SNY SPOTLIGHT: Ella Chikezie
Ella is a writer and filmmaker based in Lagos, Nigeria. She has written copies that interpret human stories and experiences for brands such as; DSTV, Airtel, Icell, African Union, UAC. Her films address social issues that are usually overlooked or not talked about. Ella’s most recent project ‘Anywhere But Home’ addresses the issue of domestic violence.
- How would you describe yourself?
I would describe myself as a spontaneous, ambitious, and driven person. I am the kind of person who believes that anything can be learned or achieved as long as one is willing to commit time, practice, and discipline. I also see myself as a creative human being.
- What inspired your passion for writing and filmmaking?
As kids my parents encouraged us to read. My dad used to keep a library so we were surrounded by a lot of books and stories. He had this old collection of William Shakespeare’s works and the first time I read that book, I was only 7. Although I couldn’t fully grasp the words in the book as they were written in Elizabethan English, my dad however, used to read these stories and other native stories to us. That was how I developed interest in storytelling and writing. I was fascinated by these books and I wanted to write my own stories too. I wanted to tell stories of things I had seen, experienced, imagined, and even heard others encounter too. As I read more books, I developed more interest and when I was in JSS 2 I wrote my first novel. It was called “The cuckoo-cuckoo clock of doom”, it was a teen based adventurous story on time-travel. I showed our English teacher the book and he commended me for writing the story. Then, as a science student in SS1, I used to run away from Agricultural science classes to Literature class and I became quite popular in Literature class because I was always answering questions and contributing in class. In fact, there was a day our Literature teacher asked me to teach my colleagues and she was surprised when the students shouted that I wasn’t even an arts student. Later on, in University, I sent a Facebook fan message to Michelle Dede one day, and she surprisingly responded to the message. In her reply, she stated that God had blessed me with a writing gift and encouraged me to keep writing. That was the first time anyone ever told me that, and it stuck with me for a long time. As for filmmaking, just like I learnt to read books, I also watched a lot of TV whilst growing up and I developed interest in filmmaking from there. The first screenwriting class I ever attended was with Victor Sanchez Aghaowa, and Michelle had sent me the poster to apply for a chance to get into the masterclass. With little or no experience in screenwriting, I applied and luckily got selected into the training program and after that experience, my interest in filmmaking increased exponentially.
- Your short films highlight social issues that are not always talked about, what fueled you to tell these stories?
As a storyteller, I am very observant of my environment and the things going on in our society. Over the years, I have read, experienced, and witnessed lots of stories about injustice, domestic violence, rape, and other sensitive issues, so I felt the need to lend my voice to these causes. I mean, what better way to do so if not through my talents? I believe that if I ever want to make a difference, then I must do so by telling stories that are authentic, unusual, and relatable. For me, highlighting and addressing social issues through storytelling is my own way of bringing social change and I am all for change in Nigeria, Africa, and the world at large.
- Do you think opportunities are easy to find as a creative?
These days a lot of opportunities are opening up in the creative industry, it’s a question of how informed and prepared you are for them.
- What are some of the obstacles you have encountered as a creative?
I have encountered several obstacles in writing and film production, the common one being the writer’s block and dealing with sound issues while on set. While working on my short film, “Anywhere but Home”, one of the major challenges I encountered was with sound. Also, I’ve been on a set, where we had to pack up and leave because the area boys refused to let us film even after paying the demanded fee. So yeah, these challenges come with the terrain. Personally too, I have battled with imposter syndrome in the past.
- When you are not writing or making films, what other passions keep you busy?
I mostly spend time advocating for and volunteering for Mental Health, Rape, Social Justice, Autism, Women and Children’s Rights, and any other notable cause.
- Where are some of your creative spots in Lagos?
Anyone who knows me knows I have a sweet tooth. So, anywhere that looks like an ice-cream & confectionary shop or coffee shop are usually my preferred creative spot.
- Name two creatives that you’d like to collaborate with and why?
Internationally, I would love to collaborate with Shonda Rhimes, because she’s a brilliant storyteller and TV Writer/Producer, also her movies always empowers black women and largely represents diverse groups from Black Americans, Caucasians, Africans, Mexicans, Asians, Straight, LGBTQ+, you name it and since I’m all for women empowerment and social equality, a collaboration with Shondaland is my ideal collaboration. In Nigeria, I would like to collaborate with Kenneth Gyang because of his unusual approach to filmmaking and how his films addresses various social issues in Nigeria.
- What’s your favorite quote that has inspired you as a creative?
“You are never too old to learn something new or try something different.” This is one quote that has kept me going. My mentor, says it all the time and that’s where I picked it from.
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