From Nigeria to Los Angeles: Meet Film Producer Samuel Nkwume – YMCinema

In this inspiring interview, film producer Samuel Nkwume takes us on his almost impossible journey, from being an accountant at a big accounting firm in Nigeria to pursue his dream to be a filmmaker. After hard work and countless efforts, Samuel is stepping up the ladder as his career is being developed as a film producer in LA. Read his story and his tips & tricks on how to make it in our crazy challenging industry.

Behind the scenes: Samuel Nkwume

I started off my career as an accountant before moving out to LA to work in production, my stable life and income behind. The biggest risk in my life till this very day.

Two months ago, we got an email in our inbox stating: “To YMCinema Magazine: I am Samuel Nkwume, a film producer/line producer originally from Nigeria, currently residing in Los Angeles. I am currently just wrapped up producing an action feature thriller, currently in post-production directed by Michael Matteo Rossi who you already interviewed. I would love an interview to share my story. I started off my career as an accountant before moving out to LA to work in production, my stable life and income behind. The biggest risk in my life till this very day. Now that my career is taking off, and I am steadily reaching my goals and aspirations, I believe I can inspire others who are in similar positions or double thinking themselves and abilities’. Well, we couldn’t say ‘No’ to that. So we interviewed Samuel about his challenging journey. Read the interview below.

Producer Samuel Nkwume
Producer Samuel Nkwume

After a year of working as an accountant, I applied to film school, flew to Burbank, California, where I started chasing my film dream of being a movie producer. I never practiced accounting again.

YMCinema Magazine: Tell us about your filmmaking career

Samuel: Growing up in Nigeria at the age of 11, I watched Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining”. I was extremely fascinated. It was then I decided, I wanted to be a part of this creative art and become a filmmaker, but there weren’t many film opportunities in Nigeria at the time. After my undergrad, I worked as an accountant in one of the big 4 accounting firms and wrote movie reviews of Nigerian movies at night after work. I wasn’t exactly happy with what I was doing. One day, I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror at work. I asked myself if I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. I spoke to some of my co-workers about wanting to pursue filmmaking. Someone randomly suggested trying out film school. That got stuck in my head for a while and I started researching the city and school to go to. Fortunately for me, my parents supported me on one condition. They wanted me to become a qualified accountant first. Sort of like a Plan B. So I studied and studied as if my life depended on it. When I finally qualified, they gave me their blessings. That was one of the motivations to keep going throughout the whole transition. After a year of working as an accountant, I applied to film school, flew to Burbank, California, where I started chasing my film dream of being a movie producer. I never practiced accounting again. I have gone on to win “Best Thriller” awards, on the festival circuit and worked with talented directors and producers over the course of my career.

Behind the scenes: Samuel Nkwume
Behind the scenes: Samuel Nkwume

One day, I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror at work. I asked myself if I wanted to do this for the rest of my life.

YMCinema Magazine: How hard is it to make it in the industry?

Samuel: Not to scare people away, but maneuvering the film industry is a very difficult task, especially with no prior connection. I feel like this is something that isn’t made clear enough to people thinking about it. I have to witness tons of people move to Los Angeles to chase their filmmaking or acting dream, only to go back to their original city or state, after a couple of months.

Competition is stiff and even if you get your foot at the door, a silly mistake could also ruin your chances.

The issue is, the industry is very concentrated, especially if you live in a major city, known for entertainment like Los Angeles. Everybody around you is trying to make it as a filmmaker or actor. Competition is stiff and even if you get your foot at the door, a silly mistake could also ruin your chances. I am not saying that if you fail once it is over for you. Of course, failure is part of life, but you have to grab every opportunity you get by the horn. Also, make sure you build your network. This must have been said a lot of times, but networking is key. I applied for hundreds of production assistant positions (Entry-level) and I heard nothing. My first production assistant gig was from a connection I made while networking. You never know when another opportunity will swing your way.

Behind the scenes: Samuel Nkwume with director Michael Matteo Rossi
Behind the scenes: Samuel Nkwume with director Michael Matteo Rossi

Not to scare people away, but maneuvering the film industry is a very difficult task, especially with no prior connections.

YMCinema Magazine: How do you establish connections and be open-minded to get more jobs to step up the ladder?

Samuel: To make connections, you have to leave your comfort zone. You have to leave your couch and go to events. Not just filmmaking events. You never know who you might meet. What I did in my early career as a PA, was I had a bunch of business cards that I would share with people after we wrapped production, just so they can have me in mind for a future project. This plan worked out perfectly. I was able to get work through this. I always made sure I had my contact cards on me at all times. You never knew who you would run into. Sometimes I would leave my business cards at the most random places. If you want something you have to go for it aggressively. Helped me in my journey to climb up the ladder.

Behind the scenes: Samuel Nkwume
Behind the scenes: Samuel Nkwume

To make connections, you have to leave your comfort zone. You have to leave your couch and go to events. Not just filmmaking events. You never know who you might meet.

YMCinema Magazine: Any interesting project you’re working on at the moment?

Samuel: Presently in the development stage, is a project I’ve been working on for about a year. A psychological thriller titled “Game Of Fear” Game of Fear is about a haunted, agoraphobic teen, who must confront his fear of the outside world, to reveal the truth behind the mysterious death of his brother. Agoraphobia is the extreme or irrational fear of entering open or crowded spaces, leaving one’s home, or being in places where escape is difficult. His brother convinces him to move out of the house and away from his overcontrolling, clingy mom. Brother is later reported dead by suicide. Tom must now overcome his agoraphobia to figure out the truth, but his Mom will stop at nothing to make sure he doesn’t leave her sight. Not only does this movie shed light on Agoraphobia, which is suffered by nearly 2% of the United States population, but it is also guaranteed to take the viewer on a roller-coaster swing of emotions.

Behind the scenes: Samuel Nkwume
Behind the scenes: Samuel Nkwume

YMCinema Magazine: How can we follow your work?

Samuel: You can follow me on Instagram, or visit my website for updates regarding ongoing and future productions.

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