Film-Making through the Lens of Bobby Junior Owuor

Forget about relying solemnly on film school to prove your filmmaking skills. The future of film is in the vision, determination, and consistency, often underrated and paid less attention to.

Bobby Junior has travelled this path and has insights on developing personal skills through self-challenge. The 27-year-old talks to us about his creative journey, his best and worst moments, what keeps him going and a word of advice to young aspiring filmmakers.

How did your creative journey begin?

I did my first short film, “The Drift”, in 2016. At the time, I was in school studying Multimedia Journalism. Unfortunately, in 2017 I had to drop out due to financial constraints. My dad had just lost his job. So, I had to stay home. It was quite a difficult time. That is when I pursued an outlet for my creativity. I started creating content on YouTube with few of my friends. 2017 was also the year that I won 8 awards in the East Africa Student Film Festival held at Daystar University. With that came an opportunity for me to finish my studies, as the lecturers at Daystar offered a helping hand in paying for my studies till I completed my final year. From then, I developed a keen interest in furthering my filmmaking skills, considering it’s not exactly what I studied in school.

What films have you done, and what is the motivation behind each?

The Drift was the first film I made, and it’s very special to me because I won most of my awards with it. No Means No, my first documentary, came 4th place in Africa at the Lorenzo Natali Media Prize competition. This showed me I could make it internationally. The Meeting was a last-minute film, but it showed me to trust the process and never give up.

Are there any key aspects in all of your productions?

Yes, there are. The element of creativity has to be there. It has to give the audience some room for imagination. The other element is a plot twist. This helps to keep the audience in check/ alert.

What is it like being a young filmmaker in Kenya?

I’d say one, It is fun and exciting because the industry in Kenya is still growing. It offers a great opportunity for one to be recognized. Everyone has an equal fighting chance to stand out. It is exciting when you have the chance to shape it in a way you would like. On the other hand, it is quite disappointing and frustrating. This is because of the lack of resources such as finances for individual film projects, equipment, and the high costs of producing films. All my projects have been done with no external funding at all.

What are some of the challenges you have encountered?

There are a couple of those. A major one is the lack of financial capacity for making films. I refer to my films as passion projects. All of them I have had to do on zero funding. The secret is to stick to like-minded people who are in the same place as you. A good example are your friends from school have also learned all the different skills in a filmmaking set. You can easily do passion projects together. Established people would want to be paid. For all my films, I write, direct and edit them myself.

So far, what have been your accomplishments?

In 2017, I won eight awards at the East Africa Student Film Festival for a film I did in 2016. In 2018, I came in fourth place in Africa during the Lorenzo Natali Media Prize 2018 and 20th place globally for my first ever documentary. I also won my first Kalasha Award the same year for Best Documentary by a student. In 2019, I won an award at the Canon Film Festival in Eldoret, Kenya. And here we are in first place at the Smash 3-minute mobile phone short film competition during the 5th edition of the Kalasha International Film and TV Market.

What do your next five years look like for you?

My aspirations for the next five years are organised step by step. My goal this year is to win a Kalasha award. Next year, I am hoping and working towards gaining recognition on an African scale and being recognised amongst renowned African filmmakers. From there now, I am aiming at the global film-making scène as a film director. I am determined to be the first Kenyan to win an Oscar from film making as a film director. Besides the Oscars, I would also want to gain recognition by winning awards in the Emmys and the Golden Globe, just to mention a few.

Who inspires you both locally and internationally?

In Kenya, I look up to my dad. My dad is my greatest supporter. From what I remember, he took me to the movie cinema when I was four. Not that I had already shown interest at that age, I just appreciate such moments. That was just the beginning of the so many films we’ve watched together. My dad was a football player. He played for Harambee Stars, which is the Kenyan National Football Team. The fact that he even played football to the level of being a player on the national team makes me admire his strides.

Internationally, I would say Denzel Washington. There is just something about him.

What would you tell aspiring filmmakers?

First, believe in yourself. You are the best. Confidence is really important. It is confidence that triggers a perfectionist attitude.

Second, Trust the process. I would advise an upcoming filmmaker to enter into awards and competitions; challenge yourself because you can only get better. Having started on a high note by winning eight awards for my first film, I didn’t believe I could fail. Until 2019 when I got six nominations but won no award. It greatly humbled me. Understand that film is a marathon, not a sprint.

The last and perhaps the most important one is to put God first. Know that the creativity and imagination comes from somewhere. Having that personal relationship with God is very important for me.

And, of course, enjoy the process.

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