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How to Make a Documentary & Sell Out Your Premiere with Leap Creators Adesola Akerele and Stephanie Okereafor




By Hanaa Yousof 


It is a fundamental rule of narrative that in order to move a story along, your plot must not neglect its pivotal moments - its inciting incidents, its risks, its leaps of faith. Setting the course for the plot to unfurl lies broadly in those choices; where does a protagonist's motivation exist, and what drives them? Plot mechanics aside, humanness in of itself largely overlaps with this need to move forward through something; with so much of our existence lived vicariously through online experiences we crave but fear fully diving into, ‘what if?’ tends to sum a lot up for us. But what if you actually decided to take the leap? 


This week on Blocks2Bags, we sat down with Adesola Akerele and Stephanie Okereafor, two Black British filmmakers who took matters into their own hands, documenting a life-changing trip to LA that encompassed what it really means to take a chance that could power your future. Armed with filming equipment and a title — LEAP — they set out to draw out the ‘why’ from their experiences, asking: “Can one trip change your life?” 


One docu-vlog and a sold-out Genesis Cinema film screening later, they’ve continued to transform their journey into something larger than life, introducing the Leap Prize fund to inspire people to take their own leaps. With Blocks2Bags as Associate Producers on the project, we fully see the vision; so sit with us this week, and tap into the path to your own leap of faith. 


BLOCK GEMS FROM ADESSY, STEPH, AND ‘LEAP’


  1. Things will go wrong; keep going — Hurdles and their many flavours go hand-in-hand with starting anew, in whatever way that is to you. Retraining your mind to perceive failure as a learning opportunity, rather than a catastrophic end is a difficult step, but one that catalyses change; as our B2B host Bejay noted, “fail fast, fail forward”.

  2. Evolution as a necessary part of the journey — Whether you’re a creative working on a project, somebody looking to pivot out of a stagnant period, or anyone generally on a path of self-development, it’s incredibly easy to feel fear at the prospect of change within your journey. Normalising the idea change and evolving over time, as opposed to starting perfect, can unlock doors upon doors and come to eventually make the difference.

  3. Preparation as a means to the goal — Spontaneity is almost synonymous with the concept of a ‘leap’; whether it is in the impulsivity of it all, or the adrenaline jump of finally taking that risk, it can often be an important part of our journey. But as reflected upon by Adessy and Steph, preparation, especially in the face of mountainous projects requiring significant dedication on our part, is a game-changer. You might not need the final draft yet, but even just the rough sketch can make the process much smoother.

  4. Finding your ‘why’ to fuel your path — Whether it’s faith, the community around you, or simply the reason initially sparking your path to a certain endeavour, Adessy and Steph reflected on the need to be powered by a purpose as a form of assurance on your journey. Particularly in the vein of the hurdles in a leap, having reminders when the going gets tough is key. 

  5. Take that leap — If you’ve been holding onto a hope that you’ve cast aside as a pipe-dream, take this as your sign to go for it; to leap means to put belief into yourself, and developing that trust will lay the foundation for more than we could ever conceive. 


THE JOURNEY TO THE LEAP


“Taking a leap of faith isn't a step, but a fall into the unknown”, state the first lines of the LEAP documentary, punctuated by the dangling legs of the shot — an encapsulation of pushing yourself off the precipice into something new. With the seamless quality and inventiveness of the narrative of the LEAP documentary, it’s easy to fast-forward beyond these “unknowns” and focus on the end product. But as we discussed with Adessy and Steph, the journey didn’t always necessarily mirror the end result. 


“Before we started, we didn’t know what we were making”, recounted Adessy about their decision to move to LA and film their journey, an experience largely predicated upon that ‘unknown’ in every which way.


And beyond the literal risk of moving across continents with no insight into what could happen, the intricacy of creating a documentary was also not lost on the two. Appearing together in only three shots, the two found they had to navigate multiple roles in the filmmaking process (as their crew came post-production). Here, leaping into multifacetedness face-first is often a given, where processes such as interviewing talent required quick-thinking and improvisation on their part.


“[In] the interviews it was literally just praying that it would work because we caught them for that window, so that's when we had to really just pretend like we knew what we were doing”, said Steph. “I think they were expecting crews and then they saw me and Steph holding a backpack.”

With industry trailblazers like Avelino, Joivan Wade, and Hamzaa interviewed as part of the ability, the pair’s ability to take a chance on themselves speaks to what LEAP represents — trust that you can, even in the most unlikely moments. 


EVOLUTION & THE REALITIES BEHIND A LEAP 


With any leap of faith comes hindsight running on its toes; what would you have done differently if you’d known then what you know now?


For Adessy and Steph, they found themselves evolving with the filmmaking process, both during their time in LA and in the post-production stages. From feedback on their work illuminating the fact that their presence in the story was imperative to its appeal, to collating footage with an Editor after the trip, they found themselves learning a significant amount — the stand-outs which we’ve summarised below:


  • THE STORY-LINE: Here, the pair highlighted the need for a cohesive storyline to power your work, something any creative out there can understand. While LEAP came together brilliantly in the end, the pair highlighted how retrospectively, this structuring could’ve aided the process.

  • BEGINNING, MIDDLE, END: “I think the reality is with making a documentary just like telling any story whether it's fiction or nonfiction you need a beginning middle and end you need people to follow you on a journey”, said __ of the docu-vlogs process. Preparation is key here; while they emphasised a need to be open to the flexibility of a story, planning can mean a more seamless and streamlined process. 

  • EQUIPMENT AND CREW: For Steph and Adessy, funding for their documentary came after their LA move. So whether it was shooting B-Roll to test equipment or balancing their respective strengths to operate various procedures, they took on significant roles in the process. Upon reflection, they mentioned the value of a crew, highlighting the importance of collaboration and being supported by people who see your vision enough to be part of the journey.


All in all, LEAP was steeped in a marked sense of progress. Not a linear journey, but a sometimes bumpy climb meaning Steph & Adessy’s sold-out show was that much more rewarding.


“It was very surreal”, said Steph of the night of the premiere. “Like you like you obviously hope for the best, but a lot can go wrong […] you have this moment in your mind for so long and then it happens so quickly and it's done and then it just lives in people's memories from that moment.”

SO – CAN ONE TRIP CHANGE YOUR LIFE?


“LEAP was birthed out of a place of lack”, said Adessy of her and Steph’s decision to move, “We started, and we went to LA, we booked tickets and we couldn’t afford accommodation, so all we could do is pray and fast.”


For the pair, it was their ‘why’ that powered them through the various difficulties of the filmmaking process, cultivating results through reflecting on their underlying purpose. 


“I just encourage anyone that’s going into anything to just have a bigger ‘why’”, said Steph, “if your idea or your project ends with you, I don’t know if that’s going to keep you going”.

So with all of this in mind, and despite the various hurdles of their journey – was it worth it?


If the LEAP Prize fund emblematises anything, it is in fact, that: yes, one trip can change your life, and yes, leaping into the unknown makes all the difference. The tangible effects of the risks we take more often than not allow us to find parts of ourselves previously unbeknownst to us; whatever stage you are in your individual journey, there is something to be said about how trusting ourselves to take on new challenges matters, and shifts our perspectives in a multitude of ways.


“That’s been my favourite thing about the response”, said Steph of her and Adessy’s post-LEAP experiences, “the fact that it’s translating into real world impact and actually producing hope where there wasn’t before”. 

So in summary – take that leap.

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