“Film can change our world for the better”: Steven Keen
May 30, 2012
The Fresh Outlook
Filmmaker Steven Keen, 27, speaks to The Fresh Outlook about his new up and coming film project ‘Fisher of Kids’.
Currently in his second year of studying Master of Fine Arts in Film at the University of Wales in Newport, Steven has been given an opportunity to shoot a film based on the inspiring and amazing life story of James Kofi Annan.
James Kofi Annan was sold into the Ghanaian fishing industry at the age of six; he was forced to work as a child fisherman in more than twenty villages along Lake Volta before he managed to escape seven years later. He dedicated his life and devoted his time fighting for children’s rights in Ghana and despite various death threats from those who make money in that industry, he has neither ceased to his work to free child slaves nor his fight for an end of child slavery in Ghana.
Steven said: “It is certainly a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’! From the day I came across this very remarkable life story I was keen on directing and producing the film myself in order to express the emotions and deliver the message that I had in mind from the start – and also because it is most probably the biggest chance I’ll get as a filmmaker to fulfil my childhood dream, reach people all over the world with a worthwhile cause and establish my name within the industry.”
The thought of creating a film based on someone’s hardships and poignant moments would seem like a challenge, however Steven, saw potential in his own vision and wanted to take the opportunity to produce the film worthy of James Kofi Annan’s tale.
“I’m normally much more into factual storytelling; I do look forward to this project a lot. Fiction can be a very effective medium to inspire a real emotional reaction to true circumstance, rather than presenting the audience with a rather factual retrospective documentation of what actually happened.”
An admirer of film, Steven doesn’t hold a torch for one director, there are many that have influenced him over the years. A big influence is the film ‘Hotel Rwanda’: “It’s a fictional drama based on real life events and the life story of Paul Rusesabagina who rescued his fellow citizens from the ravages of the Rwandan Genocide. It’s also one of my favourite movies and if anything inspired this movie or me as a filmmaker, then it’s ‘Hotel Rwanda’”.
Steven has directed several short films but his most moving was shot last year. Over four months, he directed and self shot several short films that portrayed the incredible efforts of several NGOs all over India, it’s called ‘Dream India’.
“This journey affected me a lot and made a huge difference in my life. In February 2011, I couldn’t believe my eyes when my online searches finally led me to a work placement opportunity specifically designed for film students to create content for the social sector in India’s former capital, Mumbai. Since I had already directed documentaries in Africa and India, I immediately sent out my application – and started praying.”
He went on to say:“Only two months later, I found myself facing the first physical challenges on Indian ground: In a climate 20 degrees hotter than in the UK, I had to learn to literally fight my way through the daily crowds and get used to the incredible noise, the mountains of dirt, the huge and chaotic traffic jams and, above all, the dire poverty. Lying less than 4,500 miles from the United Kingdom, India is home to the largest number of undernourished people in the world – my job was to give them a voice, document the efforts of ‘local heroes’ and showcase how their work creates a future and a perspective for the underprivileged.
“I made friendships through the viewfinder of my camera, experienced the peoples’ thankfulness and happiness on the camera’s LCD screen. After an unforgettable journey to the poorest of the poor in the cold regions of the Himalayan mountain range, to orphanages nearby the spiritual city of Rishikesh and to handicapped people in the incredibly hot desert of Jaipur, I arrived back ‘home’ in Mumbai in July and became witness to the bomb blasts that claimed 26 lives and injured an additional 130 people.
“Once, when I was filming at the Mumbai Central Station, the police arrested me and a few days later I almost fell off the Mahim water pipelines after climbing on top of them for a nice shot. Luckily, all these happenings had a happy ending.
“Summing everything up, I can honestly say that every single day in ‘Incredible India’ proved to be the best preparation I could ever get for my career as a filmmaker.”
‘Dream India’ has been nominated for the ‘Young European Film Forum 2012’ and ‘The National Student Film Festival’. It has also been screened in several Cine Societies all over India.
With big dreams and amazing achievements, nothing is impossible for this ambitious director who managed to come across the true biographical tale of James Kofi Annan through his own research.
“I was so inspired and touched by this remarkable story that I immediately got in touch with James’ NGO ‘Challenging Heights’ to ask for James’ life story rights – which I thought, had long ago been secured by a Hollywood Producer already. But I was wrong and I managed to obtain the exclusive rights – and the subject of the film itself is more serious and actual than ever before: It is estimated that there are 246 million children working in severe forms of child labour right now!”
Even though the film hasn’t been shot yet (shooting starts this summer), already Steven is getting overwhelming support in the making of ‘Fisher of kids’.
“The scale and the scope of James Kofi Annan’s story are staggering, which is why I’m so keen about directing and producing this film from the first minute. And although I haven’t even started to shoot the film, we’ve already had a number of huge successes. We have confirmation that the film will be screened in Colorado and at the ‘Miss Africa’ event 2013 and our Facebook page has more than 2,500 likes. We also just launched our official website and had 3,800 unique visitors in the first month!”
Steven managed to secure an Academic Enhancement Bursary and has been awarded by the Welsh Livery Guild a Travel Scholarship.
“This is an honour for us and makes us set our goals even higher in doing justice to James Kofi Annan’s story and fighting for an end of child slavery in Ghana. The total budget of the film is, however £10,000- and that requires us to do a crowd funding in the summer with which I’m looking to raise another £3,000.”
Steven is lucky to be sharing his vision with other talented people. The crew he has chosen all share the same determination and passion.
“I was lucky enough to find seven really idealistic and experienced crew members. All of them will arrive on 26th June in Accra and then stay until we finish the shooting on August 8. What’s really wonderful about the crew is that I collaborated with each of the crew members before on a at least one film shooting, which makes us almost like a family.”
Steven hopes that after ‘Fisher of Kids’ is wrapped, it will hopefully catch the eye of a producer that will give them a budget that allows a feature length to be made.
“If that doesn’t work out, I’d certainly make another film that raises awareness for some kind of injustice in a developing country – because I’ve always believed that film as a medium has the power to influence our world and change it for the better.”
To find out more about Steven’s production or more about James Kofi Annan’s life story visit facebook.com/fisherofkids or check out ‘Dream India’ on vimeo.com/33072273
By Kate Wilson
[Image Courtesy of Steven Keen]