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‘No Flags’ from Georgia State to Georgia Tech to Cannes, France

Photo by Mayowa Amosu | The Signal

Every year students across Atlanta submit their work to the film festivals in the hopes of winning tons of prizes including going to world renowned stages. But most never imagine actually winning. 

Georgia State students Oluwatimilehin (Timi) Faderin and Immanuel Powell have both accomplished this before graduation.

Faderin and Powell entered their collective music video “No Flags” into Georgia Tech’s Campus Movie Fest and were shocked to receive not only a trip to Hollywood for round two of the competition but also a trip to southern France for the Cannes Film Festival.

And this is their story.

 

Behind the scenes

Powell is a first generation Trinidadian American. He was born in Brooklyn, New York but was raised in Austell, Georgia. In addition to being a junior majoring in media entrepreneurship, being the creative director of student organization Infinite Appeal and participating in film competitions, he is also the director of photography for Gilmer Street Productions. 

 

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“As a professional photographer, I had experience and knowledge with cameras and my shared ambition with Timi over the last year has led to our video projects,” Powell said.

Faderin is also a junior at Georgia State majoring in film and is a videographer at Infinite Appeal. He himself is an Atlanta native, although his family comes from Nigeria. Faderin has always been interested in film, but it wasn’t until he watched “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” that he decided to pursue a future in it.

 

Working against a ticking clock

In late August, Powell was visiting his friend Jacques Crawford, a rapper who goes to Georgia Tech. A woman walked past them and handed them a flyer for the campus film competition. On August 26, they decided to enter themselves into the Campus Movie Fest competition, despite only having a little over two weeks to complete the task.

Knowing that they wanted to enter in the social justice category, the initial idea was to create a complex angle to discuss not only black-on-black crime but also white-on-black crime. Due to the time crunch, the scope of the original idea was refined and the approach was simplified.

Once the team was assembled, they got to work. 

Faderin and Powell focused mostly on shooting and editing the video, while Crawford and Wale Idris, another local rapper, focused on the lyrics. Tyree Edwards made the beat and helped produce the song. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech student Michael Fulton helped develop the concept for the project.

On Sept. 6, Crawford and Idris recorded “No Flags.” That night, Powell reached out to everyone to show up to shoot the video the next day. Faderin had to work that day, so they planned out the shots in their apartment that morning since he was unable to be on site to direct.

The music video was shot on Georgia Tech’s campus, where the group was met with an array of obstacles. The day of the shoot just so happened to be a whiteout for Georgia Tech’s home game against the South Florida Bulls

“Given the fact that we were doing a social justice theme and the weather switched up on us, we were wearing all black with heavy denim and leather,” Powell said. “Everyone on campus was looking at us pretty crazy.”

There was a change in their production schedule, which resulted in their inability to scout for good locations before shooting. 

“We had to find places where people weren’t going to bother us because people were following us around,” Powell said. “And everyone was drunk because of the home game, so everyone was really weird towards us.” 

They’d try to shoot and people would watch and walk up to them or walk around them, distracting the group from finishing their work. 

Despite the challenges, they just continued to film. The heat caused the equipment to overheat and batteries to die. Luckily, the group was able to successfully complete the shoot.

Two days later, Faderin edited the music video. 

“Editing was probably the hardest out of everything; I had to edit in a day, and it was my first time editing 4K files,” Faderin said. “The hardest part was probably color grading. We did a very specific color tone. We tried to change the aspects like the trees to match what they were saying. It was the most stressful, but it helped me out a lot with what to do in a time crunch.”

They turned in the video the next day. 

“We turned it in about an hour before it was due,” Faderin said. “I didn’t think about it again because I didn’t think we were going to win against the [Georgia] Tech students.” 

 

The method behind the madness

The music video for the song “No Flags” is focused mainly on the experience of what it’s like to be a black college student in America. The song starts off with Idris’ verses that talk about “the knowledge of self and the turmoil that comes with existing in a society that’s against you,” Powell said. 

