Before 30 Series: Conversation With The Creators

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Illustration by Seun Ajibola

45 days ago I received an email notification on my phone from a writers platform known as Medium. Medium gave me an opportunity to build an audience for 36 STATES and develop my writing skills by reading the work of other writers on the platform. “Before 30” was a new follower of my personal page that expressed an interest in a post I wrote titled Her Experiences discussing my views of the show “An African City”.  Although “Before 30” was the handle, Derin Adeyokunnu, executive producer was the administrator of the handle. He read my short post on An African City and encouraged me to watch his recently released television series titled “Before 30”.

On a scorching Toronto summer weekend that could rival the day radio Raheem died, I found time to watch the series recommended by Derin. Shot on location, Before 30 uses Lagos landscape to create a longing for a return to the hustle of the crowded city. The market place and the dirt roads of the inner city gave a layer of richness and authenticity that made the environment more real. Choosing to adorn the actors with their Sunday’s best, fashion played a very visible role in adding to the color of the characters. The biggest applause was the scoring done throughout the series. It evoked the right emotion at the appropriate moments and led me to a discovery of new artists creating great sounds. 

The young and old will enjoy the show, but it will resonate deeper with those just shy of the right side of their thirties. The creators of the show have highlighted the perspective of different women that is believable with the exception of Ama who I felt lacked the depth compared to those of the other characters. The character with the most depth was Aisha, as she is battling not only her patriarchal home and the pressure of being the only married woman among her single friends. Of the three single friends, Nkem was the strongest on camera and played her role superbly as the carefree and confident woman. It would have added another layer of discourse if the creators had given more time to the men in the lives of these women. I found many of their characters to be transient and not strong enough for me to truly connect to their characters.

After watching the show, I had questions not only about the series but also to learn about the journey of the producers. I reached out to the creative team – Derin Adeyokunnu, Bodunrin Sasore and Morin Akinsola to set up an interview to flush out these questions and obtain answers to place the series in its proper context.

Following the interview, I started to reflect on the challenges of pursuing a vision in a country like Nigeria. The creators of the show relocated to Nigeria after completing their professional education and quit their jobs to pursue entrepreneurship, which ultimately culminated to the creation of Nemsia Studios.  Doing business in Nigeria has to be tied to a bigger purpose as the inefficiencies can cripple even the strongest, however, the creators have demonstrated that there are opportunities in Nigeria to pursue one’s vision.  The red carpet was not laid out for the creators to complete the show. They came out of pocket for the shooting of the pilot in 2013, while also obtaining a loan from individuals who believed in their vision. Through their marketing plan, the creators were able to gain sponsorship from major corporate staples in the economy such as FirstBank and Airtel. The future for Nemsia Studios is promising with a comedic film project in the works along with a stronger Season 2 of “Before 30”.

Is the story personal?

BB: The lead character (Temi) and her boyfriend (Akin) were inspired by my own personal relationship. At the time, she wanted to get married and I was not ready. All the other characters were just created over time, discussing as a team, talking with friends, and writing the script.

How did you decide on the scoring for the series?

BB: We had a really good music supervisor - Enyi Omeruah. For the most part, he would find different songs, many of them I hadn’t heard of before the show, so we had sessions to decide what to use.

How did fashion impact the direction of the series?

Derin: Fashion and entertainment have historically benefited from each other. It is a natural and obvious pairing. The better the fashion on screen, the bigger the brands and designers behind them will be. However, the visual arts industry does need more support and representation. I don’t think we value our artists. Their benefits and rightful place in our society aren’t as evident to the average Nigerian. I mean, we are a society that loves football, and don’t invest enough in our talent, and the industry needs to support them. So, a visual artist and painter like Laolu that featured on Beyoncé’s Lemonade is still a tough sell. But the greater the impact of the show, the greater its impact towards influencing the other industries associated with it.

Did the divorce scene impact the cast and crew during shooting?

BB: I know we wanted to throw in a pretty big obstacle in an almost perfect relationship between Temi and Akin and we wanted it to be something that wasn’t anyone’s fault in particular. The mood on the set was unreal. Zainab Balogun was the least experienced actor in the scene and really carried it. When we were done with her close up, Omorinsojo the producer had to excuse herself because she was crying. Yes, it was an emotional scene for everyone.

What was the purpose of addressing sexuality during the trip to Brazil?

BB: We didn’t think we could justify the edginess of the sex if they weren’t out of the country. The tension really came from her thinking she was participating in something one time in her life, so far away from home, a bucket list of sorts, and he wants it to be a part of their daily lives.

How can the changing role of women reconcile with the traditional views of marriage in Nigeria?

BB: I think the reconciliation comes from culture not from the young women trying to get married. Much like many men dream of being successful young, many women will always want to find the perfect relationship and settle down in their twenties and early thirties. The issue comes from the pressure they face from culture to meet that goal even if it jeopardizes other things or is unattainable for some, and that is changing slowly.

Do you see a movement towards television series over the traditional Nollywood films?

Derin: There aren’t that many TV shows considering the output of Nollywood. There is definitely an increase in the number of TV series being produced. African Magic and EbonyLife are investing in more episodic content, particularly in Soap Operas in the case of African magic. TV is harder to monetize than Films as most TV shows rely on sponsorship and advertising revenue, and there aren’t that many brands that have the budgets needed to produce quality TV. Films will continue to dominate the market, until TV shows find more avenues to monetize.

People are moving towards the online platform for entertainment, the only thing holding it back is the cost and quality of internet access, speed and bandwidth. Smartphone penetration is already double household TV penetration. With your smart-phone and high-speed access you get to watch what you want, when you want.

How did you position Nemsia Studios in the industry and what impact do you want it to have on culture?

Derin: We wanted to affect culture and be part of the dialogue, instead of just being spectators. We love film and entertainment. We know it is incredibly difficult to convince people to spare a few minutes, let alone an hour or two of their time to hear and see what you have to say. We believe we are capable of telling great stories and see it as a personal challenge to inspire a group of people. Art is powerful. Media can greatly influence society. Our society needs improvement, and great well-told stories can serve as inspiration.

Thank you to the creators of the show for their time and support in completing the interview – Bodunrin Sasore, Morin Akinola and Derin Adeyokunnu.

Ideas, FilmFemi Adeyinka