Nosa Eke: ‘You don’t need to wait for those gatekeepers to say yes.’

The writer, director and self-described ‘platform agnostic,’ on her craft, the people who have motivated her, and the importance of doing things your own way.

25 August 2020

Nosa Eke is a multifaceted filmmaker with a knack for bending genre and conventional narratives to her will. An auspicious storyteller, she took her first steps into filmmaking as the creator of pulsing digital series The Grind.

Her short film Something In The Closet is an empathetic study of being young and queer that doesn’t sacrifice its genre roots, and played on the big screen at the BFI London Film Festival.

NETWORK caught up with Nosa to learn about her craft, the people who have motivated her, and the importance of doing things your own way.

You describe yourself as a platform agnostic, what does that mean?

It means that I’ll tell stories on pretty much any platform. When I was getting into this industry, I didn’t have any contacts so I would watch people on YouTube who were just doing it by themselves. I saw that I didn’t necessarily need money or a broadcaster, that I could just put stuff out on a lot of different platforms. These processes are very democratic; when you are telling a story on YouTube it can’t be told in the same way as on the Amazon Alexa. I would always tie-in the mechanics to the narrative and the story structure. For me that’s what being platform agnostic is all about.

Those platforms democratising filmmaking are so recent. Which filmmakers have inspired you?

On YouTube, I started off watching all the really early stuff of Issa Rae and Lena Waithe. As a young Black queer woman, their work spoke to me. Also Catherine Bray; I went to an early screening of the essay documentary Beyond Clueless that she produced and messaged her on Twitter afterwards.

I asked if we could meet up so she could give me some tips, and she was really nice and did. I was working on a digital series called The Grind at the time, and she came on board and executive produced it and was so helpful in bringing it out into the world. She showed me you don’t need to wait for those gatekeepers to say yes and give you the money, that you could do it yourself. There’s the technology to do that.

It’s so irritating when people espouse the importance of shooting on film because hardly anyone can afford it.

It’s a tool to keep cinema elitist! If we want to bring new voices into this space then we need to not hold things to such an arbitrary standard.

How did you end up shadowing Destiny Ekaragha on The End of The F***ing World?

Destiny and I go way back. I was in my first year of uni studying film and TV production, and I got tickets to see her debut feature film Gone Too Far. I loved it so much that I just had to meet her. I spoke with her at the post-screening Q&A and we bonded over how we were both second generation Nigerians, and as I got more integrated into the industry, we started moving in the same circles.

When she was hired to direct four episode of TEOTFW, Destiny asked if I wanted to come on board and shadow her, as she knew that I needed a step up. I was with Destiny for about two months before shooting and again in post where we had time to sit down and talk about this industry and how she’s navigated it.

Your short film Something In The Closet is the story of a young Black queer girl who struggles with her sexuality, which manifests as a monster. Is this story personal to you?

I had the phrase “in the closet” in my mind and I also really love genre, and so I wanted to bring the two things together. As a Black filmmaker, there’s an assumption that your work is based upon your trauma and pain, but that’s not how I operate.

Instead, I wanted to use a metaphor. From there I built a storyline and the characters rather than taking anything from my own life. In coming out stories, the queer person isn’t always at the centre; instead it’s about that person telling their experiences to someone else. I wanted to make this about you telling your experiences to yourself, which is the most important bit.

As a Black queer writer-director, you have an opportunity to tell stories centred on Black queer women who are so often ignored. Are you worried that you’ll be pigeonholed?

Once you’ve done one thing people are very quick to put you in a box, and then the worry is that you’re then stuck there forever. It’s weird, even after making In The Closet, I don’t get sent queer scripts; I get sent scripts that centre on Blackness. There are certain projects that I get approached with, and I wonder if the people who have sent me those scripts have actually taken a look at what I do. I have certain sensibilities. I’m really lucky at the moment to be paid to work on my own stuff and subvert what is expected of me.

What’s up next for you?

I’m working on a genre TV show about Black experiences where we get into nuances and microagressions of being Black, but with a twist. I’m also writing a script for my debut feature film with the BFI and with my producer Nell, who is out of this world. I’m really excited for it!