AMVCA: Oluwatobi Deborah Ahmed Shares Insights on African Film Recognition

By Damilola Akinduro

A storyteller, Oluwatobi Deborah Ahmed, mostly known as Strange Energy.” She graduated as the best graduating student in performing and Film Arts from Elizade University in 2020 and afterwards graduated from the Multi choice talent factory, 2023.

“She’s a certified filmmaker from Henley Business School, Pan Atlantic University, and New York Film Academy”,

“Deborah has also been inducted into the Directors Guild of Nigeria.”

“In an interview with Weekend Extravaganza, she said that the AMVCA is a great form of validation: ‘It’s not limited to the Nigerian film industry, ‘Nollywood,’ but it spreads across Africa as a whole.’”

Can you introduce yourself?

“My name is Oluwatobi Deborah Ahmed, mostly known as Strange Energy. I am a storyteller, primarily working in film. My specialties include directing, behind-the-scenes (BTS), and offline video editing, although I have basic knowledge of other aspects of filmmaking.”

What is the significance of the Africa Magic Viewer’s choice Awards (AMVCA)? 

“The significance of the AMVCA, the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards, is basically recognition of outstanding performances and contributions in TV, film, and most recently, digital content creation. What makes this such a great form of validation is the fact that it is not limited to the Nigerian filmmaking industry, known as ‘Nollywood,’ but it spreads across Africa as a whole. It is recognition of outstanding performances and contributions in African content.

When you think about what storytelling means to us as Africans, and when you consider that storytelling is not just an art form but also a cultural heritage passed down through generations, it makes sense why this award show generates the buzz that it does. Beyond all of that, the AMVCA has also been an important part of changing and challenging the trajectory of cinema in Africa, encouraging Africans to explore different genres, techniques, and styles, basically to create films that are more authentic to us as Africans. I think that in itself is so beautiful.”

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How did you first become interested in directing film?

“My interest in directing films stemmed from my testing the waters. I have indulged in various aspects of filmmaking and have come to realize that some felt more satisfying than others. Directing is one aspect that has always felt right. Of course, there is writing and editing, which I find therapeutic. There is also BTS, which gives me immeasurable joy. However, it is directing that feels right. There is a sense of fulfillment I get from directing, and of course, picking up pieces from different departments in filmmaking was what led me on the path of directing. It also makes sense when you think about the fact that directing is kind of the glue that holds the production together, the glue that binds every department together. I think all the roads led me here.”

What inspires you creatively when making a film?

As cliché as this response might sound, I draw creative inspiration from everything and anything. I think that is probably one of the most beautiful parts of being a creative: to understand that art is simply a reflection of life and that everything that surrounds you is a source of inspiration waiting to be tapped into. It’s beautiful that your creative choices can be a reflection of a song you discovered on a soundtrack that was made by some struggling artist in a faraway country, or when you were taking a walk around your estate and the primary school had kids making noise and drumming, and it had some kind of rhyme to it that is stuck in your head and now you are scoring with that in mind. It’s beautiful. I get inspiration from everything: my dreams, the songs I hear, people’s stories, everything that exists in this same time that I exist is a possible source of inspiration, and I draw from that at every point. So yes, there are no limitations to that, and I mean that in the most literal way possible.

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Can you describe your creative process and how it has evolved over time?

“First of all, I like to see myself as a spontaneous artist. From conceptualizing ideas to execution and all that, they happen differently for every project. I don’t approach every project the same way. You realize over time that every project requires or demands something that is peculiar to its core. In a general sense, there is something that I keep in mind that influences my process. The first thing is that rules are meant to be bent and broken. You learn the rules to break them because there are no rules if life is going to confine you in a box. Don’t let that happen to you; that’s where liberation is. But then, I study and so on. However, something that is definitely not part of my process is storyboarding. On a lighter note, it wouldn’t and shouldn’t be.”

What was the most challenging film you have directed and how did you overcome obstacles while making it?

Well,  that will be, “Her dark past.” It was the most challenging because we shot that in five days. Nobody shoots that much in five days, except us now, obviously. (laughing) Yeah, but then, five days? There were a whole lot of challenges that come with that. And to be honest, when you choose the life of a filmmaker, you know you are choosing a life that is going to be filled with challenges. Can we talk about the fact that every day on set is basically trying to solve problems that you anticipated but never saw coming? Yes, how did I overcome obstacles while making it? I think the first thing was that I enjoyed the process, and it just made it easier. I had an amazing team, so we did a lot of working together and a lot of thinking together. I was on set with my friends; that was super helpful as well, because the set can be pretty tough. They demand a lot from you physically, emotionally, so sometimes there is a need for something that helps you keep the balance. For me, it was my friends. Then there is also the fact that I was constantly praying about it. The Holy Spirit is my guide in situations like this for the most part. And I would also say that the love I have for the profession is how I overcome it. It’s difficult, but you know you find out that it is an integral part of the process, and it happens one step at a time.

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What is next for you?

“I run my production company, called Strange Energy Productions, and anyone who supports me should look forward to the content that we create there. That’s where most of my attention is right now. However, one thing about life is that surprises are inevitable, so I am open to whatever surprises I encounter along the way. But overall, I live to create, so if there is anything anybody has to expect from me, it is that I am going to create.”

AMVCA:  Oluwatobi  Deborah Ahmed Shares Insights on African Film Recognition

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