Updated: Mar 27
Welcome to The T-Spot. This series is the official MUSTA Talent Spotlight where we highlight some really talented people, from different creative industries.
Amy’s filmmaking journey is a stark reminder of the weight our artistic expressions can have in the lives of other people. It encourages all of us to pursue our dreams relentlessly, unburdened by fear. A reminder that humans are multifaceted and that this multifaceted-ness goes down all the way to the core of our being. We are many things. We can be anything we want.
Come with me to understand Amy Limor (born Amy Achugwu Egwa,) a film director, Media-Communications Consultant and Actress. She is also currently the Head of Development at SÉDA films, an emerging Pan-African media company.
Hi Amy! Tell us more about what you do.
I’m a filmmaker and an aspiring actress. In terms of filmmaking, I direct, produce and occasionally write, but I do all of the above in varying capacities.
What inspired you to start filmmaking?
I wasn’t always inspired to become a filmmaker. When I was 17 years old, leaving high school and applying to University, I applied to some prominent fashion schools in London and New York but I didn’t get into my preferred choices at the time. So, I went through the clearing system in the UK and one of the available programs was Film Studies in English at the University of Leicester. Coincidentally, the summer before applying to that program I watched a theatre play by a friend of mine and became really interested in drama & films. So it just seemed like an instinctive choice to go for that program above others.
The three years I spent pursuing my BA degree were the best years of my academic life. I was blown away by the course and loved every module. I learnt about film, its history, and how to make a short film. I read the most eye-opening books in the English course. So immediately after graduating, I pursued my master’s in Film Directing at the MetFilm School London and obtained a Masters of Arts in Film Directing. That’s when I became sure of my path.
How has the journey been so far?
There’s been a lot of growth which I’m thankful for, although the journey hasn’t been straightforward.
When I moved back to Nigeria some years ago, I did my NYSC and was lucky to head the media unit of the NGO where I worked. Due to my position, I travelled to different states across Nigeria to support program activities by shooting documentaries, videos and interviews with the beneficiaries and stakeholders that the organization was working with at the time. This gave me the exciting opportunity to move around and really understand Nigerian culture. This exposure made me very sensitive to public health, humanitarian and social welfare issues and inspired my approach to make ‘This Ability’, which is the documentary I’m working on now.
I feel like my journey has been written by God. It’s literally been a journey of destiny because I can see how a lot of my experiences are intertwined. While pursuing filmmaking, I’ve carried out several projects: a few adverts as an assistant director, some music videos which didn’t make it too big, I’ve made short films that were pretty much practice when I look back at them, I’ve done fashion films, fashion photography, portrait photography, but now, I’ve found what I want to focus on the most which is documentary filmmaking and narrative filmmaking.
What challenges have you faced along the way?
I live in Abuja which is neither the economic hub nor the entertainment center in Nigeria. Lagos is known for that. Living in Abuja has slowed me down a little bit because I don’t have access to certain networks and opportunities like those who live in Lagos full-time and can make full use of their environment. Although I’ve worked in Lagos short term and I travel there as much as I can, not permanently residing there or having a strong network has been a bit of a hindrance. This year I want to fully explore that environment and try to obtain opportunities in Lagos.
Also funding. I’m an indie filmmaker. Most, if not all, of my projects have either been self-funded or funded by my collaborators on a very micro scale. Not having access to major funding would slow any filmmaker down because the big bucks to shoot what you want is simply not there. I’ve had to cut corners, and because I’m working on a smaller budget, it takes longer to complete a film. Plus, I often require a lot of assistance and help from friends. But I trust that as I consistently put out good work that speaks for itself, audiences and producers will appreciate my work and the funding for my future projects will come.
What will you say is uniquely the best thing about filmmaking?
Films have a massive impact on culture and society. They have the power to make people take notice, learn about new things, experience a different perspective, and open our eyes to a world we know nothing about. It is one of the most significant mediums we have artistically across cultures and that’s what I believe is very special.
As a filmmaker, I get to entertain, educate and explore important issues and stories. I get to paint a picture in motion and inspire people, and with that comes a huge sense of responsibility because I understand that whether I’m making a one-minute advert, a multi-episode series, a feature film of two hours, documentary or even a music video, I’m communicating something that is going to linger in people’s minds. This gives me a sense of purpose.
I became acquainted with your work through your yet-to-be-released featured-length documentary, ‘This Ability’. In December 2022, it was announced that the documentary will be released in 2023. Congratulations!
What was the filmmaking process like?
Thank you, I’m glad that ‘This Ability’ documentary excites you and that you look forward to it. I also look forward to it and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.
