Underwire 2019: Once An Old Lady Sat On My Chest by Candice Onyeama

Did the title grab your attention? It did with us too. Candice Onyeama’s short film explores the experience of being Nigerian British. Here she talks to us about her personal influence behind the film and the beauty of community funded films.

How did you find your way into film making?

I've always loved film but I actually started my journey on the other side of the camera as an actress. After doing a few gigs including guest staring in BBC TV series Doctors and Silent Witness, I decided I wanted to tell my own stories. With the support of Ideastap (a fantastic creative resource for young people which unfortunately no longer exists) I was able to try a few free film short courses and get funding for my debut film HUSH which was nominated for a best producer award at Underwire 2017. I've kept going since.

Tell us a bit about your film?

Once An Old Lady Sat On My Chest is a magical realism short about a young British Nigerian woman who is forced to deal with her identity crises when a mysterious old woman squats on chest. The film is an ode to my Grandma who passed away the year I started working on the film. I wanted to use a personal story to explore the wider experience of being Nigerian British and diasporan identity.

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How did you take the news of being accepted into the festival?

Excited!! Its great being back at a festival that supported my first film and that's also at the forefront of championing great female film making talent.

Funding in this industry can always be a challenge, how did you achieve yours?

Funding is a challenge and it was definitely a hustle and a half getting it. I went through Encounters 'Widening the Lens' programme and ended up winning part funding of £500 towards the film. I then got my lovely fellow producer Nicola Gregory on board and together we set up a crowdfund campaign, which was successful and we raised £5000 to make our project. I am truly grateful to every single one of the backers who donated and supported - just goes to show the power and future of indie film making lies in community.

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What was the most challenging aspect of making your film and how did you overcome this?

The funding!!! Putting on a crowdfund is like making a film in itself, you write the script for the crowdfund video,you shoot it, then you spend weeks on marketing and promoting it. There is a risk of burning out before you get to make the actual film. But the easiest way of overcoming is having a support network or just a good mate you can have a moan to when things get too heavy. I was fortunate to have that.

Underwire celebrates female film making talent in the industry, what female film makers do you look up to?

Too many to mention but here goes - Chika Anadu is an inspiration, her debut feature B for Boy was the first time I saw something close to my heritage and story on screen. Love Kasi Lemmon's Eve's Bayou as well as Dee Rees and Lynne Ramsey's work. Ifeoma Chukwuogo is also an exciting filmmaker. And of course Ava Duvernay is an absolute queen, redefining what cinema and being a filmmaker means for all of us male and female.

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What’s the next project for you?

I'm currently in pre-production with my producer Nicola Gregory on a BFI Network supported short BORN AGAIN. I'm also in the middle of writing/redrafting a genre feature Another I.


Once An Old Lady Sat On My Chest is screening in the Who Am I? category on Tuesday 17th September at Rich Mix. For tickets and more information on Underwire 2019 visit their website here.

You can follow Candice, her film and her production on the social media channels below…

@candyonyeama, @GenesisC_Films, @Onceanoldlady_