London-based director Kolton Lee has taken a circuitous route into filmmaking, starting his professional life as a basketball player before moving into journalism (editing The Voice), then applying for a course at the National Film School. More recently he's managed to combine all of those skills into developing and directing the urban teen flick Freestyle.
Following in the vein of Hollywood movies like Step Up, this is a light-hearted fable that uses inner-city London as a backdrop. The story revolves around schoolgirl Ondene (Lucy Konadu) as she struggles to balance her love for freestyle basketball and her cool new boyfriend (Arinze Kene) with the expectations of her mother (Suzann McLean) who is adamant that she focus her energies on getting into Oxford University.
It was the notion of an uplifting story aimed at a teenagers that piqued the interest of the Film London Panel who green-lit the project as part of the Microwave scheme (co-funded by BBC Films). This guaranteed a budget of £100,000 and the guidance of experienced mentors who shepherded the script (by first-time feature writer Michael Maynard) into production.
In announcing their decision, the Film London panel noted that the "urban teen audience" is a "much under-served audience in the UK by British film." They went on to add, "We all felt the script and the team were pitched perfectly for creating a British film that does what, usually, only American films do – tell a classic story of first love with street influence and vibes."
Talking to BBC Film Network, Lee explains why he is unashamed to be making a feel-good genre flick in a UK industry dominated by period drama and gritty social realism. We also filmed the cast members Arinze Kene, Lucy Konadu and Tarryn Algar at a preview screening of the film, as they performed some freestyling tricks for the audience.
Interviews and text by Stella Papamichael
Directed & Edited by Ravi Ajit Chopra
Camerawork by Gavin McClenaghan
Freestyle is on nationwide release from February 26th 2010.