By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act October 14, 2013 at 2:29PM
Recapping... I did this in February of last year (2012), and got a few response, so I figured, a year-and-a-half later, with the site's audience now larger than it was back then, that I'd try it again.
I know that a significant chunk of S&A's audience comprises of actors, actresses, directors, DPs, editors, etc, etc, etc. Some are able to earn a paycheck utilizing their artistic and/or technical skills; others - and I'd say the majority - are what we've labeled the proverbial *starving artists*, working diligently, relentlessly, struggling to climb this incredibly steep hill, trying to reach some pinnacle of success - whether personal or professional. And still others exist somewhere between the former and the latter.
Where do you fall? And, as the title of this post states, what's YOUR story, and would you like to share it with the rest of the world?
Think of it as an extension of the successful S&A Filmmaker Diary series we launched almost 2 years ago. I'm looking for your individual stories of struggle and/or success, regardless of what rung on the ladder you are currently on, after all, not only is S&A just a source for news, its goal is also to become a community of cinema lovers where we can all share/debate/discuss/learn/teach/commiserate/etc.
Here's your chance. You might learn something; you might teach someone something.
What's YOUR story? You can email me (email@example.com). You can submit your story in any format - written, or even documented on video. I'll post as many of them as I can. Substance and presentation are key for consideration.
And be sure to attach a photo (large size) for me to include, and if you have samples of your work, include them as well.
It could be a story about a current situation you find yourself in; or it could cover several days, weeks, months, or years of your career. It could be that you just want to vent your frustrations; aspects of, or people in this business that piss you off; aspects of, or people in the industry that encourage you. It doesn't have to be all negative, nor all positive. We're complex people, and so I assume our stories are as well.
In today's post, screenwriter Emil B. Garuba shares his story:
My name is Emil B. Garuba and I’m a screenwriter currently working in Abuja, Nigeria.
As far back as I can remember I always knew I’d make a living as a storyteller! But when you are a preteen hooked on Saturday morning (or in my case weekday afternoons in Nigeria) entertainment like Battle of the Planets, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Voltron, Super Friends, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, and a host of other mind-numbing kiddies fare a career in real world storytelling seemed easier said than done. Add to that an unhealthy addiction (I didn’t think so) to comic books and video games made the future seem very bright.
I was born in Oklahoma and spent the first few years of my life there before my family, then consisting of my parents and two older siblings, returned to Nigeria. Myparents had come to attend college in Oklahoma; my dad was a soldier in the Nigerian Army and my mom was an aspiring teacher. I remember a few things from mytime spent there. Other things came from numerous family pictures in dusty/smelly photo albums. But what I never forgot was the entertainment, most of which I rediscovered back in Nigeria later on. From the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, film noir, westerns and sci-fi classics, blaxploitation era films, cartoons, comic books and graphic novels, and everything in-between including the equally entertaining Nigerian programs like Tales by Moonlight and Magana Jari Ce – I absorbed them all, hoping that someday I’d be able to tell similar stories and make others feel the same way. I’d run home after school and plant myself in front of the television for hours on end. It became my refuge and slowly but surely I became a geek. When faced with a sticky situation, more than once I considered “What would Rambo or MacGyver do?” I bided my time until the chance came for me to return to Oklahoma for my own college experience. Nigeria had spiraled out of control by the early 90’s so a lot of my peers left the country either for their safety or to further their education abroad. Whatever the reason I was now on my path to becoming a great storyteller…
Fast forward 19 years later – I’m armed with a college education including a BA in Political Science and a MA in Creative Writing, and I’ve returned once again to the motherland. This time by choice. My main reason for doing so? Well, for one thing, I wasn’t feeling very inspired while in America. I’d completed only two screenplays between 1998 and 2001 (there’s a cardboard box filled with uncompleted scripts in storage) and the rest of my time was spent lost in corporate America shuffling from one boring job to the next in search of a better paycheck. My creative spirit was bundled up and flushed down the toilet. Frankly after the countless reboots, reimaginings, reinterpretations and remakes there was nothing new to see by way of entertainment. That’s when it hit me: Africa had not even started yet! That’s where I need to be right now. Add to that, not in all my years did I see a character that spoke to me as a Nigerian-American. Where are our John Rambos and MacGyvers, our James Bonds and Jack Bauers? Surely we should have them, or could, if only for the sheer escapism factor at least. No, they were all Western heroes. So I thought, I’d go ahead and create a few of my own. But of course, easier said than done.
I’ve been in Nigeria since 2009 and Nollywood (the Nigerian film industry) is tricky to navigate at best. It’s a virtual minefield of cliques and cabals, independent auteurs and unscrupulous marketers/producers who seem only concerned with the business side of showbiz. Stable electricity is a hard to come by some months, and reliable internet connection is sometimes as elusive as a unicorn. But all through this I’ve made some headway via aggressive networking and recommendations from those I’ve worked with. As a practicing Buddhist, meditation helps me stay focused on my work and also to deal with the negative feelings and questions that creep up every once in a while in my head regarding if relocating to Nigeria was the right decision or not. I gave myself five years to make it or break it.
I wrote my first Nigerian screenplay in 2009 (still unsold) and off that got a gig writing for Tinsel, M-Net Africa's first Nigerian soap opera. Next came HOMEVIDA, the Nigerian Integrity Film Awards, which is a media and awards platform towards driving creative messaging on value change, anti-corruption and national reformation through the home video channel to Nigerian, African and world audiences. The Homevida platform currently comprises of Capacity Building and Sensitization Workshops, the annual Film Awards, and the annual Short film Script Competitions. As part of the creative team since its inception in 2010, nine award-winning specific messaging short films have been produced based on shortlisted scripts from the script competition. These short films have been featured in various media campaigns and international film festivals.
Where do I find myself creatively now? The plan is to segue into feature film production. I’m working with a buddy of mine (filmmaker Ishaya Bako of Fuelling Poverty fame) and some credible producers to bring our crazy ideas to fruition. We want to do it all – horror, sci-fi, animation, thrillers, and what have you. I know; not your typical Nollywood stuff but then again, we don’t consider ourselves Nollywood filmmakers. No, we want to make Nigerian films. Our first collaboration was the 2012 short film Easy Money, co-written and directed by Ishaya Bako for the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission. It met with such resounding success that the commission wants us to develop a feature for them and possibly a TV series down the line. We’re coming for you Wall Street!
Next up for me is adapting one of my spec scripts into a graphic novel, putting the finishing touches on a horror script based on an ancient African legend, developing an African espionage thriller, and possibly directing my first short film. Through my Rated E Productions shingle, I train aspiring scriptwriters, provide script doctoring services, and also do consulting work to pay the bills. It’s all very exciting to say the least. Good thing meditation keeps me sane. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m determined to make it work. I’m definitely inspired. It also helps that Africa has a plethora of rich untapped history and stories just waiting to be told and now is the time to bring those stories to the forefront. Was it the right decision to relocate to Nigeria? The jury is still out on that. But after four years I’m happy to say I’m not running away just yet. I might just be reaching my creative Zen.
Here’s a link to Easy Money on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/61703467#!
Thanks for reading.
Emil @ Rated E