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Waffling With... The Mansa Mojo Brothas

We spoke to Artii Smith and Phil W Simon, the writing/directing duo better known as The Mansa Mojo Brothas!

Interview by Ren Zelen (@renzelen)


First of all, how did you meet and what made you decide to work together?

Artii: We met a few years ago when we both first moved to Los Angeles. Both of us were starting up our careers in the entertainment industry. We instantly clicked because we had the similar drive and passion for the film industry and all that it encompasses. From that point on we barreled forward and started creating stuff. We’ve done four short-form projects together - Ain’t That A Trip, I’m Sorry Samantha, Lilin Concept and the Some Sirius Ship Productions opening sequence. We’ve been hard at work writing and now you can enjoy Lilin’s Brood.

How do you divide the tasks of co-writing and co-directing?

Artii: Co-writing was pretty simple for us. We did a bunch of things. For this first time around, we created an intense treatment for the story so we really knew how the flow of the movie would go. Then we split the story into pieces and we each individually took the pieces into our own dungeons, wrote them, came back, connected them together and did intense revisions as a group. We basically handled every aspect of the film in a true team fashion. We went over every single detail of the production internally between ourselves to make sure that we were on the same page about every single thing before we relayed any information to the cast or crew. We were so in tune with each other about every detail that while on set we could split up and talk to two different actors or different crew members at the same time and already know what is being adjusted without having to be in the conversation. While on set, that saved us a lot of time because instead of one person having to give six individuals directions, we could split them into two groups, direct their individual actions and have a take ready to shoot in half the time.


What was it about the horror genre that interested you? What was the greatest challenge?

Artii: We chose horror because as filmmakers it was a great way to really show what we were capable of. Everyone gets scared and everyone feels tense in moments of suspense and we were fascinated with the idea of creating these feelings through our work as other other movies have done with us. Horror/Thriller fans are more interested in the story/movie rather than whose in it, so if you have a compelling idea they are captivated by, they will actually give your movie a try.
The toughest challenge was creating moments that felt suspenseful and thrilling, which we believe is a challenge we overcame.

Do you find that researching real events, legends, or myths gives you more original ideas?

Artii: I won’t say they give you more ideas but they do help inform creative choices because there is already a lot there to play with. Especially with horrors; having stories based off of already existing events, legends or myths helps you really connect your work with the real world, which always makes a story more terrifying. This quote says it all: “The scariest thing about a horror movie are these words: Based on a trues story!” And we totally agree with that.

Do you ever look to your own phobias to find subject matter? Would you think of using stories that are products of your own fears, nightmares and fantasies?

Artii: Yeah we do. If something doesn’t scare us, creep us out or give us a funny feeling, how can we expect anyone else to feel the same? I know if something creeps us out, there are definitely other people out there who would be creeped out by it as well. We have no problem with using stories that are products of our own fears, nightmares and fantasies; it would only serve to make the work better.

Do you feel that documentary style horror films or ‘found footage’ films, are more effective than purely fictional horror films and why?

Artii: I wouldn’t say they are more effective; we just believe it’s a filmmaking tool that immerses the audience into the story a different way. It gives off a different feel and tone all together. With found footage movies, if the acting is natural, the circumstances feel natural and camera movement feels natural, then the movies feel real. That aspect of realness connects us to the characters even more and gives us an opportunity to feel like these are real events that really happened somewhere in the world. I think that is the greatest benefit of found footage films. The more real they feel the better the viewing experience will be.


What was your first experience with horror, and at what age?

Artii: My first experience that I can remember was the movie IT when I was real young. That movie scared the crap out of me. Also Texas Chainsaw Massacre scarred me as a kid.

Phil: C.H.U.D. and Lifeforce. I don’t know, at the time they both felt like they could be real situations that could happen (well maybe not Lifeforce so much, but definitely C.H.U.D.).

What is your favourite horror film, star and director?

Artii: I would have to say Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of my favourites. I don’t really have a favourite star, I would venture to say right now my favourite horror director/producer in the industry now would be Eli Roth or James Wan.

Phil: I don’t really have a favourite horror film; I like so many.

What is one stereotype about horror films that you think is absolutely wrong? Is there one stereotype that you think is true?

Artii: We hear from people a lot that horror films don’t have good stories or that horror filmmakers focus more on gore than building a solid story with it. It usually comes from people who don’t watch horror movies often. We don’t totally agree with that because there are a lot of horror films with great stories that creep you out even in the low-budget spectrum and we believe we’ve done so with ours. But on the flipside we do agree there are some that just want to wow you with blood and guts rather than a solid story to feel invested in.

For those readers that haven’t yet seen the trailer, how would you describe Lilin’s Brood the movie?

Artii: It’s a dark and mysterious movie. The whole entire film is about these characters trying to unveil a mystery and we follow them as they peel back each layer of this mystery until they stumble on something they didn’t quite expect. Once the truths of this mystery are revealed it becomes a creepy, sadistic and life-threatening situation they can’t just walk away from. If you have a surround sound system, there is also a special treat in it for you.


Did you already have a further project in mind while working on this one?

Artii: We have a part two that takes place in the Lilin’s Brood world we’ve created. It is already written up and ready to shoot.

Are you interested in working in other genres?

Artii: Yes we are interested in working in multiple genres. We are developing a survival thriller that we think will also provide a fun and thrilling experience. We also have several other projects in different genres such as drama, comedy, historical biopics and; science fiction that are in various completed development phases from treatment to full-draft scripts.

Lilin's Brood is available on Amazon and iTunes from February 12th.




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