7 years ago, precisely July 17th, 2012, I started a blog for inspirational non-fiction and exciting fiction stories. 7 years later, that journey has evolved into me becoming a filmmaker but quite frankly, that almost didn’t happen. So how did I get here?
When I first started blogging, stories and articles came naturally. I wrote every week, often twice or thrice a week. Well, that was until the third year where I lost what Shonda Rhimes famously refers to in her TedTalk as “the hum”. In my third year, I went from publishing weekly fiction series to struggling with monthly or bi-monthly posts. It didn’t matter how hard I tried, I had simply lost my ability to create.
Later that year, I returned to the university to get a Law degree and while preparing for my first term exams, inspiration hit. I set aside my notes and wrote 3,000 words at a go. It was so random, but that’s exactly how Hunter’s Game was born- in a season of creative drought, from an inspirational well I was certain had long since dried up.
Hunter’s Game tells the story of a regular young couple whose lives are irreversibly changed by the unexpected happenings of one night. It is full of suspense and plot twists, conspiracy theories, a bit of action and a bit of romance.
I ran the series on my blog across 2 seasons within a year and readers loved it. I subsequently shared it with other bloggers, thus reaching a wider audience and feedback was great. One thing was consistent, people always said it felt like they were watching a movie.
It may have taken 3 years plus blood, sweat and tears but Hunter’s Game would eventually make it to screen, effectively kickstarting my journey into proper filmmaking. It began as a simple conversation with my good friend and award-winning filmmaker Michael AmaPsalmist. I had been job-hunting for 3 months and was nearly going crazy so I met up with Michael to discuss his projects and how we could collaborate. Towards the end of that meeting, I asked him to read the first episode of Hunter’s Game and tell me if he thought we could do something with it. Michael read the opening paragraph and said:
“Ah, I know how we can shoot this scene! It will be a shot from the top!”
Truly, the opening scene of Hunter’s Game is a shot taken from the top. The story excited him and he was convinced we could take it to screen. Michael suggested we shoot a pilot and pitch to interested parties to fund a full season and that was how the journey began.
We would go on to spend several days planning, strategizing and working to raise funds. When Michael gave me the estimated budget of N3.5 million, I was ready to resume job-hunting. Lol. Filmmaking is truly not for the fainthearted.
It took a supportive lover (shout out to you C!) who said, “Don’t worry, we will raise the money. Las las, we’ll be in debt. How much? 3 million naira? Obele ego (small money).” As well as an entire village (shout out to my family and the ND) but in roughly 3 weeks, we raised about N3 million.
I never truly understood the phrase “your network is your net-worth,” till I took on this project. How that money was raised in so short a time still stuns me. N1 million of the total sum came in form of loans (which I am struggling to repay, haha.) but the balance of N2 million came in form of goodwill from people who thought my dreams were valid enough to support.
The money didn’t come easily though. Not at all! About a week to the proposed date of shoot, my account balance could not boast of half the money needed. I panicked, because it was already too late to turn back. I had engaged stellar actors that literally took a chance on me and the team. OC Ukeje, Ade Laoye, Ibrahim Suleiman, Tope Tedela and Asa’ah Samuel are the kindest, most gracious people and I feel super honoured and privileged to have worked with them.
Thankfully, in what I would describe as nothing short of a miracle, credit alerts poured in last minute to ensure we went on with the project.
I have to acknowledge the labour of love of both cast and crew on this project because I certainly did not pay them enough for all they did. For instance, I had made accommodation arrangements for crew members, knowing there would be late nights on set. Imagine wrapping at 1am after the first day and getting to the apartment at almost 2am, only to discover that the beds were ridden with bedbugs (this was despite me personally checking out the space earlier). They hardly got any sleep that night and I felt really awful. They moved out a few of hours later and checked into a hotel, an unplanned additional expense (plus money lost on the apartment) but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Asides having a near impossible schedule, we also encountered challenges at our major location that had the PM rushing off to scout for alternative locations for an exterior night scene last minute. I’m honestly unsure how I did not crumble and find some corner to cry at some point in those 3 days. Lol. They remain the most intense, hectic yet ultimately satisfying time of my life.
As a producer, you’re constantly punching numbers and working out sums and sometime during the second day of shoot, I realised I would be needing another N300,000 if I would finish the shoot successfully without owing any member of cast or crew. This was me running low on sleep and completely out of ideas, having leveraged everyone close enough to me. I struggled against panicking and sent the lover a message to say I needed that amount to get through the shoot. His instant response was “Consider it done. Focus on the present. Get through today. You’re doing good.” He would eventually secure another loan for me just in the nick of time. A gem of a man! We finally wrapped at about 8pm of Sunday night. It had taken blood, sweat and tears, but we successfully defied all the odds and created magic.
The months that followed were spent editing and strategizing on how to raise the debt I owed and push the content to the right people to fund it. Because I urgently wanted to refund my friends their monies, we decided to go the route of paid online streaming. Hence the fee attached the first time it was released. We eventually pulled it down after a month because it was no longer generating income and we’d have had to pay to keep it online.
We did raise about N200,000 which furnished a portion of my debts. But I am still working to clear the balance N800,000 as well as fund the full season (estimated to cost about N63 million) and I am exploring a lot of options at the moment, including crowdfunding. The pilot is now available on YouTube and I hope that when you watch it with this story in mind, you are inspired to give towards the project. You can donate securely through this paystack link. (https://paystack.com/pay/v9s4kjma9w ) And then watch (https://youtu.be/D9NrgPxomwk )on YouTube. (Please subscribe to the channel and share too!)
Typically, people ought to count the cost of anything they want to do before they go into it, but with filmmaking, I have come to realize that if you truly sit down to count the cost, you may never attempt it. So, despite the many obstacles, I am glad I took the plunge.
These days, I feel trepidation whenever people ask me “How far Hunter’s Game?” “Have you started the full season?” “What’s new?” These questions are mostly from a place of genuine interest and concern, yet they tend to serve as a reminder that I may have bitten off more than I can chew. But in Naija parlance, we die here, because valid dreams and doing it afraid.
Can you please help ease that trepidation by donating towards this project? Every little counts and it would mean the world to me to have you partner with me in telling exciting stories.
Ps. If you’d like to have a conversation about the project, you can drop us an email here- firstname.lastname@example.org