Insight Into Nigerian screenwriting

On time out with TLM today, the spotlight is on Joshua Chukwuzubelu, a screenwriter who has written eight screenplays.
In this conversation, Joshua shares his story; how he started and lessons he has learnt. Enjoy!


What’s the difference between screenwriting and scriptwriting?

Screenplay is specifically for a film or television program while scriptwriting can be for a stage performance, a radio show, etc

Oh. Which is your niche?


Okay. How did it begin for you? Did you stumble on it or did a project motivate you?

During the lockdown, a friend texted me about a gig. At the time, I was writing only prose.

He said it was a screenplay job. Although I had never written a screenplay, another friend, a director, had been pushing me in that direction but I kept running.

So, when this friend texted, he explained what the job was all about and added that the pay was $900. This motivated me to watch YouTube videos on how to write a screenplay and I practiced with a short story I had written at the time.

An Insight Into screenwriting In Nigeria(With Joshua Chukwuzubelu)

Although the producer didn’t end up paying for the screenplay, I had learnt a new skill that launched me into a new phase in my career.

Oh wow. Why did the producer not pay for what you worked for?

I had not even written the story. The agreement was, fifty percent before and 50% after. The first 50% never came.

What lessons did you learn from that experience?

None really, I had to grasp that life is full of disappointment.

True. How many screenplays have you written, Joshua?


Cool. Any one of the movies we’re familiar with?

Nah, five are short films. Three are cinema movies. Two will be shot this year. One has been shot but yet to be released.

Lovely. Let’s talk Nollywood.
A lady once ranted about how producers disrespect writers and never pay them what they’re worth. What’s your general thought on this?

Depends on a lot.
Are the scripts you write for cinema, Netflix, Roktv, or YouTube? If you are writing for cinema/ Netflix, you get paid about N200, 000 which is small. I am at a point in my career where I charge N400, 000+

Related: Content Writing VS Content marketing (WITH Dev Matharia) 

However, you can’t be writing for Africa magic and be billing them this way
You’d be lucky to get N150, 000 sef. They pay about N100,000 or N80, 000.

What do you think is the most difficult aspect of screenwriting?

Every aspect.
You need to grab your audience’s attention throughout the movie. Beginning. Middle. End.
Screenwriting is in three phases. I cannot start teaching that here but every single phase is highly important.

For me, naming characters is a difficult aspect. If your characters’ names don’t fit the movie narrative, It can spoil the whole feel of the movie.

Mad o. Do you think every writer can be a screenwriter?

Yup. You can do whatever you wanna do.

What are the challenges you frequently face and what would you change about them?

Those guys need to pay me more money and I am getting there. After I win AMVCA sha. Lol.
But, the main problem filmmakers face is the EP(Producers). They limit the creativity of a film writer by influencing their money-making strategy into movies.
Every Nigerian producer wants a movie that will fetch money. They don’t care whether the picture is good or not. Weak story or weak dialogues.
In fact, they want comedy because they believe the market wants comedy. So it fucks with everyone’s creativity.

Check out Eighty percent of new movies making waves in the cinema. They are all comedy. Nasty!

Haha, I understand and can relate to this. How do you think it can be changed?

All producers can change it because they bring the money. Someone must be willing to go beyond the norm and create something worthy of Oscar recognition.
They should stop shooting movies for money only. Truth is, Nigerians want to see good Nigerian action, horror, crime, and others but since everyone is too scared of going down that route, we have settled for drama and comedy.

That is why I admire Charles and Kemi Adetiba. They’re trying to break the norm.

This has been interesting. What would you say to aspiring screenwriters? How can they start and what should they be wary of?

They should read. Then at their own time, practice with different stories.
Screenwriting is different from scripting. When you write a screenplay, you need to be able to tell a story(a storytelling technique in which the movie will be sequenced). But it is lovely.

Joshua teaches free classes on writing. Join here. 



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