“The likes of Mo Abudu, Kemi Adetiba, Jade Osiberu, Tope Oshin, Joy Odiete, Mimi Bartels, Kemi Adesoye, Judith Audu, and Zulu Oyinbo have changed the status quo that women can only be actors.”Faustina Okomayin
Filmmaking in Nigeria has progressed significantly from the era of having a sprinkle of actresses playing stereotypical ‘housewives’, ‘side chicks’ and ‘witches’ roles to having an increasing number of women involved in other main aspects of the industry. One such progressive woman, Faustina Okomayin, a film-maker, film critic and creative administrator, joins us on this edition of The Big Showcase.
Faustina Okomayin has trained under reputable institutes, including the Home Video Integrity Awards (HOMEVIDA), Ebonylife Academy, Nollywood Studies Centre, School of Media and Communication, Pan-Atlantic University, and Kunle Afolayan Production (KAP) Academy. Faustina Okomayin has to her credit Paindemic, a co-written Covid-19 pandemic story, and What If!, her first short film and debut as a producer. She was also the production manager for Beere, a biopic stage play about Olufunmilola Ransom-Kuti and the Egba Women Riot.
Through her Youtube channel, Faustina Okomayin has built an online community where she educates film enthusiasts on the nuances of filmmaking with African films as a reference.
Please sit back, and grab a maxi popcorn pack and your favourite drink as Faustina Okomayin breaks down her experience in the filmmaking industry in an exciting and impactful way.
Career Origin Story and the Journey So Far
“Most people know me as a creative but not as an engineer. I studied Chemical Engineering in school, and this is a career path that I’m still exploring.”
While Faustina Okomayin became fascinated with writing right after her undergraduate education, her formal entry into the media space was a bit more interesting.
“I started my journey into the media industry during my NYSC (National Youth Service Corps) programme in Abeokuta. My residence at the time was next to a radio station, and after work hours at my PPA (Primary Place of Assignment), I would visit the station to spend time with the crew. The crew was so open and welcoming that eventually, I had access to their studio and worked there as a presenter. That was my first introduction to the media world. After my NYSC program, I got a job with a new TV station in Lagos, exposing me to various facets of the media space. I saw so many possibilities in the industry and decided to explore some of them, particularly the filmmaking industry. Yeah, it’s been an interesting journey ever since.”
Faustina Okomayin isn’t just a producer and director, but she occasionally acts as well. She shares her brief acting experience and current career focus.
“What If! was my debut acting role, and I had to play the role because my lead character, for the Real Time Film Festival, cancelled on me at the last minute. The festival was a 20-hour contest, and work had to continue. So, I had to step into the role to complete the film. Acting while also filming was challenging but also fun and rewarding. However, I’m not considering going into acting full-time at the moment. I may occasionally act, but not fully. For example, in 2022, I acted in a stage play titled Beere, a biopic of Olufunmilayo Ransom-Kuti, which was another level of experience for me in the filmmaking industry. However, my focus is to be a director, producer, developmental executive and screenwriter. I’m actively learning and growing into these roles.”
Many upcoming actors and filmmakers only dream about working with experienced filmmakers like Kunle Afolayan, but this is the reality of Faustina Okomayin.
“Working with Kunle Afolayan has been both a dream come true and a fortune stumbled upon. Not everyone gets to work with a veteran filmmaker they watched while growing up, and the privilege of working with Kunle Afolayan is solely satisfying. I remember applying for an internship role to work on his set, but I wasn’t picked because I didn’t meet the set criteria. However, I have evolved to the stage whereby I work with his film academy. That, for me, is huge.”
Faustina Okomayin further recounts her delightful experience working with the prestigious KAP Academy.
“My career as a creative administrator with Kunle Afolayan Productions (KAP) Academy has been good, but I know it can be better. Right now, I help to define and decide the criteria required for selecting creatives for the academy. In addition, the academy, in partnership with Mastercard, offers scholarships and paid programmes for creatives. As an administrator, I ensure that deserving creatives have access to these scholarships and those who can afford the paid programmes access quality education.”
Gender Equity in Nollywood
A significant reason many people frown at feminist ideology is that some people make it seem toxic, but Faustina Okomayin provides a balanced view of the topic.
“I am a feminist who believes more in gender equity than equality. I believe in empowering, enlightening, and educating women in society without emasculating men. I believe in fighting against every sort of misogyny. Overall, I believe in balance, which I think is the right keyword for the feminist cause and not the common lopsided approach to feminism.
Furthermore, Faustina Okomayin relates her opinion to the Nigerian filmmaking sector and the daily emergence of women powerhouses in the industry.