Next is Crawford’s part that sheds light on the “internal conflict within the black community. It feels like everyone is against us yet we still go after each other,” Powell said. 

All aspects of the production of the music video were intentional decisions made by the group.

“We tried to reflect that within the shots themselves, even as far as using certain directions and transitions for each person to go along with those themes,” Powell said.  

“Up to down for Wale to go along with that theme of the pressure coming from above and being oppressed,” Powell said. “For Jacques, we shot from right to left and from down to up to give it more of a jarring and unsettling feeling. In our culture, we don’t do anything from right to left. We wanted to have it be confusing.” 

 

The aftermath

No one who helped produce “No Flags” was at the competition’s viewing and award ceremony. Luckily, Adena Adams, a friend of the group, was there for about twelve hours viewing all of the submissions. 

Adams is a student at Agnes Scott College, and their film competition was the following week. Without her attendance at the viewing, none of the members who worked on “No Flags” would’ve been able to accept the awards to come.

“No Flags” was one of the last videos shown and ended up receiving some amazing prizes. The group was awarded the Silver Tripod Award, which means that they had the best sound and video effects for round one. They also received the Campus Finalist Award, placing in the top 16. The Campus Finalists get to go to part two of the competition in Hollywood for a chance to win $10,000. 

The last award the group earned was the Jury Award, which is given to the crew that makes top four. Those who make top four get to go to the Cannes Film Festival in May. Only 35 submissions a year make it to Cannes. 

The group was all scattered about metro Atlanta, focusing on internships, work and birthday dinners on the day of the viewing. Adams told Powell about “No Flags” receiving awards. Powell then notified the group chat of those who participated, much to their disbelief. 

Crawford had to leave his internship to meet with the judges and accept the awards on behalf of the group. They were the only all-black crew and the only team that placed top four that had black members.

A week after the award ceremony, Georgia Tech sent an email to the group saying that they liked their submission so much that they submitted their work to the Amazon Prime Movie Festival. They even covered the application fee.

 

So, what now?

The group is currently in the pre-production phase for round two. They plan to send out the same project for both the festival in Hollywood along with the Cannes Film Festival. The initial idea was to rework “No Flags” and execute the fully fleshed-out version they wanted to do for round one. 

Instead, they’ve decided to focus on a more international scale for these bigger competitions with high-profile connections.

Idris plans on rapping about spirituality and growing up in Nigeria. According to Powell, he also plans to focus on the power dynamic in Nigeria, where Idris is from.

“Everyone [in Nigeria] is trying to dominate over others and there’s gender inequality,” Powell said. 

Crawford wants to focus his lyrics for round two on mental health in our generation and substance abuse. 

The members are being particularly intentional with the next video. They hope to really tell a story with their part two project. 

“We don’t want it to just be a music video with a message and more like a short film with a nice soundtrack,”  Powell said.

The members also plan on expanding their location choice for the next video shoot. However, an upcoming challenge will be the weather. Winter is approaching, and that will affect the video. 

“I think the weather will be a pretty big obstacle, though, because with the subject matter that we’re discussing and the areas that we’re referencing, we would preferably have warmer colors [in the shot],” Faderin said. “We’re going to be trying to make it look and feel like Nigeria in Georgia in the winter.”

The biggest challenge the group will face is funding. In the first round, contestants are given equipment like laptops, tripods and camera and audio equipment. That same opportunity is not offered during the second round. Powell has a camera and tripod, but needs stabilization equipment to have the intentional camera movements he wants.

They’re making a GoFundMe in hopes of gaining financial support from investors to help fund the creation of their project for the upcoming festivals. No matter what, all the participants are grateful for the doors that have been opened to them since entering in Georgia Tech’s Campus Movie Fest.

“This all came so out of nowhere, but it honestly has led to a lot of good opportunities, and we’re trying to use it as a stepping stone to really establish ourselves,” Powell said. “Something like this gives you a little bit of validation and credibility for our portfolio.”

Editor’s note: This article was updated at 12:30 on Oct. 29, 2019, to include a link to the film.