Welcome to today’s episode of #SyncityNGLLL. In the month of March, we will be having a mini-series on screenwriting! Four screenwriters will be sharing their expertise with us!
Our guest today is Tomi Adesina. She is a screenwriter, author and fiction series blogger. In 2013, she won the Nigerian Blog Awards for her blog fiction series and in 2015 her screenplay on cyberbullying (Feisty John) won the Homevida Prize. She also won the Nigerian Writers Award for Best Young Writer in 2015 and her short stories have been features in magazines across Africa. Tomi was also an AMVCA nominee for best writer in 2018 and bagged the AMAA award for best screenplay for her contribution to Hakkunde. She lives in Lagos.
Thanks for having me.
Syncity NG :
When did screenwriting begin for you? I know you do a lot of prose and even poetry. When did you decide to give screenwriting in particular a shot?
Sometime in 2013, I felt it was time to try out something different – I wanted an opportunity to do more with my writing and had yearned to see the visual side of my work, see these characters on screen and that was when I thought about writing for movies. Prior to that time, I had written for drama and in church and still do, but it was not until I was blogging consistently and felt okay it’s time to meet these characters that screenwriting was born for me.
Basically, it was your quest for more that led you to explore screenwriting. How would you say that exploration went? Was it a success?
Just like every adventure, you’d likely get to a point where you’re like okay, it’s time to go back…this makes no sense. It had/has its highs and lows, moments of doubts but whenever I look at where I am now and how it all started, I’m thankful.
Tomi, you are being coy. Lol. Didn’t you get numerous nominations and wins for Hakkunde as played by @frankdonga_? Have you left screenwriting pata pata?
Left where? Lol. Please check my bio. I’m a 100% a scriptwriter oh and yes, I did get nominations for #Hakkunde.
Let’s talk about Hakkunde. It was directed by @Asurfoluseyi and the lead character was played by @frankdonga_, the social media influencer.
Was it your first? How did that deal come and how did you feel when the recognition from the movie started coming?
Yes, it was my first cinema job, one I’m always grateful that I picked up when I did because I was writing exams at school and would have passed up on it but @Asurfoluseyi had a compelling story, so I took on the rewrite challenge.
The recognition was something special. Getting an AMVCA nomination and AMAA win at your first crack at a cinema film is literally mind blowing and definitely something of grace. It has been instrumental so far in my career and growth. It’s a good feeling.
I am so glad for you. You must be doing something rightly. Do tell us, as we are a writing community, how long does it take to write a screenplay and how can people start?
Thank you so much.
For a feature length, I usually do 4-6 weeks. There’s the need to write a synopsis, do a treatment before you eventually script. These things take time and if a producer gave me longer than 6 weeks, I’d gladly take it.
Speaking of producers, how do you pitch/sell a story to a producer?
I think the first thing you need to have is a synopsis. It’s a relatively short document detailing your story but it’s carefully written so it doesn’t reveal all, as you’re just “shooting your shot” – you might miss and you don’t want your work infringed.
Cold emails are an option BUT don’t send a script/treatment in a cold email.
You could also respond to open calls and sell yourself on social media. “I am Tomi, a scriptwriter, I wrote X, hire me.” As you get acquainted, it becomes more of a referral job.
Hmmm. I’m all for shooting shots.
What’s your story development like? How do you know what scenes to leave, to cut/discard? Basically, how do you push a story after you must have gotten your synopsis right?
Perhaps cite some examples?
Hmmm…This is going to be hard to summarize because it’s a lot of information.
When it comes to scenes, they’re determined in the treatment stage, of course, an unplanned scene could get into the script but it has to be useful to the story. Does it move it forward? Yes/No. No means the scene has to go. Sometimes we fall into the trap of filling up the script with scenes but if we get our treatment right and spend good time on developing it, we know what helps the story and what doesn’t.
Can you recommend any sites or tools for absolute beginners at Screenwriting?
I am interested but the Internet only always sends me into a loophole of pages that don’t help. Also, where can one get information on the screenwriting classes you take?
Look up “Syd Field”. Very helpful resource on scriptwriting.
Do you ever get satisfied with your work? At what point do you make up your mind that this is perfect? How do you conquer the urge, if you ever get any, to add something to an already finished work of yours?
So there was a time I totally did not like my work and would cringe when anyone pointed out something good in it, because I “thought” it could be better. Yes, it can and would be better but you must never forget to enjoy the process…you’re growing.
I demand a lot from my writing but I also enjoy it, I pause to smell the coffee…and when I think it can be better, I go for it. I try not to get complacent but at the same time, I try not to get too carried away with perfection that I’m not getting work done.
Good evening Aunty Tomi. My name is Tokunbo and I write scripts. I have loads of questions actually. 1) You mentioned self-doubt earlier. How did/do you deal with self-doubt as a writer?
2) Any difference in being a prose/poem writer and a film writer? How do you press the switch button?
3) Do you experience writer’s block or its just a myth to you? If yes, how do you deal with it.
Hi Tokunbo, I learnt more, practiced more and eventually, you get better on the job. Even till date, sometimes you still have the feeling oh is this good enough? But when you’re consistently doing something, you get better at it. It helps drive doubt away.
I hope I get number 2 correctly but yes, there’s a difference between prose, poetry and drama but you can always use what you’ve learnt to strengthen your writing – for example, there’s always some poetry to my script dialogue.
3. For the “block” – some call it a myth, some say it’s not a myth. I believe when you can’t write because nothing is happening in your mind, you can rest out the phase and come back to it. Or you can write about a block/don’t write at all. You may just need rest.
We want to thank @tomi_adesina for her enlightening session with us.
Before we call it a night, what’s the advice you have for emerging screenwriters?
Keep writing, Keep learning and enjoy it. Even when the journey gets tiring and you get the urge to quit, remember why you started and if you want it…fight for it.
Thank you so much guys for having me.