Tonye Mak Talks … Dating Black

Dating Black separates fact from fiction by passing the megaphone to everyday black men and women to speak on their experiences in the pursuit of love.

The series showcases thought-provoking discussions around love, healing and transparency with a healthy dose of hilarious anecdotes from both sides of the conversation that promise to give viewers unfiltered realness and relatability.

We spoke to creator and director Tonye Mak about the show and what motivated her to take a deep-dive into the UK’s Black dating world …

Please introduce yourself …

I’m Tonye Mak, Director, Filmmaker and Storyteller.

Why Dating Black?

Dating Black was born from a personal experience, and the process of making the show ended up being very therapeutic. I was feeling quite low at the time and was inspired to change the narrative around love and dating in the UK. At the time, online discourse was generally quite toxic, and I felt the need to provide a space to have meaningful, safe, honest and fun conversations around dating.

Tell us about your team …

I had an amazing team, Firstly, Yara Shaikh was with me from the inception and a huge part of the success of the show. Alongside myself, she was the backbone of the production and is an excellent Exec Producer. Josh Bridge was the Senior Producer on both seasons and an absolute Godsend. They both helped get the show off the ground when it was self funded and I couldn’t appreciate them more.

Cicelia Deane, the best Commissioning Exec around. She saw the vision and continued to be our guardian angel throughout the production process. She always had our best interest in mind, and we always knew that we were surrounded by support, care and a wealth of knowledge.

The wider core team, Daniel Falodun (Production Manager), Stephen Duberry (Production Assistant), were so key to the success of season 2 and really helped with the smooth running of the production, and we couldn’t have done it without them.

The DOP, Ricardo Mcleary-Campbell, joined us for season 2 and what a job he did. I was super excited to work with him, and knew that I could trust him with elevating the visual aesthetic of the show, and he delivered.

The Art Director, Amissah Annorbah-Sarpei was also with us from season 1, and believed in the vision enough to support at such an early stage. Her attention to detail and talent is unrivalled, and I knew that I would always be in safe hands with her direction.

Remi Aaron was the Editor and he did an amazing job. I edited the first season, so handing over the reins to someone else was always going to be daunting. However, Remi definitely erased all my anxieties with his talent, diligence and work ethic.

Last but absolutely not least, all the other great people that were part of the Dating Black family and story, that I cannot list individually or we would be here forever. They were all such an integral part of the production and I am so thankful for being able to work with such remarkable people.

Dating Black – BET International & MY5

What does Dating Black mean to you personally?

Dating Black means the world to me, and I believe this question goes hand in hand with question 2. I guess it helped me get through a really tough time in my life, and in the process facilitated a safe space for so many other people to explore the nuances of dating and leave with a sense of hope and positivity. And also allowing for more opportunities for the Black production community in the UK.

Tell us about a challenging moment during this project that you had to dig deep to get through it?

A dear friend and business partner of mine passed away during production, which was really, really difficult to get through. In a time where it’s natural to shut off your emotions in order to cope, I was challenged to actually do the opposite on set and during production, as the conversations require an open heart, in order to create a safe space. I had to push through my natural feelings and get to the finish line without letting the wider crew know that I was grieving in so many ways. With the support of the core team I did manage to get through it; taking things one step at a time.

Tell us a memorable moment from idea to final edit.

I think one memorable moment was watching the first reaction episode shoot play out and being blown away by how amazing the cast was. It’s always nice to see all your planning, gut feeling decisions and direction come together in real time, and it felt like absolute magic.

What best defines what you love about this project?

What I love most about this project is seeing the impact it has on everyone who interacts with it. From crew reactions on set, to cast conversations and new relationships. To audience participation and the beautiful and heart warming messages I receive from people all over the world. The feeling of love permeates, and that was always the goal, so I’m grateful.

Presenters Qoy & Jose – Dating Black

What is the importance of having and building conversations around the Black experience in the dating world mean for audiences?

It’s super important to highlight, educate and encourage progressive conversations around the Black dating experience. For me, I believe we have a responsibility to move our culture forward as one, and allow grace and space to learn each other and grow with one another. To discover our similarities and gain understanding, as opposed to self destructive and divisive discourse.

What’s next?

I am working on a lot of wonderful things at the moment. The sky’s the limit and there are hopefully many many more exciting things to come from myself and Dating Black, really soon!

How do we keep up to date with you and your work?

You can find me on Instagram and Twitter on @TonyeMak and my production company on Instagram @Mft_Media .

You Can Stream Dating Black now on BET UK via MY5 and BET International on Youtube


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