• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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How Chinenye Nworah wields storytelling and cinema to tackle social issues head-on

How Chinenye Nworah wields storytelling and cinema to tackle social issues head-on

Chinenye Nworah, producer of ‘Shanty Town,’ in this interview with BDWeekender, delved into the impactful realm of using cinema to tackle prevalent societal issues head-on.

She also laid emphasis on the essential role of research for success in filmmaking.

What influenced your decision to pursue a career in filmmaking?

I didn’t originally plan to be a filmmaker. After studying Computer Science, I explored various opportunities and took a course in computers, discovering my aptitude for creative tools like Microsoft PowerPoint.

This interest led me to enroll in the New York Film Academy, sparking my passion for filmmaking. That’s how my journey into this field began.

What sparked the inception of ‘Shanty Town,’ and do you take pride in its impact on the audience?

Embarking on the Shanty Ttown journey began in early 2019, driven by my inspiration to shed light on societal issues through film. Beyond being a filmmaker, I see myself as an educator, using cinema to address prevalent social concerns.

Shantytown served as a medium to confront issues like drugs and prostitution, urging society to reject these negative aspects. The film aimed to bridge the gap between the affluent areas of Lagos and the struggles in the ghetto, offering a glimpse into the challenges faced by those in shanties.

This project provided an opportunity to unveil the harsh realities of ghetto life, fostering awareness and encouraging solutions.

By showcasing these struggles, my intention was to prompt a collective response towards creating positive change.

Following up, how did you approach the selection of the cast to bring your envisioned story to life?

The casting process was a collaborative effort; credit for it isn’t solely mine. While I contributed to the creative concept, the selection of the cast was a collective decision involving the director, co-executive producers, and myself.

Upon receiving the story, the focus shifted to finding actors capable of breathing life into the narrative. Numerous individuals read the script, and the final cast members were chosen based on their ability to interpret the characters effectively.

Dimeji Ajibola, the director, played a pivotal role in orchestrating this synergy. The collaborative effort in casting ensured that each actor brought a compelling interpretation to their role, aligning seamlessly with the vision we had for ‘Shanty Town.’

What did you do differently to ensure that Shanty Town stood out?

To ensure Shanty Town’s uniqueness, we meticulously planned every phase – from scripting to pre-production, production, and post-production. Our approach involved a dedicated timeframe to guarantee the right execution.

When handing out scripts to actors, we emphasised the need for a distinctive performance. We encouraged them to immerse themselves in the characters, exemplified by Chidi Mokeme, who portrayed Scar.

His dedication included absorbing the script, living the role, and projecting authenticity on screen. Each actor internalised their character, making the portrayal exceptionally realistic.

Given the exceptional performances by the actors, did your personal experiences contribute to the relatable storytelling in Shanty Town?

Research. Research is pivotal for any storyteller. When conceiving a concept like Shanty Town, extensive research is imperative.

Exploring the lifestyles, struggles, and dynamics within shanties became my focus. Witnessing oppression, poverty, and inadequate infrastructure during this research provided profound insights.

For example, Scar’s character, residing in a shanty, was paradoxically an oppressor. This revealed that even within shanties, there exist oppressors.

Researching these stories is crucial, as ideas require development through exploration and understanding of the realities surrounding them.

How do you see storytelling contributing to a broader social conversation regarding female inclusion?

Female filmmakers in Africa, including notable figures like Mo Abudu, myself, Kemi, and Bolanle Austen-Peters, are crafting inspiring and impactful stories, particularly in Nigeria.

Netflix also empowers us to share vital narratives, providing women with a creative space and a platform for their work.

Currently, women are excelling in the storytelling industry, making significant contributions to society and the impact is undeniable.

In navigating the male-dominated landscape of your industry, have you encountered any gender-based challenges, and if so, how did you overcome them?

Absolutely none, I have not faced any challenge in this context. In my role as the head of development at Ibaka, a VOD platform, I had the support of a male boss who was exceptionally encouraging.

While personally, I haven’t faced challenges, I’m cognizant of the hurdles women often confront in similar positions.

Thankfully, platforms like Netflix are pivotal in providing opportunities to surmount these challenges. They offer a stage for our voices to resonate, fostering a positive shift. It’s a commendable initiative, even though my own experience has been relatively smooth.

Could you share insights into your upcoming Netflix project, detailing its theme and what your fans can anticipate?

Our storytelling ethos centers around authenticity, creating narratives that feel incredibly genuine. Viewers can expect a blend of entertainment and education, delving into current societal dynamics.

Our upcoming projects explore love stories, unraveling the complexities of true love, genuine connections amid contemporary challenges.

Although fictional, our tales mirror societal nuances, aiming to both entertain and enlighten the audience. Brace yourselves for captivating storytelling, stellar performances, and innovative concepts that promise an immersive experience.

In honour of International Women’s Day, as a prominent figure in the film and TV industry, what guidance would you offer to aspiring female professionals seeking to carve their niche in filmmaking?

As someone deeply invested in the industry, and with a daughter pursuing a degree in filmmaking, I wholeheartedly advocate for aspiring female filmmakers to prioritize learning the intricacies of the craft and the business aspect alike.

Understanding the business side is paramount. Creativity flourishes when complemented by a solid grasp of industry fundamentals. Take your time to familiarize yourself with the business landscape. Seek mentorship from seasoned professionals, whether locally or globally.

Immerse yourself in cinema; watch a lot of films to discern your unique storytelling style. Your voice in filmmaking should be distinct, recognizable amidst the multitude.

Strive for mastery by acquiring foundational knowledge and don’t hesitate to seek guidance from those ahead of you. Collaboration and mentorship pave the path to success. Embrace learning, ask questions, and remain open to growth. Your journey in filmmaking will flourish through shared knowledge and perseverance.

Your insights make the filmmaking industry seem effortless. From your experience, what challenges have you faced, and how did you navigate them?

Filmmaking isn’t a walk in the park; it demands a profound understanding of the industry. Firstly, one must grasp the intricacies of filmmaking as a business.

Key considerations include the clarity of the story, the intended voice, and the chosen tone or storytelling style. Collaboration is crucial—know your team, writers, and workshop partners. Seek diverse opinions and feedback.

Navigating the financial aspects is equally vital. Creatives must delve into the world of finances, mastering the art of pitching ideas to investors.

Recognize that filmmaking is a marriage of creativity and fiscal responsibility. Having a dedicated manager for the business side can be indispensable.

Also, treat filmmaking as a serious profession, balancing the artistic and financial facets. Grow steadily, and success will follow.

Is a sequel to Shantytown in the works?

Promising titles often birth new seasons, and we’re optimistic about the potential for Shantytown Part 2. Stay tuned for updates!

Do you have plans to appear on screen soon?

Not necessarily. While not everyone can be in front of the camera, some, like myself, prefer working behind the scenes.

It’s about fostering the next generation of filmmakers, providing a platform, and addressing challenges I encountered.

For instance, I guide my daughter in the film industry, outlining the path I envision for her. Moreover, I actively support aspiring filmmakers through internships in my office, aiming to pave their way with fewer obstacles and struggles.

The goal is to empower them to succeed in the industry, let them come up, and know how to get there with minimal problems, minimal struggles.

● Research is pivotal for any storyteller. When conceiving a concept like Shanty Town, extensive research is imperative.

● Embarking on the Shanty Town journey began in early 2019, driven by my inspiration to shed light on societal issues through film