Challenges of Young Film-makers

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Film-making, like every other profession, comes with its own challenges. Even though one might argue that all the other arts are just as difficult to break into, young film-makers nevertheless face special challenges, including career insecurity, lack of finance, and unfavourable platforms. These issues are unique to the burgeoning film-maker.
Unlike other professions where the road to the top is often well laid out, the film industry exists in a sort of twilight zone. The competition is tight and you must always bring something extra to make you stand out; in reality, your first movie break does not necessarily translate into a successful career.

Nobody cares if you studied in school – unless, of course, you did so in Abroad, where the Oyibo syndrome comes into play.

Many aspiring directors often ask the same question: how do I launch my career?  I remember that very question nagged away at me. After I graduated from theatre school I didn’t know how to go about shooting my first indie film or television series. Even here in Surulere, the home of Nollywood, there is no big movie company where you can submit your script or pilot for possible sponsorship. Most film-makers work independently.

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Nobody cares if you studied in school – unless, of course, you did so in Abroad, where the Oyibo syndrome comes into play. Trained technicians, on the other hand, are always in demand, which is why even a regular cameraman can get a directing job simply because he can handle a camera and you can’t, and even though he has no idea what directing means, or how to work with actors. Producers, mostly shrewd businessmen, happily use them to cut down on expenses, i.e. film-makers like me.

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It was while musing on how to make a film that I stumbled on the idea of a web series. It is cheap and you have a readymade audience of millions on the internet. What is a web series? A web series is a actually shorter version of your normal television series. It is a scripted video in episodic form with a short running time which is then posted on the internet. It is an emerging medium called “web TV”. I shot my first web series last October – Make Believe: The Web Series – and released the first episode in December. So far, I have had over 2000 views.

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The first thing you need to shoot a web series is a good story, but then that is true of any film. In my case, the story was broken into 15, two-minute clips, making for a 30-minute film, which now constitutes Season One. My luck was meeting Olumegbon  DamilolaI, a writer who happened to be thinking along the same lines and promptly wrote the story. Actually producing the film was cheap because we kept it simple, which was itself creatively exciting for both of us.
We also coaxed family, friends and colleagues to make do with meat pie and beer!! To my eternal gratitude, a cameraman I had worked with in the past came with his own camera and didn’t let up until we were done.  For the actors, I went to the Department of Theatre Arts at the Lagos State University, where I had graduated from. They were happy with the modest stipends I was able to gather.
Finally, I created a channel to post the video. YouTube is an excellent platform – and free! With time – and luck – you might even be able to monetise it. Not that money should be at the forefront of trying to realize your vision. The important thing is building a name for yourself and acquiring the much-needed experience and appreciating the room it gives you being your own boss. You never know who might end up watching your video.

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