Deep Dive with Award winning film producer, Josh Olaoluwa

Deep Dive with Award-winning Film Producer, Josh Olaoluwa

Quick introduction

Josh: My name is Josh Olaoluwa, I am a Lagos based film Producer with a special focus on narrative films. I am keen on telling authentic African stories and these are evident themes in all my works so far. I studied Marine Biology at the University of Lagos, after which I applied and got a fully funded scholarship from AccessBank to study the business of film at Pan Atlantic University.

I also studied Cinematography and Lighting at the Delyork creative academy in 2019 where I shot the best short film ‘Barefoot’, and then I studied Producing at the Ebonylife creative academy in 2021.

What inspired you to become a producer?

Josh: Growing up, my mum used to sell food at an advertising agency (SO&U), and during their commercial shoots, I used to serve food on sets. Although I was a teenager at the time, I really just loved how alive they were during production and my curiosity just began from that period. After graduating from University I co-founded a production company with my childhood friend Orire Nwani.

What was your debut project?

Josh: My debut project was a short film ‘No Means Maybe’ in 2017. Myself and Orire liked a short story our friend Ejiro had written about Rape and how closer it is to us than we can imagine, and so we decided to adapt it into a script.

I remember seeing the first cut and just being sad. I was convinced filmmaking was not for me so I just decided to focus on studying for the GRE and going for my masters. It was a depressing period for me. However we reached out to Asurf, our mentor at the time and he sort of salvaged the project in edit. That was really a ray of hope for us at the time, and also kept the filmmaking hope alive as the film will go on to perform decently(for a first film) in festival runs.

Tell us about your other short films.

Josh: I believe the goal for me after the first experience became simple: to keep getting better with every new project. It’s also so funny that I have worked with the same team since that first film and we have grown so much. Ije” was made in 2021 just after the #endsars protest. It was themed on police brutality and we were all so proud with the result. Directed by Orire Nwani and Ejiro Esigbone, it starred Uzoamaka Aniunoh and Omowunmi Dada and will go on to have 9 nominations at the Toronto International Nollywood Film Festival.

Kill the Impostorwas Directed and Photographed by my long term collaborator Adeniyi Joseph ‘TAJ’. He sent me the script and I absolutely loved the idea which was based the concept of the imposter syndrome and self doubt especially among creatives. A few weeks later we were on set filming. Visually, I think it’s the most intentional film I have produced and I am just so proud of it. It has also already gotten into over 7 international film festivals since it’s run.

Buried was Directed by Charles Obi- Emere and it is once of the first sets of Nigerian short film to stream on Prime Video. It was also the only Nigerian film that was shortlisted into the top 5 best African short at the Afriff Globe Awards in 2021. The idea behind the story was quite refreshing in a good way, and it basically touched on the intricacies of a peculiar burial rites in Southern Nigerian, family values and the journey of redemtion. It starred Seun Ajayi, Belinda Yanga and Toyin Oshinaike

Naked Woman” is a Short after my heart. Also directed by Orire Nwani, we explored a mother’s mistrust and projection of her own life’s mistakes onto her daughter which culminates in a powerful confrontation.

We didn’t really overthink making the film. We just woke up, picked a day and shot the entire short in about 4 hours. Critically, it’s been our most acclaimed film so far, doing so well in the International festival circuit.

Tell us about “Grind”

Josh: I did not really see “Grind” coming. In short I kicked against the idea when the creator Roberta first told me about it. I just felt like we were not ready for that level of scale at this time, and minding that this was mid 2020, when I still had limited experience as a Producer. She was insistent and then went on to secure preliminary funding and so I sort of had no choice because beyond filmmaking, we are all very good friends. Production was easily the hardest 15 days of my life, but looking back now, I am really grateful we took that leap because the film have been doing so well on Prime video, it’s been in top 2 most streamed in Nigeria since we launched and the feedbacks have been amazing.

Tell us about your most recent project, “A Sunday Affair”

Josh: Producing within a studio system is a different ballgame entirely and I am really grateful for the opportunity. Most of my works before now had been as an independent producer and so being able to do something on this massive scale just opened my eyes to all the possibilities within the industry.

