Johnson Awolola is a professional film editor and film director who won the best Nigerian short film at the Real-time international festival 2020. Just recently he got nominated for the Future Awards Africa Prize for film 2020.
In this interview, he shared his experience, challenges and success stories in his sojourn in the film making industry. Excerpts;
What influenced your journey as a film editor/filmmaker?
One of the first film persons I met before film school was Kenneth Gyang. At the time I was already a film editor working with Newage Network (2010-2013). After my resignation I became a freelance film maker and started studying film making and its history at Cinema Kpatakpata, this prepared me for the film industry and film school. I watch films from different parts of the world. Personally, my favourite films are Jacques Audiard’s ‘a prophet’ edited by Jacques Welfling. Films that provoke thoughts like Rungano Nyoni’s ‘I am not a witch’, the film is based on the experiences of many women across the African continent. To the question, what influenced my journey as a filmmaker – the drive to tell my own story and the urge to learn something new.
Highlighting the projects/films you mentioned which contributed to your desire to be a part of the industry, it’s obvious you are passionate about culture and realistic events that challenge the mind. Can you tell us a bit more?
Filmmaking is about storytelling but as a filmmaker, what kind of story would you want to tell? Who are your target audiences? Where would you want your film to be shown; at the cinema’s, on television or International Film Festivals? Personally, I want to see a film with cultural diversity, I want to learn a thing or two about other people’s cultures by watching their films. The audience connects well with movies that are based on true events. For example, ‘Hotel Rwanda’ and ‘Oloture’. It is always good to be remembered for the type of films you made.
How would you say the Nigerian film industry is doing so far in relation to telling our own stories and exposing our culture?
The industry has grown from what it used to be. A good amount of Nollywood filmmakers are now telling our stories and with the coming of Netflix, our stories will get even better.
What is the big difference in our industries (Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood)?
One of the issues faced by filmmakers in any film industry is funding. Sometimes directors often direct and edit their films themselves, the excuse Is lack of funding or credit, however, some production companies give opportunities to video editors and some will deliver but most will not because of the lack of experience. How many celebrity film editors can you mention in Nollywood? Most of the award-winning film editors in Hollywood are 50-70 years of age. For the studios, it’s always about experience. For instance, video editors like Buckland edited Ferrari v Michael McCusker, Jeff Groth edited Joker, Yang Jin-mo edited parasite, Thelma Schoonmaker edited Irishman. These guys are not young about 18-25 years. If our industry continues to give young people opportunities to learn and work on big projects, I believe that 10years from now Nollywood would be able to compete with any film industry in the world.
With the number of projects and movies alike credited on your editor’s portfolio, would you say it gets more challenging or easier to edit new projects?
Every film comes with it’s challenges but then again, the challenge is what gives you the experience, editing is easy if you love the job. I was an offline editor and a colorist for Halita’s first season and the second season I became the supervising editor it was easy for me because I used the first season to understand the workflow.
On directing, what has your experience been like?
Directing is no joke! When directing my short film (which won best Nigerian short film at the RTF 2020) there were a lot of issues on set like the weather, the location I almost wanted to change the script on set because I was frustrated but from what I have learnt, improvising is not an option.
Would you be sticking to post-production or directing?
Advancing in post-production for the growth of myself and the industry is key right now and as a young man, I love adventures and challenges. At the moment I am developing a Television series titled Labalaba (Dairy of a border) with Julius Monroe and Olutosin Joel. It is a boarding school story I will possibly produce the series with top industry producers and filmmakers like Kenneth Gyang, Rahama Sadau, Dimbo Atiya and Regina Oudalor are part of the project.
What does your creative process involve and do you have a favourite pass time when it’s not gun blazing on work?
First, I read the script through to have a clear understanding of the story then I research about the project and then talk to the director and the writer to also understand the story from their point of view before proceeding to edit.
For how I pass my time, as I mentioned earlier I’m really just a chilled guy, I love video games and having fun with friends.
Any advice for young, talented and aspiring creatives like you out there?
Believe in yourself and your art, keep learning, network, don’t be scared to try something new and do a film for the culture. People will turn you down at some point in your life but remember the turndown is what will make your story interesting tomorrow.