“In the entertainment industry today, I see women filling big roles people used to say were ideally for men. Women are now in every part of the filmmaking industry – from pre-production to post-production. The likes of Mo Abudu, Kemi Adetiba, Jade Osiberu, Tope Oshin, Joy Odiete, Mimi Bartels, Kemi Adesoye, Judith Audu, and Zulu Oyinbo have changed the status quo that women can only be actors. They inspire young women to see and pursue endless possibilities in the industry for women beyond makeup artistry, costuming, or acting. I’m really proud to be one of the women promoting these opportunities.”
On Movie Critiquing and Creating a High Standard as a Filmmaker
“I look out for three elements while critiquing a movie; the message, how the message is communicated and blended with filmmaking elements, and the nuanced approaches applied by the filmmaker.”
If you have been in a movie funk for a while, Faustina Okomayin outlines the top three things that make or break a movie.
“A story is a message the filmmaker tries to communicate to the viewers. So I check if the storyteller stays true to the core message throughout the film or veers off course at some point. First, is the message defined enough for the audience to grasp? Secondly, I look for a connection between the message and elements of filmmaking, including the cinematography, lighting, sound and production designs, and characters’ characteristics that form the story’s premises. These elements help to communicate a story perfectly.”
“Thirdly, the nuanced approach of the filmmaker is the core of my movie critiques. Unfortunately, many filmmakers seem unaware that the audience has watched the same storylines for decades. Whether we’re watching at the cinema, at film festivals, on TV, or on smart devices – we are watching similar finite stories told in different ways. So, the nuanced approaches and uniqueness adopted by filmmakers for retelling these stories make them box-office hits and keep viewers captivated. As such, each filmmaker must find their unique voice to retell familiar stories extraordinarily. As a filmmaker, it’s easier to critique other people’s work because I also hold my work to these high standards.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ll view movies differently after this thorough breakdown.
Main Challenges as a Filmmaker
Challenges are inevitable across industries, and Faustina Okomayin points out two major obstacles in her filmmaking career.
“Two challenges I’ve faced in my career are the lack of professionalism and limited funding. Professionalism is seriously lacking in the creative industry because many see creatives as merely seeking artistic expression, which doesn’t always require formal education. As such, many people see creatives as people whiling away their time and deny them the same level of respect they’d normally give a lawyer or doctor. Unfortunately, some creatives enable this negative narrative when they don’t professionally conduct themselves. I’ve worked behind the scenes with some creatives who display lawlessness, which is wrong. It has become the norm on sets for some filmmakers to refer to behind-the-scenes creatives as unprofessional, while on-screen parties are considered ‘educated’ or ‘professional’. As someone who mostly works behind the scenes, it’s an aggravating situation.”
In addition, she covers the issue of insufficient funding.
“Also, finance in terms of funding and income generation from my work, especially as a budding creative, is a big challenge. Many creatives, including myself, have short films to market or distribute. However, only a few stakeholders will buy or distribute such films. So we usually wait until we have enough funds to shoot feature films and get a relevant platform to show them.”
The Silver Lining
Although the above challenges persist, Faustina Okomayin highlights the developments that are helping to improve the situation.
“I’m glad that several creative institutions in Nigeria are gradually changing the narrative of lack of proper professionalism and funding. Another reason my work at KAP Academy excites me is that it educates creatives, and its students become exemplary distinctions between educated creatives and uneducated ones. Regarding funding, many creatives are turning to collaboration to make the production, marketing and distribution of short films easier. An example is my short film, What If, which was a collaboration between me and other creatives. Also, many short film platforms, internationally and locally, are contributing to the growth of budding filmmakers.”
Faustina Okomayin might be only four years into her filmmaking career, but she has risen above the difficulties of early beginnings. She shares below the best parts of her career.
“One of the most successful and rewarding projects I’ve participated in is a TV talk show. I currently cannot divulge the name or details of the project, but with time I will. The talk show is educative and interactive, covering identity-related issues among Nigerian youths, and I worked as an associate producer on the project. An ongoing project is the Lagos and Abuja Fringe Festival, an initiative of the World Fringe Festival, an open-access multidisciplinary art festival. As the festival’s administrator, I find it fulfilling to bring creatives from various sectors and walks of life into a creative space to showcase their talents and learn from top stakeholders in the creative industry. The best part is the life-changing networking opportunities for attendees and the amazing testimonials they usually have after the festival.”
The best kind of career is fulfilling and encourages you to do more. It is clear that Faustina Okomayin’s career certainly ticks off these boxes as she rounds off with the words:
“I’m always happy to contribute to the growth of creatives and the creative industry in my own small way.”