SAVE ME: Amani Simpson's Inspiring Journey of Filmmaking and Social Impact
(SAVE ME Premiere)
Amani Simpson is an award winning social entrepreneur, film maker and youth coach, At the age of 21, he was stabbed seven times after intervening in a robbery attempt, so it’s an understatement to label him as brave. His courageous acts pour out into the career of social support and entrepreneurship that he’s dived head first into since his unfortunate encounter with near death.
Minutes after completing a successful meeting at City Hall, London, as part of the Advisory Group for the Mayor, I was honoured to have the opportunity to take minutes of his time to discuss the release of his most recent cinematic short film, SAVE ME.
He also mentions his participation in a school workshop based on Goal Setting and encouraging young people based on his life story. He hints of the creation of a “Black Empowerment Event” to be taken place on the 2nd of September in Trafalgar Square, discussed by the Advisory Group in London.
Praising him for his bravery, strength and desire for change in our society, he smiles, stating,
“I never even saw film as a possibility for me, but I would say that life works in mysterious ways.”
He mentions the use of his transferable skills from working in Real Estate prior to his transition to film, stating that it worked well in his favour.
“It was when I produced my first film that I really saw the power that media can have on our upcoming generation, and that’s where my desire for making films that have a societal impact grew from.”
When asked if it was his personal experience that led him to direct SAVE ME or his interest in common societal issues, he mentions the combination of the two, stating, “It was a mixture of two things. My personal experience with me being groomed when I was young was an element of realism that I could implement into the storyline. I used my previous abilities to work well with young people and understand their inner core values and needs in order to transfer that into visual reality on screen.”
(Photo: The Synergy Network)
Being commissioned by Enfield to bring the societal need of safeguarding and the intervention for young people to life, he was asked to create the film as a legacy for the project of protection.
“They approached me about creating this piece due to the success of my previous short film, Amani, and-“ He pauses.
“I felt like I couldn’t do it - I planned on just staying in my lane and producing the film, but an opportunity presented itself because of lockdown, for me to try and direct it. So I said, why not, and took that leap of faith…and it paid off.”
Amani clearly states that he started the process of the creation of SAVE ME by writing the beats out for the story, and formulating the general overview of safeguarding, through mixing it in with the young people’s perspective, using common issues and scenarios that have societal relevance. He continued to advance the storyline by creating character arcs and provide context to these given characters to push the narrative he wished to illustrate.
“This was the first time I had ever written a film having such control, so I watched a few masterclasses and ensured I had knowledge on the theoretical side of cinematography, before diving into the practicality of it though visual creation.”
He showcases the success of diving into opportunities presented in front of you head first, and learning the process as you go. Go as far as you can see, and see how far you’ll go…
“I have to appreciate the team that was around me - my crew were amazing. They were pivotal in helping me to get this far due to their previous experiences on set, as they took me under their wing to teach me all the important factors of film, such as certain rehearsal and casting practices, which were things I had never done before.”
Amani goes on to say, “They empowered me and fed into my creative spirit. I have not made it here exclusively. For every successful filmmaker, there’s a powerful team surrounding them.”
It’s always important to remember where you came from, look to where you are going, and appreciate the people that got you there!
He continues, “They helped me to execute my vision - I had a vision in my head and they brought it into existence so I can only thank them for that. I appreciate everything.”
We diverted into the characteristics of his character creation of SAVE ME. “I was very conscious when writing each of the roles, creating our main protagonist as a young white woman with an element of strength and dominance, and Dean with an aspect of sensitivity and vulnerability, to showcase that abuse, bullying and violence are not just a ‘black’ issue, but a worldly issue, and to eliminate stereotypes of male and female attributes altogether.”
Children are children, so someone needs to have the courage to combine the perspective of cultural diversity within a piece that caters to all young people, regardless of race, gender or socio-economic background.
When asked if he faced any challenges during the filming process, Amani states that filming during COVID-19 was stressful, due to disruption between cast members and the production team because of restrictions, resulting in hurdles. He remembers,
“On set, during our final shoot … we ran out of time and we were losing light - there were delays as some shots took longer than normal to film. I fell into a headspace where I was incredibly overwhelmed as we were filming such a significant part of the film. My team were there to support me, and we ended up spreading our shoots out for a couple more days.”
