• Abigail Arunga

T5 with Oprah Oyugi

Updated: Jul 25

Originally published at https://nation.africa/kenya/life-and-style/mynetwork/t5-with-oprah-oyugi-3797572 by Abigail Arunga.

What you need to know:

  • The biggest gap in the industry is inadequate finances. Before one can be trusted as a director, cinematographer or writer, they need to show proof of their work and capabilities.

  • However, filmmaking is expensive and most creatives cannot afford to create content that can compete internationally.

  • We would have not been able to create Supastaz without funding from the German government.

Oprah Oyugi is a writer, film director and editor at Dhamira Films. She is a writer on TV Series Igiza, set to come to Mnet in April, and on Country Queen set to be released later in the year. She was shortlisted for the Netflix Unesco folktale competition and won the Best Script Writer award at the Women In Film Award 2022. Supastaz is her directorial debut film.

1. How does it feel to have directed such an important film? What has your production journey been like? I think I’ll start feeling the importance of this moment once the film is reviewed by a wider audience. As of now, I’m proud that we made a film that people have enjoyed watching and whose message on child-trafficking and kidnappings hits home.

2. Did you always want to be a film director?

After high school, just before I joined university, I attended Shang Tao Animation College. They offer film classes which I really enjoyed. After the course I knew straight away that I wanted to be a director. However, I quickly learnt that it was a job that came with a lot of responsibility that I would not easily be entrusted with. I started writing with the intention of directing my own material and it is satisfying to see it pay off over time.

3. How did you decide on the theme for Supastaz? What story led you to it? Where can Kenyans see the film? During the Covid-19 peak period (2020-2021), there was a spike in the number of kidnappings and missing persons reports. The Anti-Human Trafficking and Child Protection Unit wanted members of the public to report cases of missing persons directly to them to increase the chances of intervention and rescue. They approached the producer, Krysteen Savane, who is also my co-director, requesting for a film that would entertain, inform, and educate while at the same time incorporate music and dance. That’s how the overarching themes of the film came to be. We had a cinema run at Prestige Cinema two weeks ago, and we intend to screen it in as many schools and communities as we can around the country.

4. You recently won an award for scriptwriting. What would you have told yourself at the beginning of this journey to perhaps get here faster? Winning the award was so satisfying because I finally felt seen as a screenwriter. Writing is the toughest job in our industry (in my opinion) and to be acknowledged for it was validating. This question is a double-edged sword. On one hand, I wish I put in a lot more effort into honing my craft as a script writer a lot earlier. Maybe my ascent would have been much faster. However, if my journey unfolded faster than it has now, there is a sense of maturity and sensitivity that would lack in my work which I’m really proud of today.

When starting out, I wish I knew of the importance of just going ahead with my plans, writing and making content, without second guessing myself. I believe if I was more consistent with writing and creating films, even using my phone, I would have put in more practise and my craft would be on another level.

5. How do you think film and production bodies can better help players in the industry? What do you think has helped you most in your film journey? What is your next project, what can we look out for, and what inspired it? The biggest gap in the industry is inadequate finances. Before one can be trusted as a director, cinematographer or writer, they need to show proof of their work and capabilities. However, filmmaking is expensive and most creatives cannot afford to create content that can compete internationally. We would have not been able to create Supastaz without funding from the German government. The Kenya Film Commission has started funding films and many more companies can follow suit. If more companies started looking at film as a business the same way Nigeria has done with Nollywood, their investment can generate income and contribute to the creative economy of the country. As you have also rightfully mentioned, policy making is key. We need laws that make it more affordable and convenient for locals to shoot films in our country if the industry is to grow.

Under Dhamira Films, our film company, we have a number of projects in different stages of production. They are: Sitigal, a feature film inspired by my grandmother, and Kucha, a web series inspired by the male players of the beauty industry. The financial resources we secure will determine which of these gets produced first.

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