Ebonylife studio is really big on Preproduction and so we spent months just planning and sorting out every tiny detail. This was evident in the production as the energy was just right and shooting was really intentional and straightforward without and last minute grasping for air during production.

Working with a talented team of Producers led by our CEO and Executive Producer Mo Abudu, and Head of Program Heidi Uys also taught me the importance of a collaborative team spirit, communicating cleary and lots of discipline. 

Most importantly, It’s also refreshing to see that our film ‘A Sunday Affair’ has been well received by audiences not only in Nigeria but also around the World.

Your projects have been everywhere, from film festivals to Prime video, to Netflix. What were the biggest challenges getting your movies on these platforms? And how does it make you feel, looking back and seeing your movies have achieved these feats?

Josh: Honestly it feels great. But I also know that it takes a village, and I am just a part of a larger group of awesome people that made all of this happen. I will say the biggest challenge is in staying consistent because consistency is hard. Somedays I wake up and do not feel like it, but I still pick myself up and show up irrespective. So yeah, I am grateful for all the people who I have crossed paths with in the last months. All of these feats would have been impossible without them.

Tell us about some awards you or your movies have won and some records your movies have broken.

Josh: “Ije” had 9 nominations in Toronto Nollywood International Film Festival, and won the award for Best North American Film (Our writer and Executive producer is actually U.S based). It also won the Prize for best short film at the Coal City Film Festival, Nigeria.

“Naked Woman” screened exclusively at the Largest Museum in the World, the Smithsonian Institute D.C, in their celebration of ‘Nigerian Creativity’

It also won the Prize for best Director at the New York Tri State Film Festival, and finished semi finalist at the San Francisco Arthouse film festival and Florida shorts.

“Naked Woman” also won the award for ‘Most Outstanding style in a short film’ at the Indieview Festival Lagos.

For “Kill The Impostor”, we won the award for best short film at the Redwolf Film Festival, USA.

“Love Language” has also been selected for the Nollywood Week Paris.

Cumulatively too since “Ije”, films I have produced have been selected to screen at over 30 International film festivals, across 4 continents including Africa, Asia, North America and Europe.

Personally, I am a Producer on the number 1 film on Netflix Nigeria and Number 1 show on Prime video Nigeria.

Should we expect a cinema title from you at any point?

Josh: Well fingers crossed for this. The industry is expanding and opportunities are springing up. So who knows what call I am getting tomorrow morning? Lol

Tell us about your ongoing project, “Love language”

Josh:Love Language” is a very special project. Uzoamaka pitched the story to me in 2021 while we were filming Ije and I loved it. We will spend the next year working on the script before going into Principal Photography. We recently put out our trailer and the reception have been overwhelming. We really cannot wait to share the film with everyone because it is really just so beautiful and I am not even capping.

How would you describe the impact of your career on your life?

Josh: It’s really been great I can’t even lie. With each day the quality of my life keeps improving, and I am just grateful to be doing what I love while getting to earn a living from it. I am actually yet to peak so I am super positive about what the future holds.

When people look at your projects, what do you want them to see?

Josh: I really want people to see characters with nuances they can relate to. I am really big on simple stories with very complex, multi dimensional characters and that’s what I aim to achieve with all my works. I also believe we need to show more of this world we live in. I really can’t remember the last time I felt the soul of any Nigerian city or landscape in a film. So I want to make films that will be a cultural and geographical reference for my country for anyone, anywhere around the world.

Any upcoming project(s) you would like to share with us?

Josh: I have a couple of personal projects in development, this time features, and I am just really excited about the story world and characters. The scripting have been on for about 2 years now, and we are finally getting to a place where we are confident that we can go into principal photography. I am so excited and I strongly believe that these films will revolutionalize visual storytelling in Nigeria. Fingers crossed.

When you are not making films, what are you doing?

Josh: When I am not making films, I teach kids 7-14 on how to use the camera through the kids can act initiative by my friend Stan Nze.

I also write and watch classic film in between. But the real truth is I am always in development or pre-production even at times when I am not filming.

>>> Watch trailer and see more details about titles from this story: Love Language, Love Language (2022), A Sunday Affair, Grind, Buried, Naked Woman, Ije
>>> Learn more about the people mentioned in this story: Josh Olaoluwa
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