• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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Akin Omotosho: Self-taught filmmaker, excelling behind camera

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In 1995, an ambitious student made a decision at a drama school to become a filmmaker. Without a mentor, he started reading everything he could find about films and watching as many films as he could.

With the little knowledge he gained from the literature he read and films he watched, he set out to shoot his first amateur films using his classmates.

Today, the proudly self-taught filmmaker has gone ahead to become a movie director and producer with many awards to his credit. His name truly rings a bell in the African movie industry, especially with his crowd funding business model for his films.

Welcome to the world of Akin Omotosho, a Nigerian movie producer and director, who is based in South Africa.

The self-taught filmmaker, who left Nigeria to South Africa in 1992 at 17 years when his father got a job at the University of the Western Cape, is a good storyteller, producer and director of movies across several themes, cultures and times on the African continent.

His creative ingenuity is amazing, especially his ability to adapt movies to African realities as seen in ‘Tell Me Sweet Something’, a movie inspired by Love Jones, which also won him the Best Director Award in the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards 2016.

Recalling his encounter with the film industry, the director who owes his success today to his high school classmates who volunteered to be his guinea-pig, says, “After graduation I got a cast role in a TV series and I used the money from that television series to fund my first professional short film called ‘The kiss of milk’. That short film became my calling card when I moved to Johannesburg. That short film got me an opportunity to make two short films: The Night Walker and The Caretaker”.

With the three short films under his belt, Omotosho and a group of friends co-funded ‘God is African’, his first feature film shot in 2001. “Since then, I have directed a lot of episodic television programmes, two more shorts, two documentaries, produced six feature films and directed three more feature films”, he says.

Netflix has dropped the official trailer for its soon-to-debut South African-made series

In September 2022, he released ‘The Brave Ones’, his South African made series, which Netflix supported, while in the same year, Amazon Prime Video unveiled Gangs Of Lagos, a crime-thriller and its first Nigerian originals co-producer by Akin Omotoso.

Consolidating on these feats, Akin Omotoso’s Rise has been trending.

Rise is Omotoso’s Disney-produced biopic about Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Milwaukee Bucks’ NBA champion. It shows the world a side of Nigeria not so often portrayed in the popular in the story of a Greek-Nigerian.

For Omotosho, filmmaking is a marathon when you consider what a director goes through in bringing the vision to life. “If you can imagine what goes into the preparation for a marathon (the stamina, the patience, the exhaustion) then you can imagine what the filmmaking team has to do in order to take something that started in someone’s creative mind, to be written on paper, to be funded (which takes years), to be cast, shot, edited, marketed and presented. You have to be ready to commit five years or more of your life to a project. That is an extra mile”, he explains.

Comparing the Nigerian and South African movie industries, the filmmaker who juggles and tells stories across the two countries, says, “I think both film industries are exciting and both have a lot to learn from each other. It is great to see more collaboration between the two countries”.

He also recommends his crowd funding model to budding filmmakers across Africa saying that every film has a cost and the challenge is to be able to make it and make your investors happy. “Tell Me Sweet Something” was funded by a team of crowd funders; The National Film and Video Foundation, The Gauteng Film Commission, Mvest Media, Ladies And Gentlemen, Pana TV and the South African Department of Trade and Industry”.

Omotosho, who looks out for honesty when casting actors for roles, recognises that piracy is a big challenge worldwide, and supports all initiatives to end piracy.

However, his success so far did not come without challenges. For him, there were moments of doubt, but his approach is usually not to let the doubt cripple the creative process. “Every film has its challenges. In our case, there were two moments where we were not sure if we were going to make the film. Two major funders dropped within months of each other and it really seemed like the film was not going to be made. Fortunately, this is a team effort and along with the team we were able to recalibrate our process and we held a crowd funding evening to raise the additional funds”.

Omotosho is truly blessed to still be making films. When he thinks back to that young man on campus dreaming of telling stories, he thanks him.
recognises that piracy is a big challenge worldwide, and supports all initiatives to end piracy.

However, his success so far did not come without challenges. For him, there were moments of doubt, but his approach is usually not to let the doubt cripple the creative process. “Every film has its challenges. In our case, there were two moments where we were not sure if we were going to make the film. Two major funders dropped within months of each other and it really seemed like the film was not going to be made. Fortunately, this is a team effort and along with the team we were able to recalibrate our process and we held a crowd funding evening to raise the additional funds”.

Omotosho is truly blessed to still be making films. When he thinks back to that young man on campus dreaming of telling stories, he thanks him.