Filmmaker Oboatarhe Ikuku speaks on her latest projects and the Nollywood movie industry.
Oboatarhe Ebiye Ikuku is a Journalist/Filmmaker born and raised in Warri, Nigeria. At the age of 16, she moved to London, the United Kingdom where she completed her A-levels at Queen Anne’s School, Reading.
She later attended the University of Lincoln, Lincolnshire where she pursued a Bachelors degree in Journalism and Communications.
After graduating with an Honors degree in 2015, She immediately moved to Los Angeles, California to obtain a Masters degree in Filmmaking Production from the New York Film Academy in Burbank California. She graduated September 2017.
Currently, she is a freelance director/producer/writer making short films, music videos, documentaries and fashion films. Her latest project 'Rukky' is an autobiographical Dramedy Television Series which she will be releasing in 2 weeks.
You can read the excerpts of the interview below;
Pulse - How did you get into filmmaking?
Oboatarhe Ikuku - Films have always been a passion of mine because I realized the power of film at a very young age. I grew up watching a lot of Nigerian movies as well as international films.
At first, I thought I wanted to be an actress, but plans changed after I booked my first ever gig as an actress for a web series in London. While shooting, I realized that I was more interested in directing.
I finally had the privilege to create a film for the first time in the summer of 2014 when I attended a 4-week filmmaking course at the New York Film Academy, Los Angeles campus.
Prior to that, I had only a rudimentary knowledge of the filmmaking process. During the 4-week course, I learnt a lot, but most importantly, I learnt that making films was my calling.
After I completed the program, I flew back to England to complete my Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and moved to Los Angeles in September 2015 to pursue a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Filmmaking. I’ve been making films ever since.
Pulse - Tell us about your new movie 'Success', what is it all about?
Oboatarhe Ikuku - Success is my debut short film. It was written, directed and produced by me. The story was inspired by my favourite play Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe and the classic film Sunset Boulevard by Billy Wilder, as well as some personal experiences.
The themes explored in Success are similar to those explored in Dr Faustus and Sunset Boulevard. Success tackles major topics of power, sexual harassment and integrity. Within the guise of a beautiful and musical love story, I take the stand that persecution has less to do with gender and everything to do with power.
Pulse - How challenging was it to direct 'Success'?
Oboatarhe Ikuku - To be completely honest, I did not face major challenges directing this project. Of course, I’m not saying that it was completely easy directing this either.
However, if I did face any challenge, it was definitely the writing process which took over 6 months. I spent a lot of time re-writing and making adjustments, up to a few days before the shoot.
The writing process really challenged me, I wanted to quit countless times but I kept pushing. Directing this wasn’t a challenge because I worked with a professional crew and my actors were so easy to work with. We also had multiple rehearsals, so this really helped as well.
Pulse - What has the response of 'Success' been on festival runs?
Oboatarhe Ikuku - I’m blessed to have received mostly positive reviews from viewers and film critics. Some people have encouraged me to try developing success as a feature-length film or TV series. But I’m not sure that I want to do that yet.
Success is still currently making the rounds on the festival circuit, but so far we’ve won an award for “Best Supporting Actress” at the Creation International Film Festival (2018), placing as a finalist in AltFF (2017), semi-finalist in Los Angeles Cinefest (2018), nominated for Best Student Film at the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema (2018), and recently won an award for Best Director (Female) at the Independent Shorts Awards (2018).
Pulse - Do you have plans to premiere the film in Nigeria?
Oboatarhe Ikuku - Probably not, however, when Success completes its festival runs and gets released, it will be available on online platforms like Vimeo or YouTube.
Pulse - What are your current thoughts about Nollywood?
Oboatarhe Ikuku - My thoughts on Nollywood have always been the same. Nollywood is a very promising industry. We have the ability to compete against other film industries in the world, including Hollywood. Filmmaking is not just about having a huge budget, and blowing up cars like we see in many blockbuster movies.
It is the ability to tell a universal story that can move people in many ways. We definitely have the talent here, but it is rather unfortunate that the issue of piracy poses a big threat to investors and intellectual property owners who most times do not make their profit.
Until we tackle this issue of piracy, Nollywood will continue to produce films which are mostly low budget and of low quality which is not a true depiction of the talent that we have here. The same way that Nigerian music has taken over the world is the same hope that I have for Nollywood.
Pulse - Which Nigerian Actors would you love to work with?
Oboatarhe Ikuku - There are quite a number of people that I would like to work with, but I’ll list a few; Eniola Badmus, Richard Mofe-Damjio, Abimbola Craig, Charles Okocha, Nse Ikpe-Etim, John Okafor, Genevieve Nnaji, Pete Edochie, Hilda Dokubo, Olu Jacobs, Ireti Doyle, Dakore Akande, Joke Silva, Funke Akindele, and a few others.
Pulse - Do you think the world is ready for Nollywood movies?
Oboatarhe Ikuku - The world is definitely ready for Nollywood movies and holds Nollywood to very high standards. You don’t get to be the second biggest producer of films in the world and not have the attention of the world. Now it is up to us to show them the stuff that we are truly made of.
Reports have shown that on average, Nollywood produces roughly 1,500 films a year. That’s a lot of films being produced yearly. However, we need to improve on the quality of films being put out there because quality will always be greater than quantity.
Pulse - Your new project ‘Rukky’, what is it all about and how does it differ from your other projects?
Oboatarhe Ikuku - Rukky follows the life of an 18-year-old Nigerian heiress who moves from Warri Nigeria to Los Angeles.
When she arrives in LA, she crashes headfirst into a search for independence at a global level. Rukky differs from my other projects because it is an autobiographical series based on my life experiences in Los Angeles, and England, where I lived for 5 years.
As a young black Nigerian woman, I was a fish out of water on almost every level. I have heard countless ignorant remarks and have had to tell people countless times that the mainstream press does not give a completely accurate depiction about Nigeria, and more-so the continent of Africa.
I want to use this project to engage and educate people about what it truly means to be an African. It is the toughest project I have worked on to-date because I didn’t realize how difficult it is writing about oneself.