lot of familiar faces in it, from those casted in Top Boy, to some household UK rap names such as Krept and Konan. Will there be any new surprises in this one?
Femi: “Well we’ve brought back everyone that was available. This time, though we have Lady Leshurr, we have a cameo from Yxng Bane, a cameo from Paigey Cakey, we have Popcaan in this one too who plays a massive role.
“We’ve got Teddy Bruckshot to play the lead police officer in Jamaica, who was also in the classic, Belly. We have also got Cashtastic in this one too”
Ghetts: “Can I just speak on Cash for a second, please.. What he does in this film; how he plays his role is amazing. Don’t get me wrong, everyone plays their role really well but when I came to this set, I realised; if I don’t bring my A game here, then lets call it a day. The mood that surrounded the set was exactly this; it’s not a slap dash job. When I filmed a scene with Cash and Popcaan, I was thinking to myself boy, this guy is talented and I hope we see more of this in the future.”
Femi: “Adam Deacon too, that’s a big return!”
Nicky: “Yeah, Adam. He hasn’t really done too much since Anuvahood and I think a lot of people turned their back on Adam Deacon but we thought, look, just cause people go through certain things in their lives, it doesn’t take away what they are good at and his performance in this film is great.”
The character Femi plays in The Intent acts as a sense maker, an individual that is always present in such gang-related circumstances and also a similar role to Moony in Kidulthood, what was the importance of placing his character in a film such as this?
Femi: “You know what, I wasn’t even meant to be in The Intent. [Laughs] I remember saying I just wanted to produce it, but Nicky would keep saying to me, no don’t be stupid you have to be in it, you’re an actor. At the time, I was going through a weird phase and I just wanted to focus on producing. We were actually going to cast someone else, but then I just decided to do it myself.
“Having said that, I approached it where his character was less comical to the rest, like your Moony’s in the past. For me, I was like how do I play a role that’s similar to roles I have played in the past, but this time make it more fun for me because at this stage in my career, I needed to be pushed and Nicky, a visionary helped me with that and I’m really grateful.”
The first movie highlights a lot of topics that, in my opinion, everybody is reluctant to talk about; for example Mitch praying with a knife on his lap, as he feels resentful after the robbery seen at the beginning. I feel like a lot of people try to dissociate religion with issues like life in the streets, simply cause they do not want to address it. What was the reason for tackling such issues so head-on?
Ghetts: “Exactly. Because its real life.”
Nicky: “Just because people make certain choices in life, does not mean they do not have faith in God, or keep God dear to them, its important to show that.”
Ghetts: “With these guys, they are all from it, its authentic. Normally when we are watching films, even down to the script, the slang, so many times I have watched films that are supposed to represent our culture at the time and I’ve thought to myself…we don’t even say this kind of stuff amongst our people.
“I would find myself being critical the whole movie because its just not a representation of us at that time.”
Femi: “When we film its just about capturing the natural moment. I remember filming Kidulthood and the director would just allow Adam Deacon and myself to just say whatever we liked at times, and those scenes became the funniest, most memorable ones…really, that says it all, right. This became one of my biggest lessons, to just let actors have freedom with their text and to speak up when necessary with suggestions and alterations, that’s why we work with Fekky and those guys, we want the language to be natural.”
The subject topics throughout the movie are quite serious, what are the dynamics like on set when filming?
Femi: “Its stressful, bro. Like some days really happy and others, Ghetts would be asking us why we are so miserable [laughs]. Cause it was his first film, he was able to look at it from a fresh perspective.”
Ghetts: “(Laughs) I remember thinking, rah, I’m used to being in the studio and these man aren’t the kind of man I’m used to being around. I remember at times directors would be like “everyone shut up” and I was like huh?! Am I gonna let man chat to me like that [laughs], but I had to remember that’s just set life.” [laughs].
“The way these guys chat to each other on set though, boy [laughs]”.
By bringing public faces and rappers into the movie, was there any worry that this could add more stigma to some peoples existing perceptions of the UK rap scene? Or was this done purposefully?
Alex/Twin: “This is why we did it, really. The position the culture is in now disables you from being able to ignore urban and black culture. Before the internet and social media, it was like wait, one at a time, not all at once; but where this is the mainstream now, audiences are consuming the culture differently and it’s not going anywhere.”
Nicky: “When The Intent went to Number three on iTunes people couldn’t understand how this black movie reached such a number and how it was sold out in the cinema; but its just cause they don’t understand it, the market for it was always there.
“We used rappers who are not professionally trained to express this as real as we could.”
Femi: “Before, there was no way of proving the commercial potency of Black British culture, because black stars were blocked out of means of monetization. The digital world disrupted this. Now black musicians and filmmakers can monetize their content without the big boys, if they choose to.”
Ghetts: “Also, before we cared less about figures, it was the impact. Normal, average human beings didn’t care that their favourite rapper sold a million records, now everyone bases the best on who sells the most and not really about what is being said.”
Social media exploded with the news that Popcaan had landed a role in The Intent 2: The Come Up. Can you tell us a little bit more about his character?
Femi: “So Popcaan plays the don. In Jamaica, a don is seen as “the guy”.”
Ghetts: “He plays the role really well because in Jamaica, a don is widely respected and that is exactly what he is in real life, respected.”
Femi: “The way we twisted it was that Popcaan’s character is the guy who runs things in Jamaica, just like someone similar would in London. In Jamaica, when you run an area, you know everything that moves through it and our characters from London go to Jamaica and stay with him; so they get into situations alongside him and see what road life is like from that brand new perspective.”
The character of Mustafa in The Intent 2: The Come Up is quite intriguing, the way he sways Jay away from road life, what more can be revealed about his role?
Femi: “Adam Deacon plays Mustafa, a businessman who gives Jay the opportunities to move away from the street life, but its up to him to take them or not. That’s the main plot of the movie, so it will all make sense when you watch it.”
The film sees a return from Nathan Hector, who posted a photo on Twitter alongside the cast and a BKChat LDN member, is the style of the movie going to be different?
Ghetts: “Due to the budget of the first film, compared with the second, it didn’t allow for these guys to be expressive and free with a script, it’s more limited. But due to the success of the first, it’s gone up a level. They’ve brought the imagery to reality, we were actually able to go to Jamaica and show you what it’s like instead of just trying to explain it to you.”
Femi: “We flipped a car, you don’t do that on no budget [laughs], there were as many machine guns as we wanted. But ultimately for me, this is an action thriller. The thing is, as black filmmakers, people want our films to be anthropology; but we are not trying to make a documentary, this is pure entertainment, it’s no different to watching Fast & Furious. That’s just the type of films we want to make and this time, we had the vessel to do it.”
With British urban music being far more commercial and well received now, what can we expect to hear on the soundtrack?
Alex/Twin: “Well the soundtrack is inspired by the film. There are a bunch of artists who gave us some great music for it, but there are also some unsigned acts, but you’ll see when you watch it, its great.”