Ema Edosio’s advice to aspiring filmmakers

(Source: Ema Edosio Instagram)

Award winning director, Ema Edosio burst onto the scene in 2018 with Kasala, a vivid portrayal of Lagos and the struggles of four young men. The low budget film Kasala picked up festival laurels across the world, getting selections in over 30 film festivals and has has been translated to French, Portuguese and Spanish.

While announcing the film’s recent acquisition by Netflix, Ema was kind enough to share vital filmmaking advice on a series of social media posts. Let’s examine some of them:

1. Dear filmmakers, please don’t give up, don’t compromise. You can be different and create films you believe in.

Filmmaking anywhere is tough, and may seem insurmountable to most, especially in Nigeria, with the existing infrastructural and institutional problems. Mainstream business models in Nollywood have enforced genres and tropes on filmmakers hoping to make a profit at the box office or on VOD platforms. This means directors with “different” voices may struggle to get funding or distribution. 

In her post, Ema Edosio says she had to fight to create her film, with as little as four million naira, unknown actors and a skeleton crew instead of compromising her art to play the mainstream politics.

Her resoluteness eventually paid off as Kasala got to screen at over 30 international film festivals around the world, won 9 international awards and has been released on Canal plus, international airlines, and now on Netflix.

So, dear filmmaker, it’s important that you approach your work with belief, dedication and consistency if you want to stand a chance.

2. Dear filmmakers, there is a huge world out there!

Ema Edosio says creating films only for Nollywood audiences may be counterproductive except you own your own chain of cinemas. Creating only for Nollywood audiences may restrict casting choices as the business model requires ” bankable” stars to offer hopes of box office success. This is because films require longer show times to cut a profit in a saturated cinema schedule.

Ema says, “Most times you lose in Nigeria
(except you own a chain of cinemas) and you lose international audiences because your film does not appeal to them.” Nollywood filmmakers should consider expanding distribution efforts to international markets. Who knows how far a good film, properly subtitled(if needed) can travel? 

Dear filmmaker, take international film labs, film festivals and film market very seriously. 

3. Build a unique body of work 

A common mistake low budget or beginner filmmakers make is feeling the need to rack up their film credits, obsessing about new equipment and shot types without discovering their unique story telling style.

Ema says you have to start building a body of work that is unique with the entire Nollywood game changing fast. She continues, “There is ‘Netflix Nollywood’ , there is Canal plus Nollywood. There are filmmakers who cut through these stereotypes and are international because of their unique perspectives and stories.”

And as a general piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers : Don’t be drawn into “art vs commercial” arguments. Art can be commercial. You can make art films and still manage to find mainstream audiences; what they really care about is the good stuff.

Go make that movie.

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