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In conversation

My Mother Calls Me ‘Nwa Netflix’ | In Conversation with Director Cheta Chukwu

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Hello and welcome to the third installment of the #SyncityNGLLL screenwriting/filmmaking mini-series.

Our guest today is @directorcheta.
So glad to have you here, Cheta.

Cheta:
Thank you #SyncityNGLLL. I am glad to be here.

Syncity NG:

Let’s dive right in, Cheta.

Your name means ‘Remember’ but even I had a hard time remembering all your filmmaking achievements. Tell us how you came to be so accomplished in so short a time.

Cheta:
Lol. Nice way to use my name to start the conversation. First, I’m not sure if I’ve achieved anything really, and secondly, I have been doing this for a while now. About 10 years ago. And you better believe that. It first started with writing.

I can’t remember a time I wasn’t writing. It was a way I communicated my thoughts, first to myself because I had a hard time making friends. It developed into a passion and became a career path many years later. I first fell in love with writing before I fell in love with a girl.

I was writing short stories as a young boy and then screenplays, and by the time I got into the University, my work was already being produced. First by me and then other people. Those projects were a learning curve as I continue to grow.

I made films that never saw the light of day. Films that got out and were loved by many people from Benue State, the locality where I grew up. But it was until 2014 when I made ‘Deranged’, a short film went to film festivals that my career path really kicked off.

Syncity NG:
Hmmm. Writing before girls, innit?

As one who showed this creative skill early on, didn’t your parents worry that ‘writing is not the typical profession of a responsible African child’, hence their son Cheta should be in science class?

Cheta:
My parents worried about a lot of things about me. But one thing they encouraged with me and my siblings was to chase our passions. I’m immensely grateful for that. Up until date, my entire family roots for me. They’d call all the time for updates on my progress.

Syncity NG:
Did they root for you before or after the Netflix deal?

**Asking for an African mother**.

Cheta:
Lol. My family rooted for me when I wasn’t even sure what I was doing. But yeah, my mum calls me “Nwa Netflix” (which means “Son Of Netflix”) every time we get on the phone.

Syncity NG:

Kai. Failure has no friends.

Tell us about Payday and how Netflix happened.

Cheta:

I wrote @Paydaythemovie in 2016 during my NYSC. Took about a year to get funding. Took another year to shoot it and finish post production. It went to cinemas, first in Nigeria, then to 9 Francophone countries. And then got acquired by Netflix in December 2019.

Syncity NG:
What does it take to get your movie on Netflix? If you would be so kind to share the Netflix journey with us.

Cheta:
Usually, there’s an aggregator looking for specific types of films. I guess my film ticked those boxes. One thing I’d point out is that I never set out to make a “Netflix film”. I just got out there and shot a film I loved with what I had. And @NetflixNaija happened.

Syncity NG:
In your bio, you made mention of writing an American screenplay.

Do you have a big god? Yes/no. If yes, may we have his number? If no, how did that happen?

Cheta:
Everything that’s happened to me is out of hardwork & the grace of God. Talent isn’t enough. You’ve gotta stick it out and keep trying. Yes, I have a feature film coming out titled “NotForSell”, starring Emmy Award Winner @JudiEvans and @onlyseanfaris directed by @TheRomanesimmon.

Theipriest:
You talked about starting writing when you were still very young. Can one who never wrote at the early age or who never read in his early years learn to write later in his life?

Cheta:
There’s never a late or too early a time to pick up a craft or pursue your passion. If you want it, go for it. Quite a number of creatives started late and became successful.

Mystiquesynn:

1. Where do we find these aggregators who source for @netflixNaija – worthy movies?

2. Your forte seems to be International festivals. Do foreign platforms treat you better?

3. What was the highest budget you ever used for film?

Cheta:
Answer to #1 question. The aggressors usually work with distributors. In my case, @Paydaythemovie was distributed by @FilmOneng for @netflix @NetflixNaija. There are other avenues to get distribution, of course. I.e film festivals.

Answer to #2 question: I love my audience here but I believe in broadening my scope. Going the festival route gives me the platform to meet new audiences and collaborate. It’s not necessarily that they treat me better. The experiences are different and all worth it.

Answer to 3# Question. My biggest budget for a feature is 30+ million Naira.

 

Syncity NG:

We want to thank @DirectorCheta for joining us today.

Cheta:

Thank you for having me! I really had a great time speaking to you. Final words to anyone listening is to trust your instinct and keep creating. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

 

 

Did you enjoy this conversation? Check out other interviews in the mini-series with Tomi Adesina and Nk’iru. Njoku. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and join our Telegram channel here.

 

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