Atieno is a Kenyan feature film that tells the story of Atieno, a 16-year-old Kisumu who drops out of school and is forced to fend for her sick father and her siblings. She goes to live in Mathare slums in Nairobi in search of work and encounters a lot of obstacles.
Produced by DreamGirls in the WezeshaDada project, the film is an outreach tool, targeting other girls in Nairobi and Kisumu on the relationship between HIV, entrepreneurship and resilience in the face of challenges facing adolescent girls and young women, especially those living in slums and rural areas.
We sat down with Evans Sunday Okello, an Africa Digital Media Institute (ADMI) Film and TV Production alumni to learn more about his journey so far and his time on the set of Atieno.
ADMI: What was your role on the set of Atieno, and what was the most exciting thing about being on set?
ES: I was the Director of Photography (DOP) commonly known as cinematographer. I learnt how to set up and operate the Jib Crane Camera (a see-saw like device that has the camera on one end and the camera controls on the other end). In addition to this, I perfected my skills in editing using the Final Cut Pro X software.
ADMI: What would you like to see improve in the Kenyan film industry?
ES: I would like to see the pay get better and see more mentoring opportunities for new and upcoming talent.
ADMI: What are some of the notable projects that you have been involved in?
ES: I was the producer and director of the ZIFF 2017 nominated thriller film, Legion. I was the Cinematographer (DOP) of Lost Herbs, a documentary produced by Docubox East Africa. I was the First Camera Operator in the 2017 Kenya Guinness Fan Zone event featuring Thierry Henry. I was the Steadicam Operator during Mr Eazi's Concert, The Hype. In addition to this, I joined ADMI at the beginning of April as the Directing Supervisor in the Film and Television Department to assist the students in their end of semester projects. I am currently working with the Kenya School of Flying as a Content Producer and Director and I will be the Steadicam Operator during the Rick Ross NRGetic Concert in Kenya.
Evans Sunday on the set of Atieno.
ADMI: What would you claim is the most critical role of a director and cinematographer?
ES: For the director, the most critical role is to understand your actors' performance in relation to the story and portraying it clearly in a way that will relay the intended emotion to your audience. While for the cinematographer, the most critical role it is to use the picture and all its elements to convey subtextual meanings to your audience as required by the story you are trying to convey.
ADMI: What process does a cinematographer observe when filming?
ES: A cinematographer follows the action on set when filming. It Is all about the performance and how creative he/she can have coverage of it.
ADMI: What's harder, getting started or being able to keep going?
ES: Getting started is harder because you have to prove to everyone including yourself that you have what it takes. Once you have a name you automatically acquire an audience for all your work.
ADMI: What's the big dream for Evans the director and cinematographer?
ES: The first is to be a household name and the second is to create films and content from Kenya that would be viewed the world over and the third is to be a pioneer in the Kenyan film scene, become one of the greatest, the David Lynch and Christopher Nolan of Africa.
ADMI: What makes or breaks a film?
ES: The team makes or breaks a film. A film is a collaborative effort and most time a team with both great skills and great rapport have a better chance to succeed.
ADMI: When your inspiration is waning, what do you do to stay fresh?
ES: I would credit my motivation to my peers and confidants. They who work hard as I do and sometimes even harder. Individuals such as Isaac Biosse, Caleb Sam, Grace Wambui, Stein Gatuma and others who always remind me why I do this and the goal ahead. I also have a good home support system from my family who constantly support and encourage me to do more. I also have an eye for current trends. In addition to this, I network a lot and as such, I have a well-booked calendar. My work also speaks for itself. I get a lot of referrals from people I have interacted with or who have seen my previous work.
ADMI: Parting shot?
ES: Be sure to catch Atieno, as it premieres on Thursday 26th April 2018 at Prestige Plaza. You can purchase your tickets via Mookh here.