Inspired by the strong historical presence of female African rulers in Egypt, international recording artist, writer and director Kameko Tarnez talks about “Protector of the Gods”, a $30 million per film trilogy project that tells the story of ancient Egypt from an afro-futuristic viewpoint.
“Protector of the Gods” will take us through the journeys of Egyptian queens Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra. Kameko, the film’s writer-director, speaks to LA Weekly about the project’s delays caused by COVID-19 shutdowns and the upcoming release of the film’s attached comic book /3D animation series.
When will filming for part 1 of “Protector of the Gods” recommence?
Filming has already started up again in Africa with select cast members. We will finish up filming for the remaining cast in the U.S.
Has the covid delay caused any major changes in the production?
Thankfully everything remained solid on the backend in terms of funding. However, we did need to do some recasting of certain roles, but the core of our cast is still patiently awaiting the new production schedule.
Is Rhonda Ross still one of the film’s producers and in the cast?
Rhonda is definitely still a producer and in the cast. To be honest, the support from Rhonda and my other producers Hill Harper and Musa Jackson is really what inspires and keeps me pushing forward with this trilogy.
How did the film’s attached comic book and 3-D animation idea come about?
We always planned on releasing the comic book and an animation series. Initially, both were going to be released as a follow-up to the cinematic feature film. The delay caused by the global shutdown was what inspired the early release. We all felt it would be a great way to start sharing the stories and engaging the audience!
When will the Comic Book be released?
Since the stories are inspired by Egyptian history, we have decided to have an exclusive release of the comic in Egypt and Dubai this summer and the U.S. release in the fall.
The visuals for the 3-D animation series that you have shared with us are mind blowing! Will the 3-D animation series also be released this summer?
Thank you! My team has really worked hard on making the animation visuals magical. To answer your question, we have not set a release date for the animation series.
When do you anticipate part 1 of the feature film to be in cinemas?
We are aiming for a theater release by 2023, which is pretty realistic as long as the world stays open.
I understand that your film’s screenplay is based on the afro-futuristic novel that you wrote. Most writers released the book 1st and then the film follows. Why did you decide to do things in the reverse?
To be honest, I did not have a complete novel in the beginning I had a bunch of short stories inspired by the journeys of Hatshepsut, Nefertiti and Cleopatra. Which I used to put together a film pitch for my investment partners. When my partners read what I had written they really enjoyed the stories. However, since all of the leading characters in the stories were black Africans, which was far from what we typically would see in a blockbuster Egyptian themed films, they encouraged me to finish the books and release them as novels. Then the movie “Get out” and “Black Panther” happened! Which completely changed their perspective. So, we decided to do things in the reverse.
Had you ever written a screenplay before?
That is so funny because the answer is no. So here I am with a multi-million-dollar budget and no idea how to even begin writing a screenplay. So, I started by hiring a ghostwriter who was going to adapt my novel into a screenplay. At the time I was receiving a lot of calls from top Hollywood agents who wanted their A-list clients to read the script. So of course, I was excited and in a rush to get the completed script back! As soon as I got the first draft I sent it to multiple agents without reading it, which resulted in a very embarrassing response from one of them! Ultimately, this experience forced me to trust myself as a writer and build from what sparked the interest of my investment partners. Fortunately, during the pandemic I also had a lot of time to enhance the scripts.
Who was the agent that responded and what did they say?
At the time it was the agent of one of my favorite actresses, Kerry Washington, and they told me that the story was terrible which I found to be the absolute truth after my team, and I finally read it.
Because you plan to hire all black talent, and many believe that Cleopatra was not black. How are you approaching the casting of that role and what actresses do you have in mind?
Well According to my research Cleopatra was mixed race. With this in mind, I feel that Halle Berry, Jurnee Smollett, Tessa Thompson and Thandie Newton would all be amazing in the role!
What inspired you to do a film about Egyptian female rulers?
The main inspiration comes from the fact that I was raised by strong women. In addition to that I wholeheartedly believe that there is no way to truly find balance in the world until we pay homage to the feminine energy.
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