From a fully qualified accountant in Nigeria to a Hollywood movie producer. A life story on Samuel Nkwume.
The dream of becoming a movie producer in Hollywood became a reality.
Samuel Nkwume’s journey started in Nigeria, an accountancy student who dreamt of an alternative life and willed it to happen. Courage, determination and drive are some of the attributes that were the driving force behind a successful career in movie production.
A professional accountancy qualification, a plan; “B” instigated by his parents, was obtained before his adventure began. But, destined for a parallel universe in movie production, he could not afford to fail and so took every opportunity to study his trade in Los Angeles and watched from the bylines before gaining significant experience in his chosen field.
Personally, I love stories that inspire and motivate others to break away from career-based decisions that quite frankly are not fit for purpose. New talent can learn from these stories and perhaps relate to the actions taken by others. Suffice to say that Samual is a character that promotes self-worth, ambition and a strong work ethic.
From my own experience, accountants rely on their high level of attention for detail, the ability to find problems and time management skills. These traits were all mentioned during the course of this interview. On reflection, he found dormant skills that he obtained from his academic grounding useful and far from obsolete when handling movie budgets.
The paint had just dried, so to speak, on the production of the new thriller, “Sweepers“. If celebrations were not enough, it was also Samuel’s birthday. Despite those obstacles, I was lucky to talk to him about his professional and personal journey fresh off the Hollywood movie set.
Opportunities in movie production
An undergraduate in accountancy based in Nigeria, there were few opportunities to break free from credible traditional choices that offered long term financial security. The dream was to pursue a career in movie production, but the chance to gain a qualification or experience in that field was few and far between.
Undeterred, Samuel started a blog, reviewing websites, predominantly on Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry. Nobody showed any interest in his offering, but a friend persuaded him to chase his dream, and so he then went on to apply to a film school in Los Angeles.
Did you meet any opposition from your parents?
I was extremely fortunate; my parents supported my decision to pursue an alternative path, but this was not unconditional. The stipulation was that I had to qualify as an accountant before moving to Los Angeles, which I honoured. Following that, and within three months, I moved over to Los Angeles.
Choice of location
Did you have a choice in Location?
Yes, there were three options open to me; London, Ney York, and Los Angeles. There was serious consideration given to a move to London, a vibrant movie industry coupled with the fact that I had friends there made it a formidable contender.
The weather was the main obstacle; it wasn’t a perfect fit coming from a Nigerian climate. However, Los Angeles was and still is one of the most recognised movie capitals globally, and the temperature was moderate, so that sealed the deal for me.
Observe and learn
Were the streets paved with Gold?
The move to Los Angeles was far from easy; I had some savings, which looking back now, gave me the start that I needed. However, as a student, I had to keep my head down and study as I couldn’t work on a student Visa. So I took every opportunity to observe and learn as much I could when possible. The streets were far from paved in Gold, there were so many people who wanted to be in this industry, and I watched many fail as they could no longer afford to pay their rents.
The Movie Industry as a whole is hugely competitive; in my first year, the competition was fierce, and there are occasions where your mind can fill with self-doubt. Networking and meeting people were essential in overcoming that, I needed to connect with people, and to an extent, the concept of networking is still necessary today. The building of relationships and a strong work ethic is something that I attribute to developing a career in this industry.
“It’s not always about what you know; it’s who you know that really matters”.
How would your friends describe you?
They would tell you that I’m easygoing, that I can be a bit of a joker and that I make friends quickly.
What things do people not know about you?
The Nigerian lifestyle meant that I spent a lot of time playing football. As a direct result, in my spare time, I support Manchester United.
“I’m my own critique; the storyline must be good. If it isn’t, people aren’t fully invested in your movie”.
What type of movies do you like making?
I’m very passionate about the thriller genre, although I am up for experiencing most.
Film production work ethic
Can you describe your work ethic?
I value time, and although there never seems to be enough of it to most people, I always try to find time to do the things that I love.
I love fitness; I ensure that I go to the gym six times a week, eat a balanced diet and find time to write. In my case, a solid and balanced work ethic helps me to be more productive and efficient.
Is social media critical to your sector?
Yes, it’s very vital, especially to independent filmmaking. The building of an audience is critical to growing a fan base. Engaging people to react and interact can make all the difference.
Covid hurt, but as a direct result, it created a hunger in my industry. Independent filmmakers are producing movies using social media to their advantage and often competing. Just like the changes we witnessed in the music sector, we can now see impacting film production. There are more distribution platforms than ever before, meaning more opportunities for filmmakers to get their work out to the audience, rather than just traditional formats.
“It has never been a better time to get involved with the movie industry”.