Producer Yvonne Isimeme Ibazebo Talks Rye Lane …

Yvonne Isimeme Ibazebo started her media career as an editor in the publishing industry …

She has since produced a number of acclaimed films and television series, working on productions from Half of a Yellow Sun to Top BoyGuerrilla to National Treasure. More recently Yvonne produced Rye Lane, the critically acclaimed romantic comedy starring David Jonsson (Industry, BBC/ HBO) and Vivian Oparah (An Octoroon, National Theatre) as its leads.

Rye Lane is a funny, joyful romantic comedy about meeting the right person at the worst possible time. Two broken hearts spend the day trying to heal themselves through solving each other’s problems, along the way finding new purpose and a potential soulmate. It’s an optimistic ode to being in your 20s and trying to figure out your place in the world, whilst looking for love (and the perfect burrito) in a vibrant London town.

We spoke to Yvonne to find out more about Rye Lane and how it compares to her previous projects …

How did you get on board with Rye Lane?

The first time I heard about the project was around two years ago, when I was working on the Netflix production of Top Boy. Damian Jones (award-winning film producer) got in touch with me and sent me the script. I instantly fell in love with everything about it. I liked that it was a romantic comedy set in the Black community, something we rarely make in the UK. 

What was it like working with David Jonsson and Vivian Oparah?

Raine Allen Miller (director)  and Kharmel Cochrane (casting director) spent months auditioning for the two leads, before we settled on David and Vivian. They had already done some stellar work in their careers, and it was really nice working with them. They both had such amazing chemistry on screen and always brought a refreshing energy to their scenes. You could tell that they were really having a lot of fun with it all too. 

Was it emotional wrapping on such a fun project?

We put together a really fantastic crew, so it was sad to part ways. But it’s also great that we have managed to achieve what we set out to do. I am looking forward to the next stage, seeing the audiences’ reaction to it.  

L-R – Munya Chawawa, producers Damian Jones, Yvonne Isimeme Ibazebo, David Jonsson, Vivian Oparah, director Raine Allen-Miller and writers Tom Melia and Nathan Bryon.

Are there any similarities between this film and Top Boy?

Top Boy was more of a gritty crime drama about making it on the streets, whilst Rye Lane  is a light-hearted comedy at its core. Top Boy did have some humour though.  However, though they are very different genres, as a producer I am always attracted to the material; to the script. If the script is good, if it’s engaging then I am in. 

You’ve spoken of your joy about Rye Lane being light-hearted, how important do you feel that it is for Black culture to have love stories that aren’t rooted in trauma?

I can’t tell you how happy I am. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have films that tackle deeper issues, those types of films are definitely needed. But we need to have a range, different types of films to balance things out. It can’t be all doom and gloom. Thankfully, there have been a few films in production that should be coming out this year. I am really looking forward to them being released. 

Are we moving more towards a place where we can have a wider spectrum of Black stories in the UK?

I think we are. There are a lot of producers  out there working hard to bring fresh stories  to our screens. We’ve got people like Joy [Gharoro-Akpojotor] who worked on Blue Story, Fiona [Lamptey] who was recently appointed the Director of Netflix UK features, Bennett McGhee who worked on Mogul Mowgli and Dominic Buchanan who produced End of the F’ing World and won a BAFTA.

You’ve been involved in so many different things over the years. What keeps you interested in the jobs and telling all of these stories?

Every film is a new puzzle for me to piece together. I learn something new with every project that I do and that means that it’s always fresh and exciting! 

You can find out more bout Yvonne’s projects by following this link to her website.

Rye Lane will be released in cinemas March 17th 2023.


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