One thing that stands Nigerian creatives out from other creatives is their incessant willingness to take risks. This can be found in not just Nigerian creatives, but Nigerians as a whole. Whether it’s doing what has been done before, but a million times better – like government administrations competing for the worst government in Nigeria’s history title- or it’s doing what has never been done – like Burna Boy’s sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden on Thursday. The same can be said about today’s interviewee. She did what many Nigerians with a creative passion do when it’s time to go to start a career. She did what her parents wanted, and then she didn’t.
After securing an undergraduate degree in Financial Management from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Chisom Ifeakandu went into the corporate world – like many others do – working in accounting as an SAP consultant for over three years. Those three years seemed to have gone by quickly seeing that her mind was fixated on the one thing she wanted to take a chance on, filmmaking. It took five years, from Chisom’s first filmmaking experience in 2016, to start her debut project on the eve of 2022. But before Chisom was able to take this leap of faith, she had taken little leaps of faith in pursuing this passion of hers.
Chisom’s first course of choice was cinematography. After spending her primary years engaging in the world of theatre, in the capacity that primary and secondary schoolers engage in, her interest in theatre and filmmaking was piqued. As you would have it, convincing Nigerian parents about pursuing an education or career in the arts is near impossible, not entirely because they don’t believe in it as a viable career, but because they prefer stability over passion.
Like Unilag economics graduate-turned-singer-turned-photographer TY Bello, Chisom decided to study economics, but because FUTO didn’t offer economics, she settled for financial management. Citing TY Bello’s thriving creative career despite her ‘conventional’ course of study was the successful tactic her father used to get her to change her mind about studying cinematography. Although she settled for Financial Management, the dullness of numbers and calculations didn’t stifle Chisom’s interest in filmmaking through the years.
During her mandatory four-month undergraduate internship, she decides to apply to Africa International Film Festival’s (AFRIFF) masterclass as an acting student but that dream is quickly cut short as she was rejected based on lacking previous experience. Failing to quit, she decides to volunteer at the festival instead. For Chisom, volunteering at AFRIFF and having full access to interacting and working with filmmakers and executives was the eye-opening moment for her. “It made me realize I didn’t want to just [be an actor], I wanted to be a full filmmaker,” she says.
Fast forward to post-graduation and post-accountant career, Chisom decided to move to Abuja and reach out to a filmmaker she knew about. After relaying her filmmaking goals to him, he employed her as a line producer and scheduler on the set of Africa Magic’s Television Series, Halita. From then on she’sgarnered an impressive portfolio that includes credits on Still Falling (2020), Rishantes (2021), The Will (2020) and several others.
It wasn’t until the tail end of 2021 that Chisom gathered enough ginger to work on a story she had sitting in her notepad for three years. Thus, the birth of her upcoming short film, Sonder.
“It was an amazing learning experience for me” she gushes as she talks about directing for the first time. Before Sonder, Chisom only had experience in producing films. The tasks and responsibilities that come with directing, although new to her, didn’t overburden her as her Director of Photography, Da’anong Gyang, worked alongside her every step of the way. She also opens up about the ease of working with experienced cast and crew members “On set, it was very seamless. I didn’t have to talk too much, I just said ‘this is what I want right now’ and everyone moved accordingly.” Before getting to meet the cast and crew on set – some for the first time – Chisom made sure to establish a good rapport with them all.
For Chisom, Sonder isn’t just any project for her to test the waters with, it’s “A story everyone needs to hear” she assures. “It’s very easy for us to sit around and think that everybody’s life around us is perfect while we’re drowning,” she explains. From the way she spoke so passionately, it’s obvious this film means a lot more to her than just any other story.
When discussing her vision for herself in the next five years, Chisom reveals that she sees herself acting. “I also want to put my face out there, not just as producer or director,” she says. Being just one thing or the other isn’t what she’s aiming for, according to Chisom she wants to be a film person in the entirety of it. She understands that directing could be seasonal, so can producing and so can writing and acting, so she’s willing to spread herself wide in the film space to be able to work in as many subindustries as she can.
On the release of her short film Sonder, a date is yet to be set.
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