Andrew Campbell was born and raised in Eau Claire, and never in a million years would he have guessed one day he’d be accepting an African Oscar for his work as a screenwriter.
Campbell began writing his screenplay “Somewhere in Baltimore” around 2005 or 2006 — and in 2012 it had been turned into a film that was nominated for several African Oscars. Campbell won for best screenplay.
“This screenplay turned out to be much more successful than I ever thought it would be,” Campbell said, who now lives outside Philadelphia. “It turned out to be a film, and I am very pleased with how it all came together.”
The film is about a young boy who is planning to spend the summer with his grandmother, but the night before he is set to leave, his parents are murdered by robbers. Orphaned, the young boy needs to move in with his grandmother permanently.
The boy is teased from the minute he moves away from his parents’ home and ends up isolating himself from everyone besides his grandmother. His grandmother is his only real friend, but she dies while the boy is in high school.
The film follows the boy’s struggles of being isolated, teased and misunderstood from the moment his life is turned upside down. And Campbell’s story can all be tied to his time growing up in Eau Claire.
“I knew someone growing up in Eau Claire who lived with his grandmother,” Campbell said. “His grandmother had this weird thing where she never left the house, but I was friends with her grandson. I watched how people judged and misunderstood this old lady, when in reality she was the nicest person. That was kind of what I was thinking about as I originally sat down to write the screenplay.”
Originally, Campbell had intended the story to be set somewhere in the Midwest — most likely Kansas — during the 1920s. But when the film was picked up by a Nollywood studio — a growing market in Africa than can be compared to Hollywood or Bollywood — it was decided to set the story in the present day in Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Campbell was nervous with the change in direction of the film, as he wasn’t sure how his story would translate from a
predominately white town in Kansas to more of an urban, modern-day setting on the East Coast. But in the end, Campbell was pleased with the outcome.
“Making it set in the modern day in an urban setting was about as far of a change as possible from my original idea,” Campbell said. “But it became much more successful than I ever thought. People are constantly telling me that the grandmother in the film reminds them of their own grandmother or someone else they know.
“It’s weird being from Eau Claire and still being able to create a believable character in a culture that’s completely opposite of the one I grew up in.”
The film was produced by Campbell’s wife, Aletha Jones-Campbell. Jones-Campbell, who is from Liberia, became the first female to win the Liberian Entertainment Award for best movie of the year for her production.
Campbell is currently writing another screenplay, which is untitled. He believes his new screenplay has a lot more opportunity for success now that he has put himself on the map with “Somewhere in Baltimore.”
“This has been such a weird and unexpected experience,” Campbell said. “My biggest goal for all of this is that I can turn screenwriting from a part-time job to a full-time gig. But I am happy with what I’ve accomplished so far.”