Amani explained this as one of the most challenging parts of the creation of SAVE ME, and that “believing that you can do it, and fighting through every obstacle, is vital to overcoming life’s simple troubles.”
(SAVE ME Premiere)
Being unable to premiere SAVE ME at the scheduled period of time due to the domino effects of COVID-19, Amani was forced to postpone, which resulted in its release being pushed forward, but we discussed that this goes to show that “everything happens for a reason”, as Amani nicely put it.
It might have appeared as a setback, but just as an arrow is drawn back during the sport of archery before it’s eventually launched, we are made to face setbacks in order to soak up enough knowledge, power and strength for release, so we can soar in the sky.
“It was really just a way to push us forward to release it at a time in which it’ll impact society the most,” Amani goes on to say.
When asked the most rewarding aspect of being a filmmaker, he laughs.
“I just love all elements of it, if I’m honest - from the creative process, to being on set with everyone, to watching the crowd react to my finished piece, and eventually using it as a form of inspiration for young people through educational platforms. I love the aspect of seeing my vision come to existence as you’re experimenting different ideas on set. The variation of cutting out clips and reshaping elements of the cinematography is a joy to do, and I’m glad I get to do this as a career.”
Amani believes in the importance of inspiring young filmmakers to chase their dreams, like he did. For word of advice, he would suggest going through the process of learning about the creative industry and using it as a stepping stone to your success by attending local networking events, as gaining as much work experience and connections as you can in the media industry is vital, through practical work on film sets, and a combination of theoretical knowledge as a foundation to your work.
Being a Governor of London’s largest Creative College, he says to, “Prioritise collaborating with other individuals with a like-minded perspective to you, as it’ll help to develop your confidence, and network with other creatives”.
When it comes to staying motivated, Amani prides himself in his religious beliefs, stating “My spiritual faith is really important to me, so I tap in with God on a daily basis to understand the tasks that I need to complete for the day - God is my business partner, I get a lot of additional insight because of that relationship that I’ve formed with my creator. Without him, I wouldn’t have achieved even half of what I have, and this is only the beginning…”
He goes on to say, “My spiritual faith gives me clarity. I would also say that tapping into nature is a great way to stay inspired, as I often go on walks to clear my mind.”
“Just drink water and mind your business” he laughs.
Discussing the proudest moments of his career, we jump into the joy it must’ve been to rub shoulders with the likes of Michael B Jordan, and Anthony Joshua; these two celebrities only being a percentage of the connections that Amani has built in the industry.
“Fundamentally, what I’ve realised by meeting people with undeniable success is that it reminds me that nothing is out of reach, and everything is achievable. Rather than simply idolise celebrities, I often use my interactions with any successful people as a word of inspiration to myself, reminding myself that anything is possible. It’s nice to connect with them, and rub shoulders with like-minded people on the aspirational scale. You get beneath the surface to who they really are - and it’s great.”
Sometimes all you need is to reassure yourself of your beliefs and your talent, and you can become your greatest desires. Tapping into your past turmoil and pain, and using it as a form of inspiration to become the person you’ve always wanted to be is a brilliant tool for success.
Amani refers to Kevin Heart, an American Actor and Comedian, as a form of aspiration, mentioning his journey to fame as a story of determination and empowerment.
When asked his most memorable moment of his career, he smiled, stating, “When Amani, my short film, hit one million views on YouTube - that was a moment that changed my life forever. It went viral!”
His plan to execute the vision of safeguarding through his newest release, SAVE ME, will be done by its release on YouTube, and by working with local charities and industrial experts in the educational system in order to distribute the film as a resource for young people. “We plan to work with the Mayor of London and The Prince’s Trust as partners in this organisation.” He tells me.
“We believe that students being able to visually watch common societal issues on screen will allow them to be more open to discussion around topics such as grooming, domestic abuse and bullying.” Amani continues.
His plan for the upcoming years is to continue to create stories, and work on future commercials and TV dramas, his main aim being to build a productivity app for young people to support them in their mental and educational building, by “using the skills and the insights that are unique to me”, he says.
His final words state,
“My goal is to create films that can uplift, give hope, and inspire the future of cultural diversity and the freedom to come…”
If leaders like Amani Simpson continue to thrive in our generation, then we are heading in the right direction as a society.
Watch SAVE ME
Words & Interview by: Chelsea Abili