Oprah is a Kenyan writer/director who studied creative writing in Whitireia Polytechnic New Zealand. She recently worked on Sense 8, Season 2, as a Production Assistant. At the moment, she is working on her first web series. She looks forward to shooting her short film on FGM next year.
1. What exactly does a production assistant do?
Various things. As a Set PA in the assistant director’s department, my team was in charge of background talent, ensuring they are comfortable while on set, interpreting and conveying directors’ directions to them, making sure that they understood their roles and did not interfere with the main talent. It was also our role to ensure all other departments of production on set were up to speed with what was going on.
2. Did you apply to work on the Sense 8 production?
I didn’t apply because I didn’t know there was an application going round, but I directly emailed the producer quoting two direct referrals. She told me the roles I wanted were taken, but she did mention they might needed extra PAs, so she forwarded my email to the production team. I also emailed the 1st AD (Assistant Director).
I did not think I would get the job though, it was a long shot since most people in the industry know each other and are likely to hire those they’ve worked with. I was (still am) very green in this industry.
3. Why a film about FGM?
There is no deep reason. I just once went on a binge of watching videos, films and documentaries on FGM and felt the need to tell the story differently, keep the conversation going using a short film told with a male perspective.
But it is close to your heart…
Yes. 1. It is a practise I’ve always been curious about. The only reason I haven’t been directly affected is because I am born to a different tribe. I’ve thought a lot about how I’d react if I had to be circumcised and the answer is I have no idea. 2. It is the first short film I wrote with such tenacity and passion. It has undergone serious edits, has been workshopped in a film lab, is still undergoing a mentorship programme, and I still have the motivation to do it. Every time I work on it, it grows more and more on me. 3. I transcribed and did subtitles for a documentary on FGM and the main character in the film was so courageous. Her strength and courage in spite of her environment resonated with me and I just felt compelled to write a story with elements of that strength.
4. Do you consider yourself a feminist?
5. What’s your dream job?
To write and direct films, and to travel. I would love to be paid to do these three things.