When I started ‘This Ability’, in fact, before it even became ‘This Ability’, it was just a close encounter in 2017 with a man riding a handicapped motorcycle whom I basically pursued because I wanted to learn more about his experience. I filmed a short documentary featuring only him and I sat on the project for a couple of years up until 2019 when I decided to explore it further. I pitched it to different producers but no one really took an interest in it. So in 2021, I decided to fully embark on the project and explore disability in Nigeria as a whole. It was a very ambitious pursuit. In the beginning, I was nervous and a bit doubtful, but my team and I were able to raise money through a crowdfund and although we didn’t make all the money we set out to make, help was just locating us left and right and that’s why I will keep saying that God has been so faithful in this project.
We are finally in post-production but it hasn’t been the easiest process primarily due to lack of funding. If we had all the funds we need, this project would have been a breeze. We would have been able to film in more states, we would have had access to more equipment and we would have been able to shoot more people. But with the budget that we did have, I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish. Hopefully, we can expand the project once we get it out there to the world.
What was your favorite scene to shoot?
I wanna say all of them because each scene was so dynamic. Exploring the different disabilities, from hearing impairments to visual impairments, mobility disabilities to intellectual disabilities and the rest, each character brought such a unique perspective and that was the most important. Entering people’s homes and them welcoming my crew and me and then allowing us to see what the world looks like through their POV was endearing and special to me. Shooting in remote communities that I would have never thought of entering before this project was also special to me. This project has stretched me in ways I couldn’t imagine. I feel more connected to the world around me, more human.
Do you remember your first favorite film?
Throughout my life, I’ve always been into films but I don’t remember having a favorite first film. Watching old Nollywood films with my family was a huge bonding activity growing up. I always looked forward to those iconic old Nollywood films with my family, even the scary ones.
I also loved iconic Hollywood films from the 80s and 90s like ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Death Becomes Her’, ‘Coming To America’, ‘The Golden Child’, ‘Basic Instinct’, ‘Requiem for a Dream’, ‘Dazed and Confused’. I enjoyed 90s to early 2000s Disney channel original movies. The storytelling and the characters were just so brilliant.
In my teens, I appreciated the coming-of-age genre and young adult genre. Specifically the ones with strong female characters. I enjoyed ‘Cruel Intentions’, ‘Thirteen’, ‘Clueless’, ’Bring It On’, ‘Degrassi’ and more. The same still rings true today, if I see a young adult film or a coming-of-age film, I’ll definitely watch it. I love that genre, as well as thriller. But that list is too long.
I’ve always appreciated film, I just never thought I would become a filmmaker. Now I know that God was leading me throughout.
How has your taste developed from when you first got into filmmaking, do you think this change is reflected in the films you now want to make?
My taste in filmmaking has developed quite a bit in the sense that I now appreciate more conscious films and I aspire to be a conscious filmmaker telling socially, politically and culturally important films as opposed to pure entertainment and vibes; although that’s important too and I wouldn’t mind being involved in such projects . They would just never be my core focus.
I want to make films that convey important messages and shed light on relevant issues and unique themes. However, when I want to be entertained, I still watch the kind of films and shows that I would watch when I was a child which I believe is more of a comfort thing.
Creatively, what’s your biggest strength?
In the sense of producing and directing, I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I’m very hands-on. I tend to micro manage the projects that I work on and once I’m on set, I turn into a jack of all trades. I don’t always like to work that way because it takes my focus away from the singular aspects I’m supposed to focus on. I’m able to location scout, work on the budget, the planning, the casting, and gather the resources needed. I know how to guide my DOP and cinematographers on the best ways to capture the scenes I want, I can literally take it upon myself to edit screenplays word for word and I’ll act in a scene if I need to. I also genuinely have a great arsenal of ideas. I don’t think I can ever run out of ideas. If I had unlimited funding, I would comfortably be able to make a film every year for the next ten years without fishing for ideas.
What’s something about filmmaking you would tell your younger self who just started in your current career path?
I would tell my younger self to just go for it. Fear is an illusion. If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to act on it. Don’t be afraid to learn all that you can about filmmaking. Don’t just say ‘I’m passionate about directing’; explore all the different facets of this trade, learn collaborate and network as much as possible. I didn’t necessarily do all of those things. Fear held me back more than I would like to admit but once I released the fear and took action, everything began to align. I’m reaching out to people, sharing my uniqueness, and collaborating more than before.
Amy Limor has produced film projects for Mo Film London, CIHP Nigeria, NERI Nigeria, Google, Darling Nigeria, Play Network Africa, WHER, The Young Feminist Fund (FRIDA) and more. Connect with her.