Writer & Director
Is filmmaking your full-time profession?
You can’t really live off filmmaking as a young filmmaker it’s very difficult. I work in the Fortune Theatre (part-time) directing showreels for Actors. I realised lots of Actors wanted reels for short scenes, so I said ‘if you want reels for scenes I can write and direct something for you and you can pay me a small fee’ and I have been doing so for about 6 months now. It’s great because these scenes are sort-of short narrative scenes so it’s good practice for me. I know most people do adverts and music videos as a part-time gig and I think that’s cool, but I like narrative film-making – I want to tell stories.
Did you study filmmaking?
Yes, I went to film school last year, and I have a Master’s in Film Directing. But I did a film theory course in Uni, at Royal Holloway in Surrey but I didn’t actually make any films there. I made films but it was more so in my spare time, I really wanted to understand the language of filmmaking. I think it’s important to make films but I think it’s also important to understand the history of filmmaking.
I watched a lot of French, Indian and Italian films. Going to uni made me understand films on a different level. This film called Breathless by Jean-Luc Godard – a French New Wave film was so unconventional, it was a great history lesson in a sense and the storytelling was so universal. With French films – I don’t speak the language – but it really has the power to just captivate you.
Did you explore any other genres before moving into a narrative approach?
I knew I wanted to make films but during uni I wasn’t making the right kind of films. I was making homages to my idols in a sense, parodies of French films. I didn’t know my voice or what kind of films I wanted to make, there was lots of comedy, drama and black and white stuff.
A film called ‘Ideal Beauty’ which I made four years ago was very experimental and there was no real story. I made a few things which were ‘experiments’ but they all still contained an African sensibility, as I wanted to make films that conveyed my African culture and roots. The early films still displayed hints of my culture and again they were all very experimental, but terrible as well. I wasn’t as passionate then, I was making films at weekends I didn’t think of it as a career I was just making films with friends. Going to Film School was the turning point. It was quite a lot of money (£14k per year) and I saved up for three years just to get the money, so I had do it properly because it was my hard earned savings.
You were born in Nigeria, what was your experience moving the UK?
I moved to the UK when I was twelve. My mum always said I’ll bring you guys to London and always asked why? I had friends and I was happy. My mum came here to work as nurse in 2000, and we moved here in 2002. It was weird not seeing her but I knew she was trying to make a better life for me and my siblings but I didn’t really understand that back then.
What was your parent’s reaction to you becoming a filmmaker?
I’m like the good son. From my film I am exactly that person. I am obedient, I got A’s so I think they naturally assumed that I would become a lawyer or doctor or something similar. My sister is a lawyer and my brother is a doctor so they are doing exactly what my parents wanted me to do and I’m the eldest.
My dad wasn’t very happy, it was probably the first time where we became confrontational, we argued a lot about it. They were surprised I spoke back, it wasn’t in my nature. I always listened to them because my parents brought me to this country and they opened up a whole new life for me, I’m forever indebted to them.
“We didn’t bring you to this country to suffer, to hustle”
I admire my dad incredibly, he left a great job in Nigeria and my mum had her own hospital / clinic in Nigeria and then she came here and she’s was and still is doing night shifts. I look up to them and this is why I am a good son because I’m grateful for them, but on this issue I just could not agree I knew this was what I wanted to do. This life-changing moment happened when I watched Annie Hall by Woody Allen when I was 14 or 15. The film was set in New York in the 70s and it was a love story, I’d never been in love and had never been in a relationship but I just loved that film. Allen captured a world that I wanted to be a part of. After that day I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker.
In the past three years there has been a u-turn. I think the turning point was probably my grad screening during my last year at Film School. It was the first time they had seen what I had done with an audience in a cinema (Prince Charles Cinema) and people kept telling me how much they loved it and my parents were seeing all of this. Up to that point they had only seen clips on a laptop from films I had done with friends – films which were alright or bad.
Now, they are on my case all the time asking me what’s next and they are incredibly supportive. But they still want me to have a 9-5 job in film or TV. It’s nice to have their blessing, they want me to do well and succeed.
What stage are you at in regards to your feature film?
I’ve found funding. I have written the treatment and about to start the script. I don’t want to write the same thing, I want to keep the things that worked in the film and tell this personal, intimate story of love, family, culture and faith.
You’ve said that ‘The Good Son’ is essentially you, are there any other parts of the film that are influenced by your background or family?
Every part of it is me, from how the parents interact to the dialogue. Also that family nucleus is very similar to my family. I want to make personal films, because I have experienced all of this; it’s authentic. I don’t want to make films that I don’t understand or don’t resonate with me. It’s a Nigerian story but I also want it to appeal to a universal audience. It’s a love story, so it doesn’t really matter what culture or race you are it’s something that anyone can relate to.
Are there any other projects in the works?
I am directing the first short I haven’t written. It’s called ‘The right choice’ it will be out early this year. I am also doing a sci-fi short with the same writer. These scripts are things I will never write and it’s nice that he wants to share it with me so I can really challenge myself.
‘The Right Choice’ is set in the near future. It’s about a young black couple who cannot have a baby so they visit a fertility clinic in the hopes of creating the perfect baby. They’re in a post-Brexit Britain where race is incredibly important more so than it is now and they have the choice to choose the baby’s attributes. The films explores different themes, posing the question what attributes would you select if you had the choice?
I think this film will raise a lot of questions especially what it means to be a black man in a post-Brexit Britain?
The sci-fi drama – when I read the script I actually cried, which I don’t do normally. The lead character is a black woman in space, which is something you don’t see it’s what drew me to the film. Written by Vijay Varman, a very talented writer. It’s a about this woman who takes a journey on this spaceship and leaves behind her husband and young daughter, she is then forced to choose between her mission and them. It explores the concept of sacrifice and the things we do for our family. It’s a very emotional and powerful story and I’m very excited about making that.
Thanks Tomisin, look out for these new releases during Spring / Summer this year!