Breakout director Odenike talks ‘Fine’, her debut project and her future in film

Odenike

Hi Odenike, congratulations on your debut film project with Make It Happen Productions and YNaija. How did this come about?

I wanted to create something I cared about. Something that I felt was meaningful and worthwhile. The Make it happen Productions was ready for its first stand alone film project and wanted to create something simple but important as well. We talked about this film and we were on the same page with it, and they decided to take a chance on me as a first time director to do this.. Having Ynaija on board is a blessing in that it means the message reaches the right people and organisations and the film isn’t just that but is also a tool for spreading awareness and starting conversations.

How long have you known Lala Akindoju and how did your relationship lead to this project?

I have known Lala Akindoju since University. She introduced me to the theatre group where I started out as an actor and has constantly supported me over the years. We had talked about creating and working on projects that weren’t necessarily commercial but just to create and do meaningful work. And that’s where it started.

Many creators shy away from drawing from personal experience in telling their stories, why did you choose to do the opposite?

I felt that so many people had mental health issues and didn’t realize it. I drew not only from my experiences but from the experiences that so many people had shared with me as well as others I had read about or heard about.

As someone who has had mental health struggles, what are the misconceptions that you want this film will correct?

I think one of the misconceptions I had was that if everything seems fine with you and you were depressed then you weren’t fighting hard enough for your happiness. I thought that you were ungrateful if you had everything you needed and you were still unhappy or anxious. That there were people out there with “real problems” and you needed to be more appreciative of your life.

That maybe you weren’t doing something right. I also thought talking about it was “somehow”. I believe another one of the major misconceptions around mental health is the way it is made into such a huge deal that no one wants to talk about it.

You wrote a pretty compact script, did you worry that condensing such a vast and complex experience into such a spartan bloc of time would diminish it in some way?

We wanted to create something that would start a conversation. I wanted to see if it was something people could relate with. I felt that something short and concise, if powerful enough, would be able to do just that.

What was it like having a financial partner work on the project with you and Make It Happen Productions?

It has made it so that the right people and organisations get to see the film and be part of the conversation, part of bringing more awareness to the issue and most importantly be part of the solution. And that is something I’m am extremely grateful for.

The film is also spartan in its casting, was this deliberate as well?

Yes. I wanted the audience to follow the character’s story and not be distracted by the people in her life or around her. Mental health struggles can be very personal and many times people are struggling with it and none of the people around them are aware. That is why someone can go one to commit suicide and everyone is completely shocked.

Now that you have your first film behind you, what are the stereotypes about filmmaking you wish you hadn’t taken for granted?

I’ve have since gone on to direct two TV films, both Executive Produced by Jade Osiberu. What I can say about the experiences I’ve had so far is that filmmaking is a collaborative effort and every single person that is part of the process is important. I didn’t actually take it for granted before, I just came to a better appreciation of it

What has been the most fulfilling aspect of making ‘FINE’ for you so far?

For me it has been just how passionate those advocating for mental health are. The understanding of how important it is. Making this film has exposed me to more people and organisations that are doing so much to keep the conversation going and it made me realise how important this film is.

‘FINE’ has finally debuted to a Nigerian audience, do you have any hopes for how the film will be received?

I hope that it can help to open people up to taking their mental health more seriously whether they are personally in a good place or not.11. What are your future plans for filmmaking? Should we expect a sophomore*** project soon?I am currently writing and working on a few new projects that I hope to make soon and I’m pretty excited .Thank you.

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