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The BUFF Blog (April 2012)

Traditionally
in the UK, the most-watched programmes on television are always
scheduled on a Saturday night. The last few years have seen a more
aggressive approach to win hearts and minds with the UK’s 2 biggest
broadcasters (BBC & ITV) going head-to-head and scheduling their
‘MUST-SEE’ programmes against each other. In the last 6 months alone,
Strictly Come Dancing was beating The X Factor when previously the ITV
juggernaut was winning hand over fist.

On
Saturday March 24th 2012, BBC1 launched a brand new series of The Voice
UK an hour before ITV1 launched its’ latest series of Britain’s Got
Talent. In the 4 weeks since then, The Voice UK has consistently won the
Saturday night ratings war which led to ITV conceding defeat and
putting its’ 5th episode (on Saturday April 21) back by half an hour,
allowing The Voice UK to run a full show without a clash.

On the
same day, the British Urban Film Festival returned to TV screens for the
first time in 5 years with the launch of #buffpresents screening 4
films previously shown at BUFF. One of the films featured marked the
directorial debut of Aml Ameen with ‘Drink, Drugs &  KFC’. Those of
you who’ve read Aml’s BUFF Blog will know that Aml has a clear vision as
to how he sees the future of urban independent cinema having been a
part of its’ birth with Kidulthood. It just so happened that BBC 3
screened Kidulthood at around the same time that viewers would’ve been
watching Aml’s film - co-incidence or brinksmanship?

Who
knows, but it did mean that Aml was on 2 channels at the same time
appearing in 3 films – a unique hattrick if ever there was one. It also
meant a feverish night for the British Urban Film Fraternity both online
and on-air, flipping channels, setting their sky plus’s and providing
live commentary via Facebook and Twitter hashtagging #Sky539 and
#Virgin233. The viewing figures are out next month and it will be
interesting to see whether the programming clash between BUFF & the
BBC had the desired effect.

Another
of the featured films from #buffpresents was ‘Before They Were Dubz’
which not only featured Fazer, Dappy & Tulisa but also contributions
from Wretch 32 & Arnold Oceng who happened to know them when they
were starting out as 14 year olds. A lot has happened for all of them
since then and in this month’s edition of the BUFF Blog, Arnold
‘SnakeyMan’ Oceng (in his own words) guest writes for us and talks about
how he himself started out to where he is right now, bagging a role in
Adulthood along the way – the monster which grew out from Kidulthood...

In the
words of Daneao ‘Hello, hi’. Many of you know me as Arnold Oceng, some
of you know me as SnakeyMan the award winning musician. I will formally
introduce myself as Arnold ‘SnakeyMan’ Oceng!

In ALL
interviews I get asked 2 questions – one being ‘how did you get the name
SnakeyMan?’ and 2: ‘if you had to choose between acting and music what
would it be?’ As I’m sure you will emphathise it does get a bit tedious,
though I am of course grateful to get as much press as I do. What is
refreshing is that I get the reigns on this one, HA!!

 

My
journey into the spotlight of the media started when I was 6 so from
pretty early on I guess you could say it was my destiny - which is a
gift and a curse. My acting didn’t really become the focal point for so
many people until I was 12 when I got the role of Calvin Braithwaite in
‘Grange Hill’ - which I was fortunate enough to do for 6 years. That was
pretty cool as it was like I had 2 schools... imagine going to school
every day with people like Reggie Yates!! Within 6 years on set I had
achieved more than what most actors do in their whole career and through
the success of the show I embarked on the start of another part of my
journey without even knowing it.

It was
at the Kids TV Choice Awards in 2001 where I first met Noel Clarke. He
approached me about Kidulthood and kind of put me on the spot. I was
actually with my agent and they chose to do their ‘agent’ thing and take
over the conversation. Little did I know that Kidulthood would become
so big, no one did! It got a bit political and my agent advised against
me featuring in the film. By the time Adulthood came around and Noel
approached me for the second time, there was no way I wasn’t going to be
a part of it.

Because
of Grange Hill and all the prior TV work I was able to pick up
beforehand, life was nice before Adulthood. I had also started my music
career and had already won Best Newcomer aged 21 at the Urban Music
Awards. However Adulthood did change my life for the better, but in
truth in has changed British cinema forever.

