Week One: Finding the space and setting the plan (Part I)
Arrival: Arriving late in the evening on Sunday, we–Banker and Paula of the US team–are greeted by Arthur Pratt and several of the young filmmakers and mentors. Warm welcomes and hugs all around and then quickly everyone retrieves the bags and races to get through customs—as always it’s a bit of a feat with several “interesting” large boxes/bags coming into the country. This is the first of many negotiations that are required. We are fortunate to have Arthur on our side, as a masterful negotiator he is able to sway folks in our favor.
Observation: Negotiating in Sierra Leone is an art form and always a passionate exchange. They definitely give any Italian a run for their money. There are hands waving, eyes rolling, heads shaking, clickings of the tongue…and all done in community. If a debate begins with two people by the end everyone within earshot is exchanging their opinions regarding the issue and all with the same passion and enthusiasm of the original debaters.
The race to Freetown continues as the group caravans to the ferry to make the potentially last ferry from Lungi to Freetown. On arrival we are told the ferry has pulled away. Arthur heads out to find out what’s really happening…and negotiations continue. The lineup of cars is trying to convince the ferry operator that they should do another run across to Freetown—nobody wants to take the 2-3 hours Port Loko road route or alternatively stay the night in Lungi to meet the morning ferry. First “representatives” of the group are going down the lineup to see who is willing to pay a surcharge so the journey is more enticing for the operators with such few cars and people. Once it’s determined who’s in, they present our offer to the operators and we are on our way.
We safely arrive in Freetown and are settled into the residence house to rest up and meet Arthur in the morning.
Day One: Arthur has vetted potential media center locations and meets us to visit each to determine which WeOwnTV: Sierra Leone will call home. He is accompanied by our agent to show us each of the potential facilities—agents are essential because landlords generally only list vacancies to the agent community. Each side has an agent and everyone gets a cut of the final lease.
We head out to see his first choice, a two-story building near the government building (which means it will have a good steady stream of city power). The place is great and everyone associated—landlord’s agent, the caretaker and his family—are gracious and welcoming. We are led around the outside area and up to the second floor to survey the space. It’s much bigger than we are expecting for the asking price and seems to generally be well outfitted for lighting and internet wiring. It’s determined we will meet up with the landlord so he can meet us and discuss lease amount.
We head out to review other locations—but we all expect this will be our place. The rest of the day is occupied with setting up the residence with gas, generator, groceries and paying the meter to receive city light.
Day Two: Excitement is in the air as we get ready for the day knowing we are meeting with Mr. Mansaray—our potential new landlord. We—Arthur,Banker, Alluspa, Frank and Paula—arrive and are greeted by the two agents and introduced to Mr. Mansaray. He has a distinguished presence and kind eyes.