In Conversation with Chinenye Nworah, Producer of the Netflix Original Series ‘Shanty Town’
In this exclusive interview with Bside, the filmmaker talks about her latest project, Shanty Town, collaborating with different talents to bring this project to life and much more.
●21st January 2023
Chinenye Nworah aka Chichi Nworah is no stranger to breaking barriers in the film industry. Before the introduction of popular streaming platforms like Netflix into Nollywood, Nworah was a pioneer in the Subscription Video on Demand industry in Nigeria. The film producer’s journey into the third largest film industry in the world began almost a decade ago when she produced So in Love which premiered in Cinemas back in 2014. She went on to produce Jacob’s Mansion, Uncomplicated TV series, Kala & Jamal TV series, Hot Girl next door, Kemi, Stereo Hearts, Hot Donor, Adaife, Benson’s Ville, Camouflage, Betty’s love triangle and many more.
In this exclusive interview with Bside, the filmmaker talks about her latest project, Shanty Town, a Netflix original series. The crime thriller follows the story of three Lagos State hustlers who unite to wage war against the biggest and most ruthless crime ring in the state. The project also infuses spiritual and mystical elements into the story to showcase the menace of society’s dark underbelly.
Nworah also talks excitedly about how she feels collaborating with different talents to bring Shanty Town to life and how everyone brought their A-game to ensure that the global audience experiences a rich African story told by authentic African storytellers.
BSIDE: How do you feel about having a Netflix original film produced by you and a production company, what is that feeling like?
NWORAH: First of all, I want to thank God for the privilege and the opportunity to have our show as a Netflix original. We are not the only producers in Nigeria or Lagos but God showed up and helped us and it became a Netflix original series. I am happy, I am happy for the cast, I am happy for the crew, everybody gave their best, we all brought our hearts to do it as a family and we are happy about the outcome.
How did the idea and conceptualization of this project come about?
Shanty Town is all about the everyday happenings in society. A lot of people are aware, while some are not. The concept of the project is to highlight things that are happening in society that people are not paying attention to. To show what people are going through in life to make ends meet. This is what it’s all about, trying to speak out on what is eating society negatively, that is where the concept came from. I brought in the writers and some of my friends, we sat and talked about it. I think the first time was in my office or thereabout, we spoke and the writers went ahead to write and create a beautiful show. The production team went into action to produce it. It was directed by Dimeji Ajibola and written by Mr. Xavier Ighorodje and Donald Tombia.
What was the most exciting process you had with post-production since you wrapped principal photography in 2021?
The film took a long process in post-production and one of the most exciting processes will be the VFX. It has shootings, it has stunts. It’s not a drama and if you want to bring out something at least be 60% good, you might not be 100% good but at least, 60- 70% is acceptable. The VFX has a lot of stunts and shootings, it took us a lot of time to ensure that we don’t destroy what we worked hard for. We took our time to ensure it looks real.
The project is filled with a star-studded cast, why was it important to work with these actors to bring the story to life?
When you get a script as a producer, you look at the characters, it’s your duty to think of talents that can bring it to life. For example, one of the lead characters (Scar) , we needed someone to give life to it, we didn’t want someone to come in and make it flat and Chidi Mokeme came to our mind, we thought about him and he doesn’t reside in Nigeria, he stays in the US, we had other people that we wanted to call but then thought about Chidi, we reached out to him, he came on board and he delivered . When you see the show, you’d know what I mean when I say he delivered.
One thing about talent is that when they put their heart into a project, they give it their all. Everyone of them lived the character. They ensured that those characters were brought to life. They brought their A-game. When you see the show, you’d realize everybody did well even the background actors that did the stunts, the ladies in the community, everybody brought out their A-game.
I think it’s exciting you are talking about background actors, a lot of time, people don’t talk about them and how important they are to the overall project.
If you bring a background actor and they are not good, your show won’t be nice. How many places will you see Nse or Chidi alone? Some people were with Chidi all through ( his gang ), If those people are not good, and Chidi is good, it would draw us back. For the background actors, the way they shot the guns, the way they did their stunts, they trained for it and they gave their best.
How was it like working with other major crew members, the director of photography, the director, and writers to ensure that you produce a good show?
Starting with the writing team, we became a family. After writing Shanty Town, we’ve gone to do Fairytale Wedding and Omoge Suzzy. The director, Dimeji Ajibola, was my first project with him. He is someone that listens and he is a talent. These are people we need to let the world know. If the director is not good, no matter what the actor tries to do, it will not reflect. That is why sometimes, you’d see a particular actor good in a film and when you see him in another, you’d be wondering why he cannot act but no, it’s the directing.
Dimeji listened, he took his time to understand what we wanted to achieve with the story and he worked on it. The director of photography, Jonathan Kovel is good. He is 100% invested in any project he is called to do. Even when we were shooting, he somehow had a bad leg, the job was tedious but he stood there and did the work. He is someone that when you have him on board, you are sure you are getting what you want.
Every member of the team did a fantastic job. We had a live bomb blast, it was not effects, it was not VFX, and it was not 3D. We had a small community in Epe where we set things up and blew up things there. Hakeem effects did a very good job. There was no casualty, we didn’t have any issue blowing up any of those places. Everybody came through even the P.As, it was teamwork.
What do you want the global audience to take out of this project when they see it?
My vision for Shanty Town is for the world to know we can tell authentic stories, we can tell hyper-local authentic stories and we are growing. We need things here and there, we need funding, and we need to train more talents but we are growing. When they see the show, they will know that Nigerian producers, talents, and crew are ready to work and take our stories to an international audience. If we can do this ourselves, with more collaborations, and better funding, we can do better.
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