Never
before had ‘Urban’ London been so cool - it just wasn’t given that much
spotlight! With Kidulthood selling so many DVDs (over 1 million copies
and still selling!), there was just so much hype around the release of
Adulthood. The brand was already established and the new characters just
added to the hysteria. It felt funny because most people knew what it
was all about and it just felt like the people had finally been given
what they had been waiting for. When I look back, I think I’m genuinely
more proud of what the film achieved rather than me just saying ‘yeh, I
was in that film’. I remember I went to the cinema to watch it and the
way that people reacted to it on screen was just amazing, I was hearing
that fights were breaking out in cinemas and ridiculous stuff like that.

I
remember the week it was announced as a box office number 1 and the film
titles below us on the list included Sex in the City and The Incredible
Hulk. That was an amazing feeling man. I think it goes without saying,
but the grass is not always green for an aspiring actor, or any other
ambitious young person and the success of Adulthood hasn’t changed that
reality. There have also been tribulations and this has forced me to
understand the business side of the media. I choose to control my own
destiny as well as style choice with the music that I put out. This
enables me to stay away from scripts and just express myself.

I think
that the film’s notable success was instrumental in how Noel (at the
time) and more recently Adam (Deacon) have gone on to win BAFTAs. With
all due respect, it’s not necessarily about the quality of their films,
as that’s relative. In my opinion, it was because both their films
represented the people; it was about the kids that needed these heroes
in their lives. Both won the people’s choice award and that’s no
coincidence! It’s logical - Noel inspired Adam and out of all the young
people that Adam touched and inspired through Anuvahood, one will go on
to achieve something big man - could even be another BAFTA for the
streets.

Since
Adulthood, I’ve starred in more UK movies which has been nice. Like I
said, my Grange Hill days meant a lot, but in hindsight I guess
Adulthood was kind of a deliverance, a deliverance in 2 different ways. I
delivered on screen and also featured on the movie soundtrack alongside
the likes of Plan B, Tynchy, Dizzy etc. which I don’t think a lot of
people know. The second, in a more literal way, was deliverance from
being a child actor to becoming a young, hungry, qualified actor who’d
already done a bit.

I think
I am most proud of my progression moreso than any one particular role.
Like I stated in the intro, I always get asked the 2 questions. All that
shows is that people can be stuck in the past, but I’ve chosen to look
forward and be guided by a desire to succeed. In the humblest of ways,
my career has progressed alongside all of the UK’s top actors (Ashley
Walters, Adam Deacon, Noel Clarke etc) and of course I haven’t been in
all the same projects but I can definitely hold my own when it comes
down to our CVs. Apart from Ashley, the other 2 were not in Top Boy. Not
many UK black male actors have ever had 4 films coming out in 1 year!

This
year I have chosen to submerge myself moreso in the creative process of
film and I’m starting to realise where the money is long term. This I
believe is a natural progression, and also a healthy one as I’m keeping
my eyes and my mind open. I feel a lot of people are jumping on the
bandwagon a little now that Adam has turned writer/director though, so
I’m carefully watching and waiting as opposed to becoming a jack of all
trades, but master of none.

Part of
that submergence is me becoming an ambassador for ‘Knice’ which has
launched a nationwide film competition entitled ‘Priceless Moment’.
16-25 year olds across the UK have been asked to produce, write, edit,
and/or direct a film. Not only am I proud to be an ambassador for it,
but I’m also taking the role quite seriously as I could quite literally
assist in finding the next potential Orange ‘rising star’ award winner.

The
main reason I was attracted to this project was because of the prizes on
offer. Film and in particular cinema is all about an ultimate
experience in my opinion and I don’t think a lot of people still value
that. Films are marketed to us in a way that makes us feel that we will
miss out if we don’t go and see them with our friends. However, they
don’t really stand for much. What I mean by this is that we often enjoy
so much more and respect a film that we have an emotional connection
with, an Aladdin or a Jungle Book. Everyone has a childhood Disney
classic right? It’s all based on a euphoric feeling...

The
prizes for the winner of this film-making project will change the
person’s life as they can use the equipment on offer time and time
again, hopefully making multiple films. In addition, getting the film
shown at a film festival is priceless, and in time they will see that.
Lastly, I didn’t go to a drama school - as mentioned I learnt on the
job, so I’m a serious advocate for young creative people rolling up
their sleeves, coming together and learning as they go.

In the words of The Guvnor, ‘I’ll be back’ on your screens with 2 films this summer… unless someone tells me otherwise.

Peace, love & laughter, Arnold ‘SnakeyMan’ Oceng

The deadline for submissions to BUFF 2012 is Friday June 29, 5pm.

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