Scooping the NollywoodWeek Prix Du Public (Audience award) at the recently concluded Nollywood festival in Paris, About a Boy is shaping up to be one of the surprises of the year. FilmKaku caught up with director of the moment Diji Aderogba to talk about his big influences and next steps.
FilmKaku: Congratulations on your win at Nollywood Week Film Festival for About a boy.
Diji Aderogba: Thank you.
FK: For the benefit of those who haven’t seen the film yet, could you go in a bit into why you wanted to tell this story?
DA: The film is basically about mental health. Particularly, childhood mental health issues that linger till adulthood. The story serves as an awareness campaign on the aforementioned issues. It centers on a writer who believes he can escape his situation by indulging in distractions. The film attempts to mirror the resultant struggle.
FK: Would you say the film was inspired by your experience as a creative, or simply inspired by something else?
DA: As a filmmaker given to conscious stories, when my producers sent me the script, I connected with the story. I regard the story as an underdiscussed societal issue. Reading the script for the first time presented an opportunity for me to create that much-needed public awareness.
FK: Let’s talk about your directing process. When you get a script, how do you work it through to create a picture?
DA: When I get a script, one of the first things I do is try to understand the story. I ask myself the critical questions like, “why do I want to be involved in this story?”. Then I start to plot my aim and determine my prospective audience. When I find answers to these questions, I read the script again and start outlining what is contained in the script. I engage friends and family in in-depth discussions about the idea. I also read articles and watch videos with related subject matter. All to have a deeper understanding of the story I’m telling.
FK: Impressive. Personally, I commend your collaboration with the talented DP, Emmanuel Igbekele on the film. What’s the process like working with your DP? How do you communicate your vision to your DP?
DA: I believe film is a collaborative venture. For About a boy, when I was told Emmanuel would be manning the camera, I was a lot more confident, being an ardent follower of his stunning works. I called him and requested his thoughts about the story. After that, I explained my plan, shot list and how much I would love to favour a dark-themed lighting and cinematography over bright lights and colors. I was glad he shared similar views about the vision I had.
FK: Were there specific challenges you encountered while shooting the film? As a young filmmaker myself, I understand that certain hitches and constraints come with the job. Did you experience any?
DA: You’re right. However, in no attempt to pride the production of About a boy as perfect, I cannot point out one challenge or issue we had on set.
DA: We were all young filmmakers on set. Everyone was attuned to the vision to tell a beautiful story. They gave a 100% commitment and more. There was no shade of misunderstanding.
FK: Who or what do you attribute that feat to?
DA: First, I’d say God. And the fact that a good number of the guys on set were friends of the producers. It was only myself and the sound guy who were not as close to everyone else. But it mattered little in the long run. Everyone brought their A-games to set, ready to work. All this made it really hard to pick out a challenge or tiff.
FK: What advice would you give young filmmaker starting out? A word of wisdom to help them keep the ball rolling. Better still, what would you tell a young Diji coming into Nollywood, say 6-8 years ago?
DA: What I would say is, just start. Do not wait for someone to walk up to you with juicy deals to direct a film. That time might never come. I remember sending DMs about my competencies to people. Then I discovered that people are more interested in what you have done than what you can do. The first short film I did, I couldn’t show anyone. But when people asked me for my portfolio, I readily sent them the short film. So, to young filmmakers like me, know God, know the kind of stories you want to tell and start. Engage the luxury of social media. Be vocal about what you can do and what you have done. Shoot short clips, post on your social media handles and get your friends to repost. You never know who’s watching and who could contact you.
FK: Strong, valid points there. Your mentor, Tunde Kelani, is someone I equally admire. What are those nuggets, about filmmaking style and approach, you picked up from him over the years?
DA: I met Tunde Kelani in 2016. I graduated from his film school and for a few months I was his bag-carrier. During that time, I learnt the importance of stories and how to tell them.
FK: Amazing. You learnt from a master in the game. As a sign-out, what five films would you recommend for filmmakers to see? Films you really enjoy watching.
DA: 3 idiots by Rajkumar Hirani. Queen of Katwe by Mira Nair. Figurine by Kunle Afolayan. Saworide by Tunde Kelani. 93 days by Steve Gukas.
FK: That’s it. Thank you very much for your time, Director Diji.
DA: My pleasure. Thank you for having me.
View the trailer of About A Boy here