“My interest lies in telling stories that cast a vision of a better Nigeria, Africa, and the world” — Niyi Muyi
In this exclusive interview with AfroFilm Herald Times, Niyi Muyi shares his understanding of filmmaking. He also reaffirms his belief in the reformational potency of film as a tool to entertain, inform, and reform.
Niyi keeps making progressive moves to achieve his lofty ambition: fulfilling his ardent interest. In an affirmative tone, he says “My interest lies in telling stories that cast a vision of a better Nigeria, Africa, and the world.”
The film aficionado unequivocally states, “I am passionate about a Nigeria and Africa we can all be proud of. I believe filmmaking is a great tool that can shape public/audience opinion of what can be rather than what is or used to be…”
Tell us about you.
My name is Niyi Muyi. I like to describe myself as a visual storyteller (a photographer, cinematographer, director, producer) and entrepreneur. I am the team lead at iSHOOT & Co, a Video production company, founder of USEDCAMERANG, and a nation builder passionate about seeing and leaving behind a better Nigeria.
What inspired you to become a filmmaker?
Growing up, I loved watching movies and then narrating the stories, word for word, to friends. I still remember lines from some of those movies back in the day. I have also always been a lover of photography and cameras. My uncle had this 110 Pocket Instamatic format – “cassette-looking” camera he used in documenting family functions and just fun times at home. I was always intrigued by the art of capturing and then making them into prints. I believe the early exposures to capturing images and narrating films to friends led me to filmmaking.
What is your favourite film of all time and why?
It is hard to pick one. If I am stuck on an island, and I had the choice to pick one movie to keep me company for the rest of my life, it would be SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, a 1994 American drama written and directed by Frank Darabont, based on the 1982 Stephen King novella “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption”. It is a story of hope, steady perseverance, and the innate power that man possesses to change circumstances in their life. This power, if channelled, can bring dreams alive, despite external challenges and obstacles. The cinematography was by one of my favourites, Roger Deakins. Another would be Life is Beautiful, a 1997 Italian comedy-drama about The Holocaust. I laugh and cry every time I see this movie.
What do you think makes a great film?
A good story! That is where it all begins before we can talk about the production value (which is also very important) and then the directing. But in all, I think all aspects, from development to distribution, are essential and must work together efficiently to make a great film. I heard someone describe filmmaking as a coming together of different creative expressions, literature, lighting art, fashion, music, performance, etc. All these must be carefully attended to, to make a great film.
Tell us about your recent movie. What was your favourite scene in the film?
Our most recent work is a short titled “Dark Vale”. Written by Oyindamola Adekunle, directed by Feyisayo Rotimi, and produced by me. It is in post-production and is scheduled to premiere in February 2024. Dark Vale is a story about patience and contentment. Telling you my favourite scene will be a spoiler. Watch out for it. We also have a couple of projects on our slate for 2023 and 2024. Bathsheba, Influencers, and Entanglement (a limited short series) are all in pre-production. We have a feature-length and a limited series in the development stage. Watch out for us. iSHOOT & Co is ready to entertain you with beautiful stories.
What are the themes you like exploring in your movies?
I am passionate about a Nigeria and Africa we can all be proud of. I believe filmmaking is a great tool that can shape public/audience opinion of what can be rather than what is or used to be, especially as it relates to stereotypes about religion, politics, culture, and lifestyle. My interest lies in telling stories that cast a vision of a better Nigeria, Africa, and the world.
What do you think are the most essential elements of filmmaking?
I do not think there is “the most important” element in filmmaking. All pieces —from the plot, dialogue, and actors’ performances to the cinematography, soundtrack, and directing — come together towards a common goal. So the endpoint, the final product and achieving the intended purpose of entertaining, educating, etc, is the most essential element in filmmaking.
How do you choose the projects you work on?
If the story/idea resonates with my core values, not just to entertain but to shape culture, I am in. I have to believe in it before I can commit to it.
How has collaboration with other passionate filmmakers helped you as a filmmaker?
Collaborating with other filmmakers is priceless. Iron sharpens iron! Even if we are not working on a project, I want to hear from my network of filmmakers, what they are/were up to, how the experience is/was, and just networking. Collaboration and networking help me a lot and keep me abreast of trends.
How do you handle creative differences with collaborators?
I recognise and accept that there would be differences in creative views, especially when some of the cast and crew are volunteering. Knowledge or creativity is not exclusive to anyone. I have learned to be an open book, ready to get opinions as long as it is towards the goal. In the case of a paid gig, where professionals are responsible for specific tasks, my approach is different. Opinions are still welcome, but they must come through the right channel with the right attitude to be valid or considered.
What do you think are the biggest challenges that the film industry is facing in Nigeria?
We are a blessed nation with many opportunities wrapped in challenges that can stop anyone in their tracks. These challenges are not peculiar to the film industry, lack of government support, inadequate infrastructure, malfunctioning systems, etc. Yet, we have seen many Nigerians rise above these seeming challenges and make something meaningful of life and purpose. We have seen this in the Tech space, entertainment, and even the film industry. I think the biggest challenge would be the inability to see the possibilities in the impossibilities and having the resolute resilience that if I sincerely want this, I can courageously defy the odds to make it happen.
Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers who are just starting?
As an indie filmmaker, collaboration is the way to go. Come together, use your limited resources and start telling your stories. Also, join relevant associations, network and put yourself out there. Let people know what you can do along with what you intend to do, volunteer your skills and get yourself out there. Lastly, have a quality emotional support system because there would be bumps on the road and you would need a shoulder to lean on when the going gets tough.
What do you think the future of filmmaking holds in Africa?
A very bright future! With the entry of over-the-top subscription video-on-demand service platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, there is a better understanding of the investment potential that filmmaking proffers for corporations and individuals and more people are willing to invest. Young talents now see a future and an “easier” route to success in filmmaking. YouTube and other social media channels also provide a platform for the distribution of video content which was a challenge a few years back. Some indie filmmakers and even corporate bodies use YouTube mainly as their distribution channel and get millions of views within a few days of premiering. Other over-the-top subscription video-on-demand service providers and international industry giants have seen the successes recorded by Netflix and Amazon in Africa. Beyond doubt, one or two are getting ready to get a piece of the African market. This development is encouraging for filmmakers.
Can you tell us more about your business iSHOOT & Co?
We are a Lagos-based production company founded in 2022. Our focus is not on producing video content alone, but on developing young talents who tell authentic stories through independent film, theatre, television, and digital content. Over the past year, we have brought on board, under an internship program, young enthusiasts interested in developing themselves within specific departments in the industry (script writing, cinematography and lighting, visual post-production, sound recording and production). They have gone on to create outstanding projects that we are eager to share with the world. Recently, my team and I launched USEDCAMERANG an e-commerce platform where used filmmaking equipment can be put up for sale, bought and rented by filmmakers.