'Memoirs Of An Aspiring Nigerian Filmmaker' - Daniel Emeke Oriahi Tells His Story; What's Yours?
Photo Credit: S & A

'Memoirs Of An Aspiring Nigerian Filmmaker' - Daniel Emeke Oriahi Tells His Story; What's Yours?


Recapping… I did this in February of last year (2012), and got a few response, so I figured, a year-and-a-half later, with the site’s audience now larger than it was back then, that I’d try it again.

I know that a significant chunk of S&A’s audience comprises of actors, actresses, directors, DPs, editors, etc, etc, etc. Some are able to earn a paycheck utilizing their artistic and/or technical skills; others – and I’d say the majority – are what we’ve labeled the proverbial *starving artists*, working diligently, relentlessly, struggling to climb this incredibly steep hill, trying to reach some pinnacle of success – whether personal or professional. And still others exist somewhere between the former and the latter.

Where do you fall? And, as the title of this post states, what’s YOUR story, and would you like to share it with the rest of the world?

Think of it as an extension of the successful S&A Filmmaker Diary series we launched almost 2 years ago. I’m looking for your individual stories of struggle and/or success, regardless of what rung on the ladder you are currently on, after all, not only is S&A just a source for news, its goal is also to become a community of cinema lovers where we can all share/debate/discuss/learn/teach/commiserate/etc.

Here’s your chance. You might learn something; you might teach someone something.

What’s YOUR story? You can email me (obensont@gmail.com). You can submit your story in any format – written, or even documented on video. I’ll post as many of them as I can. Substance and presentation are key for consideration. 

And be sure to attach a photo (large size) for me to include, and if you have samples of your work, include them as well.

It could be a story about a current situation you find yourself in; or it could cover several days, weeks, months, or years of your career. It could be that you just want to vent your frustrations; aspects of, or people in this business that piss you off; aspects of, or people in the industry that encourage you. It doesn’t have to be all negative, nor all positive. We’re complex people, and so I assume our stories are as well.

In today’s post, writer/director Daniel Emeke Oriahi shares his story:


As a child, what mattered most was sitting in front of my father’s 21inch Panasonic television, watching a collection of War epics and several Roger Moore starring James Bond movies, my father had brought back to Nigeria from his sojourn abroad in the early 80s. Films like ‘A Bridge Too Far’, ‘Von Ryan’s Express’ and ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, rocked my world with its explosions, charismatic lead characters and all the magic they brought. With time I took a keen interest in several actors, their featured movies and further down the line, with my exposure to cable television, became conversant with some people behind the magic… like the Directors.

I vividly remember the turning point of my infant resolute to become a film director occurred in June 1995. That month a cable channel ran a month celebration of films by Steven Spielberg. Starting with his first “The Duel” and concluding with “Schindler’s list”, the unique imaginative prowess of Spielberg marveled me beyond comprehension as a naïve 13 year old. How stunned I was to watch in Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” an Oil Tanker being discovered in the middle of a desert! After watching several Spielberg films and getting to see how the man looked, fully bearded, I fancied venturing into the art of filmmaking.

From time I’d always been a lover of the arts and made attempts at various art forms most especially Drawing. Unfortunately, as one grew older and became more aware of the challenges of life, certain abstract-perceived-ventures had to be put aside. Growing up in a secluded neighborhood, till my late teenage years, contributed to a somewhat timid nature and complex misconceptions. In order to feel accepted by peers I desperately ventured paths that lead to wrong turns, regrets and hurt.  Fortunately in the midst of adversity came the epiphany to commence the journey towards becoming the man I’ve always to be: A Film-Maker.

After graduating from a tertiary institution in 2006 with an Economics degree the decision to study film was my only objective. Wandering into the film terrain, my innate passion for film and academic structured background influenced my keenness not just to understand the mechanism of filmmaking, but also the in-depth philosophy of its essence to mankind. The History of film and World Cinema became new fascinations. Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa and the French New Wave were the new filmmakers and subjects I had to analyze. Over time my list of influences grew to peeking point that film school was a stroll in the park.

Riding high from my successful sojourn to film school, a part of me felt I’d mastered film to the extent of inevitable success. How timid and ignorant I was proven after being hired to direct a series of shorts for a budding media company. As at the time, what mattered was just getting the opportunity to say Action and Cut! But during that directing stint, I honestly realized my so-called recently acquired knowledge was incapable of supporting the responsibilities one required to be a good filmmaker. Fortunately I was politely fired and left to wander the path of anxiety and low self-esteem. That wandering however led me to the mentoring hands of an individual who exposed me to another side of cinema, which broadened my perception of that philosophy I initially strived to understand. I began to an intimate relationship with great filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky, Lars Von Trier, Terrence Malick and more. My understanding of cinematic styles and theories began to expand, and the world seemed brighter. Their approach to Cinema had its way of making me believe in life… again.

As time passed and a series of successful funded short films, I was confronted with the greatest challenge of making my first and partly self-financed Feature Film.  At this juncture let me acquaint you with a discovery I stumbled on while at film school. During my last semester, we were exposed to a course that analyzed the Nigerian film industry popularly known as “Nollywood”. Before then, to me, the local industry could not to be considered in the list of thriving or film making industries as it consisted (and can be contested) of semi-literate electronic dealers posing as film producers. The thought of venturing into that terrain repulsed me. However this course on Nollywood exposed me to appreciate the dynamics behind an industry that was formed out of economic necessity. Though it consisted of poorly written plots, half-baked talents, mediocre producers and technical setbacks, the industry had thrived better than most government-supported institutions. Nollywood had grown in proportion to become a leading employer of labor in Nigeria. Ordinary people had gradually become known, accepted and adored as stars where born. Several films became topics of discuss and soon the International community took notice. As an aspiring filmmaker I began to see the positives, discard the negatives and as a Nigerian, choose to accept the fate of being described as a Nollywood filmmaker.

Through further self-ventured research, I began to acquaint myself with the industry’s structure. However the shocking statistics and poorly collated data from industry practitioners was alarming. Setbacks ranging from no to low budget financing and poor release and distribution channels plagued by uncontrollable piracy. These worries caused me sleepless nights for sometime: (How can an aspiring Nigerian filmmaker influenced by a structured western industry, filled with passionate and competent individuals, survive in Nollywood?) I suddenly felt displaced and seemed deluded from infancy by the make-believe worlds created by Spielberg… A world I’d ignorantly marveled through my father’s 21inch Panasonic television… An illusion.

Fortunately my pure admiration for the magic of films, the zeal to succeed, the keenness to understand the local industry and accept the daunting fact most aspiring and independent filmmakers self-finance their first feature film, has encouraged and spurred me on. At least I’m not alone and close to completing my first feature titled MISFIT, which is 4 years in the making.

Daniel Emeke Oriahi is a Nigerian Filmmaker whose short films have gained considerable recognition and multiple awards in Nigeria and abroad. With a Bachelor’s degree in Economics he also studied Motion Picture Production at National Film Institute, Jos Plateau State.  

Daniel is currently in Post-Production of his first feature film titled ‘MISFIT’

Follow Daniel on twitter @filmic25

Links to works:

2009 ION International Film Festival, Best Student Short Film


Teaser Trailer for Upcoming First Feature film


Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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