Q&A with Class of 2020 student Gbenga Gomes
MTF spoke to the Class of 2020 student Gbenga Gomes (26) from Lagos to find out how he has been coping with the lockdown in Nigeria during the COVID-19 pandemic, what representation in Africa’s creative and film industry means to them and what they think about the future of Africa’s creative film and TV industry.
What has your experience at the MTF Academy been like so far, before COVID-19?
It has been an eye-opener and a great learning experience. Some aspects have been challenging but it has developed me into a better story letter overall.
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on all industries, including the creative economy. It has however been a double-edged sword for many creatives. What have you learnt about yourself during this period on a personal level, as well as on a creative level?
On a personal level, it’s made me develop a stronger bond with and appreciation for my friends and family. Creatively, it’s made me more attentive and conscious of a story in every situation. I have also had the opportunity to develop my editing skills.
You are particularly interested in cinematography while at the MTF Academy. Why did you choose this route?
I’m interested in executing story ideas and helping other creatives bring their idea to life through the use of a lens.
This year’s Emmy nominations have had a record number of black creative professionals on the list. The entire list is nevertheless still male and not racially diverse. With that in mind, what does representation mean to you, and what can we do about it specifically within Africa’s creative film and TV industry?
Representation is an equal opportunity for every storyteller regardless of race, gender, economic capacity, and religious affiliations to tell their story, and for that story to be projected and judged based on its merits alone. In Africa, we face very different challenges than in other parts of the world concerning representation. In recent times some of the most celebrated films and TV series have been driven by women, both in front of the screen and behind the scenes. However, I think a category of people involved in the film making process that tends to be overlooked is the crew members i.e boom operators, continuity, runners, camera operators, DIT, etc. It would benefit the African creative film and TV industry if these professionals were invested in and appreciated even more.
For many, representation is about colour and gender. What else does it mean for you, especially as future cinematographers, writers and producers?
When it comes to representation, for me there is a glaring neglect of some very important stories especially in Nigeria. Most of the stories we see on our screen do not address our political, social, and economic realities. The daily occurrences like the insurgency in the north, extreme corruption in the government, and injustice at the hands of those that meant to protect us are not the subject of any significant film or TV series on air right now. So true representation involves the telling of every story affecting the community.
Still in line with the topic of representation, the past few years have seen a growing interest in African film and TV from outside of the continent. As Africans, what are your thoughts on how our stories are presented on the big and silver screen?
Nobody can tell a story better than the person who experienced the events that inspire the story. While the global interest in African stories is a welcome development, one cannot help but think that the major motivation behind this interest is financial gain and not a desire to project our experiences to the world. In most of the productions inspired by African stories, the entire crew consists mainly of foreigners with little or no indigenous African actors or creatives been involved. As this industry grows, it must continue to be run by Africans on all levels, from a technical to distribution level so that our stories are told by us.
What’s the one thing you plan to do to ensure that our stories continue to be told by Africans?
First, as African creatives, we should strive to create quality content in every form be it through films, series, or documentaries. This would not be possible unless investors and stakeholders, especially policymakers, are actively involved and interested in the industry. Consumers should also encourage the process by accessing our content through legal channels. The one thing I plan to do to ensure that our stories continue to be told by us is to create, promote, and encourage African content every opportunity I get to do so.
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