by David Osaireme
This 23-year old screenwriter, novelist and columnist, who considers herself a newbie in Nollywood, narrates her ordeal with a sexually charged producer.
You’re not smiling.
(squeezes a chuckle) My bad, please pardon me. I just got off a futile argument with a taxi driver. I don’t particularly enjoy watching my words fall to the ground.
Taxi drivers are famous for engaging in trending, topical issues in these parts.
This one showed hints of brilliance hence, I engaged him. Then he veered off into sensationalism. I don’t favour sensational arguments. I just shut my mouth and listened to him ramble.
I’m glad you made it here in one piece.
I’m glad I did too o. I survived.
Haha. Yes, you did. Let’s delve right into it. So, you’re a writer.
Yes, I am.
How did you get into screenwriting?
I did not start out as a screenwriter. I studied English at the University. During my time there, I was a journalist with several editorials to my credit. Soon, I was elected Editor-in-Chief of my faculty’s press. Writing, reporting, journaling were hobbies for me, they still are. I also have a published fictional work, a novel. More like a novelette.
Thanks to a friend of my dad’s who believed that particular story was good enough to go mainstream. He pushed for it to get published. I can also call myself a published novelist, right?
Sure, you can.
Screenwriting started for me in an unusual manner. One day, while my Mum and I watched a Nollywood drama, she jokingly poked the question: “Have you considered writing films?”. That question sparked a desire. Journalism beefed up my storytelling proclivities and placed me just a few steps away from writing stories for screen, so I thought. I began to consider the idea of actually scripting movies.
Thank God for Mummy.
Haha. Yes, thank God for Mummy. I reached out to a senior colleague in the industry, a big sister, an established screenwriter. I shared with her my interest in screenwriting. She was elated and willing to show me the ropes. She believed I understood storytelling and all I needed was to learn the structure of screenplays and how to tell visual stories. I immersed myself in the materials and videos she recommended. At some point, I was part of the Accelerate filmmaker project. My team crashed out but I met good friends and made meaningful connections. Screenwriting was becoming a reality and I soaked myself in it. I started to watch films differently.
With the eye of an analyst. I analyzed everything; story, dialogue, theme, acting…
I can imagine.
I was consumed by it. The newfound verve for films lured me to submit applications to film schools. I coveted all the knowledge I imagine.
Film schools, home or abroad?
Both. but more of international film schools.
We’ll return to that in a bit. You have a few produced screenplays credited to you. At the outset, how did you go about sourcing jobs? Or did the jobs find you?
Jobs find you? In Nollywood? I wish. I sourced for most of them. But to be fair, I got a few through recommendations. There’s a very funny story attached to the very first commissioned gig I got.
Starting out, that senior colleague I spoke about earlier, the established writer, drilled me on the importance of credits. How writer credits could be all the recommendation you’d need for more jobs. I took that advise a little too seriously. I reveled the idea of seeing my name on the big screen as a credited writer. With my lean credentials, I applied for writing jobs. I got a few but negotiations ran out of steam, a lot of the deals fell apart. Some were not willing to pay and others contemplated my competence.
Not surprising for a new kid on the block.
So I thought too. But I wanted it so bad. One day I got a call from a distant family friend, a freelance producer who somehow got a wind of my screenwriting skill. It was a pleasant reunion. The last time I saw him, I was about 10. He commended my work and hired me for a project he was working on at the time. I was to do a rewrite for a feature script.
You got a rewrite job just like that.
Haha. Not as easy. When he discussed the project with me, I suggested a few corrections to tighten the loose ends of the story. I guess that impressed him enough to trust me with the rewrite.
Now it makes sense.
Days later, a fee was agreed, and I straightaway buried myself in the work. Happy was I working on my first job that would earn me money and credits.
( A pause. She scoffs. Then a wry smile)
What is it? It gets interesting from here, right?
Very interesting. Thinking about it again and I still can’t believe it happened.
On the date agreed for submission, I had a meeting with him in his car. He skimmed through the script, I could tell he was impressed at my work. He smiled at me, shook my hand and tried to kiss me.
True story. I shoved him away, conflicted. In my head, I was like, how did it escalate so quickly? While I was worried, he wasn’t, and that was really disturbing. He started mouthing gibberish about how much he liked me, how excited he was to bring me on the project and how much he trusted my work. I was stuck in limbo and the only thing I thought of doing was dashing out of the car. I attempted to but he held me back and requested my opinion of him. I had no words but I had to make up a few for a chance at freedom. I told him he was like a big brother to me and what he had in mind was clearly immoral. He smiled, told me not to bug my head about it and carried on with his debauchery. I smacked his face and booted out of the car.
He texted me to forget about the job and threatened to maim my career in Nollywood if any word of what happened leaks out.
He wanted sex for credits.
Haha. That’s a funny way to put it.
Did you report it?
I told my mum. She threatened to press charges. She eventually did but the case barely made it past the first stage of deliberations. The authorities involved were unresponsive.
Hmmm. Did this affect you in any way? Career-wise? Health-wise?
No, it didn’t. It was only harrowing because I knew this person as a family friend. A friend to my late dad. It was not surprising though. I’d heard stories. And I wasn’t born yesterday. In any civilized society, there are the active engineers of development and transformation. There are also those who rebel change. I just believe Nollywood can be better. Experiences like mine and the countless others of subdued victims are enough to taint the good work of good people in the industry. There are more respectable ways to help people. There’s no industry without ills, yes, but we can, at least, try to curb the growing disease. My opinion of the industry was not affected in any way. I’m a newbie. I love Nollywood and want it to be better.
Wise words there. Sorry you had to go through that.
Oh, no. It’s fine. I came out of it stronger and more determined.
About the film school applications, any luck?
Yes, yes… I’ve had one. Two months ago, I returned from a short-term study in Europe.
Thank you for sharing this with us. I wish you success in your endeavors.
Thank you, Filmrats. Thank you for having me.