An Interview with OLUWATOYIN ADEWUMI movie producer
‘Toyin Adewumi is an award-winning creative producer with a gift for story conceptualization. She is passionate about illuminating the lives of everyday people through visual storytelling. Though she has a successful career in Human Resource Management, her creative side was not utilized, so she decided to explore Film & TV Producing.
In 2018, she produced her debut project ‘Burin Duniya’ a 37-episode native (Hausa) language TV series that aired on multiple TV networks. In the same year, she also produced her first feature-length film ‘Charmed’ which enjoyed theatrical distribution in Nigeria. She was officially selected at the Durban International Film Festival 2019 and African Women Arts & Film Festival 2020.
In 2020, she produced a sickle-cell-themed feature film titled STRAIN which is currently streaming on Netflix. This film has recorded multiple film festival successes, including the award for Best International Film 2020 at the Urban Film Festival, Miami, Florida, USA; Best Screenplay 2021 The African Film Festival (TAFF); Best Film and Best Actor 2021 International Black and Diversity Film Festival Toronto; Best Social Message 2021 Best of Nollywood (BON).
‘Toyin is an alumna of the New York Film Academy. She has a Higher Diploma in Estate Management from Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, Nigeria, and holds a master’s degree in Human Resource Management from the University of Liverpool.
She operates under the umbrella of Verte View Limited, a registered film production company in Nigeria.
How has it been navigating your path as a creative producer?
It has been enlightening, eye-opening, stretching, frustrating and fun. I have experienced noticeable growth, expanded my network within and outside Nigeria, and surprised myself in many instances. I particularly like it when people who knew me before I got into film production express their surprise at seeing me walk this path.
How do you tell your stories?
I conceptualize stories from day-to-day occurrences of everyday people. I believe films should serve the dual purpose of entertaining and educating viewers, and every project I have been involved in has fulfilled this. Once I get a story idea, I engage a scriptwriter to write the screenplay and assemble a team to translate the story from script to screen.
What has been the push to keep doing what you do?
The satisfaction I get from seeing what started as an idea grow into a product keeps me going. The entire creation process is humbling and gratifying. Just as I know that God found me worthy to bestow the talent, capacity, and reason enough reason not to give up.
What are the challenges you have encountered?
Some challenges are the scarcity of trusted partnerships, access to quality information, and distribution issues. Filmmaking is not a one-person show, but it is hard to meet like-minded people these days. Access to quality knowledge is another challenge that I have had to navigate. I like to learn by doing, but I quickly realized I could not count on the available information, plus I also couldn’t get an internship opportunity. Another challenge is distribution. After going through all the hassles of making a film, there is the nagging distribution hurdle.
How did you channel the challenges to achieve your goals?
I hold the few trusted people I meet very close to my heart. Luckily I could afford a film school, so I attended one to gain knowledge and bring myself up to speed. Since I couldn’t get a seat at an existing table, I made mine by registering a production company. On distribution, I leverage my networks and make cold calls. I do not give up quickly, so I keep pushing till I reach the goal.
Where do you see yourself in the future, say ten years?
Apart from being known, recognized, and celebrated at home and abroad, I want a film lab where young creatives can learn, express themselves, and be mentored by skilled colleagues across the film industry value chain.
What was the motivation behind the movie “STRAIN”?
STRAIN was inspired by a real-life experience that was close home. It piqued my interest in sickle cell disease, and I discovered that many people have similar experiences. I knew right then that it was a story I wanted to tell, and I am glad that despite all setbacks and even the covid pandemic, we told the story and put it out for people to watch even beyond the shores of Nigeria.
With a successful career in human resource management, what made you decide to explore film & television Production?
First, I would like to mention that I still practice human resource management as a consultant. One of my life tenets is to use all my God-given gifts. So, in 2017 when I began my entrepreneurial journey, I now had better control of my time and wanted to do more with it. I have always been interested in the film industry but thought the production part of the ecosystem was saturated, so I opted for distribution and went on to secure a film distribution license. After encountering a few obstacles, I career-counseled myself and decided to go into production to utilize my creativity and transferable HR skills.
Do you think you made the right decision in exploring film & television production?
Oh yes, I have no doubts or regrets. Despite the challenges and downsides, I would not trade this for something else. I like to build from down up, and this is serving that purpose for me.
What has been your career growth over the years?
I have HND in Estate Management from Yaba College of Technology. After NYSC and a few temporary jobs, I got onto a graduate trainee program in a multinational FMCG, where my sojourn into Human Resource Management career started. Then I bagged an M.Sc in Human Resources Management from the University of Liverpool and various HR certifications. After ten years of working as an employee, I ventured into HR Consulting and founded Verstand Resources Limited, a boutique HR firm.
I started filmmaking in 2017, and to broaden my knowledge, I attended the New York Film Academy for a short course in film production in 2019. To date, I have been involved in about ten projects – an episodic film, feature films, a short film, a documentary, and corporate videos. My film production company is Verte View.