Nosa Eke’s short film Something In The Closet screened at BFI London Film Festival in 2019.
Nosa Eke prides herself on telling her stories through traditional and interactive storytelling Something In The Closet is a nod to the classic horror/ fantastical films genre, she both co-wrote and directed the short which was funded by the BFI and Film London and saw her chosen for the Network@LFF programme.
Eke is currently working on projects that include an AR feature film in development with the BFI which was also recently awarded funding from the NFTS immersive centre along with Shola Amoo’s new VR film ‘Violence‘. She is also working on a choose your own adventure film for Instagram with UNTOLD Studios and a TV series with Dark Pictures/Yaw Basoah.
We caught up with her to find out more …
My name is Nosa Eke, I’m a platform-agnostic writer-director. I’m Nigerian, born and raised in London – Croydon to be exact. I like playing with storytelling in the interactive realm as well as the traditional world. I’m currently working on a feature with the BFI and my short film Something In The Closet can be seen at the moment as part of We Are Parable and BFI’s season on Black British Talent Who We Are.
In Something In The Closet, you address the fears and anxieties of a young girl coming to terms with her sexual orientation. What conversations do you hope to spark from this?
I hope audiences take away the fact that it’s ok to invest time into figuring out your own stuff before thinking you have an obligation to tell anyone else. I think so often ‘coming out‘ films focus on the main character having to tell someone else their “secret” to the point where the film doesn’t centre their experience enough. SITC is more about coming to terms with who you are, it’s not about telling anyone else or making anyone else feel okay with it. Also hopefully when people watch this, they take away that the feelings that you may have and feel isolated with are universal. We don’t need to suffer that alone.
Why this story?
I wanted to tell this story because I hadn’t seen many shorts that starred someone who looked like me and mixed genre with queerness and identity issues. Often stories that are told by or have themes that include marginalised groups are expected to be rooted in sadness. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but it’s not everyday sadness, you know. I just wanted to do a fun genre short with a black queer lead that ended in a hopeful tone. I want to entertain people with my films but I also want the meat of the story to have a meaning that isn’t a throwaway idea. I felt like with this idea I’d finally connected my artistry with elements of my truth and it seemed to be a powerful catalyst that people believed in making.
How important is it for you to be a writer and director and be able to share these stories?
It’s important because I think we (queer people, black people etc) need to see different nuances of our experience as representation is everything and lets everyone know that all stories are valid.
‘In the closet‘ is a term that we all know in society but the way you have manifested the idea of what it means and the visuals you have created for it gives the meaning a new perspective. What was the inspiration behind it and how was it developed?
I had an idea about directing a short using the phrase “something In the closet” as a metaphorical narrative device that is set in more of a genre universe where being in the closet turns a young girl’s fear into a literal monster in the closet. I then co-wrote the script with Alex Kessie who I had been friends with and we share a lot of the same frame of reference in terms of genre films – we mainly leaned on early Steven Spielberg Amblin films e.g. ET, Close Encounters etc
I knew I really wanted to work with cinematographer Anna Macdonald as we had been at NFTS at the same time and I had kept up with the work she did. When we chatted about the project, she completely got it emotionally and we worked on how it would look. Luckily we also were in complete agreement and shared the same film references for how SITC should look. Then I proceeded to find more collaborators to fill out the crew with the help of my wonderful producers Holly Carrington and Andrew Oldbury.
We applied to the BFI Postroom with the idea which then took us into the Film London fold where we received so much support from both organisations to bring the idea to life and get the film out into the world after we made it. Another big support in developing the short was getting to secure the right cast with the help of the amazing and brilliant casting director Aisha Bywaters, she really brought the best talent to the table and we were able to find our lead Demii Lee Walker.
Was there a real-life inspiration for the character Madi?
The real-life inspiration for the character was just an amalgamation of experiences myself and my friends had been through that I thought hadn’t been seen in a short before. Demi was also so willing to put her all into helping shape the character of Madi as well
What and who does she represent in the LGBTQIA community?
It would be hard to create a character that speaks for the varied personalities and experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community but to me, she represents anyone who feels like they are struggling with who they are and how they can step into being themselves.
The film is part of design studio Alphabetical’s Five Films For Freedom Festival how did you get involved and how did it feel for your film to be chosen?
We had gotten a message from the team at the British council and the programming team at BFI Flare that they wanted SITC to be one of the Five Films For Freedom. It was really humbling to be picked as the fact that our film would be thought of as a way to convey that Love Is A Human Right and be seen by a large number of viewers online in 200 countries and principalities including parts of the world where being queer was still criminalised, it’s just quite humbling I think.
I was always looking for queer content to watch growing up and it was hard to find wide representation so the fact Five Films For Freedom put these shorts up online for people to see all over the world is amazing. I wish I’d had this growing up! It’s quite powerful to see representation on screen and to know that you’re not alone, and to see that your love and your feelings are normal so this initiative was important in bringing that forward.
What about your journey, how and why did you want to become a writer and director?
I wanted to be a writer-director as I just loved storytelling so much and thought that I could contribute to these conversations with a unique view as well as just bring some more fun or understanding into peoples lives.
I didn’t have any connections in the industry when I first started out. I think it’s easy to become disheartened because you don’t know the gatekeepers who hold the money and you think you don’t have an audience to see your work. So my philosophy for getting into the industry was to start out making my own things with friends on cameras and programs that were available and free (camera phones, DSLRs, Social media sites like YouTube, and using borrowed versions of Final Cut or Premiere Pro).
I grew up on the internet and would often just watch web series’ on YouTube which seemed fresher than what was on TV and also didn’t seem super unachievable. It really made me think that I could be a writer and director despite not having the industry connections. It also essentially taught me other ways of distributing and marketing my work. I tried to mimic those strategies to drum up interest in the things I’d made and it worked out and allowed me to break into this world with my digital series called The Grind which was across YouTube, Periscope and Instagram. That project got into festivals like Underwire and East End Film Fest, screened at Picturehouse central and Sony Pictures Entertainment in LA and essentially started off my career.
What has living through a pandemic shown you about yourself?
I think it’s just shown me how resilient I can be, many things have been happening, been cancelled and been commissioned over the last 4/5 months because of and despite COVID. It’s definitely overwhelming but I feel like I’ve been able to work out some sort of balance in work life and personal life that I don’t think I’d have achieved before or would have stopped to reflect on and figure out if COVID hadn’t happened.
What are the three most important goals you would like to achieve in your career?
I really want to work with Patricia Allison on something. I think she’s a brilliant actress! I’d like to direct my feature within the next two years and I’d love to get a TV series that I’ve written and directed on a streaming platform The latter two are already in motion but still working on the first goal!
* note: Something in The Closet was selected as one of the Five Films for Freedom for BFI Flare and the British Council Film’s digital showcase of LGBTIQ+ themed work by upcoming filmmakers they do annually
Watch Something in the Closet via BFI Player
Nosa Eke joined a panel discussion hosted by We Are Parable as part of their curated festival Who We Are