Updated: Jul 28, 2021
Photograph credit: Karl M Lee
Osaretin Oghomwen is a Los-Angeles born director, producer, and filmmaker. Following a successful run on a previous network in 2020, her debut feature film Strip (which was screened at both the Peachtree Village International Film Festival & the Golden gate International Film Festival) is coming to the XOD Network and Smart TV platforms on August 30th. Speaking with Labelleladiva's Lounge, she discussed her journey to becoming a filmmaker, the process of creating Strip, and what it’s like being a director as an African American woman.
Osaretin discovered filmmaking when she was fifteen. Looking through Teen Vogue Magazines at a State Fair, she saw an ad for the New York Filmmakers academy. “It literally felt like a lightbulb went off in my head, it clicked.” She had always considered herself a good writer, and in combination with her appreciation for film, this career path felt like “the perfect marriage.” After high school she went to SUNY Albany, the place where her career as a filmmaker would truly begin.
She joined the Upstate Independents Group, where she would meet experienced people to help her create her first short film. “I persuaded some much older, more exp
erienced people to help me with my short film…that really gave me my start.” The fact that these people were willing to take a chance meant a lot to Osaretin, “the first [film] is really hard. When you have no body of work, it’s hard to get people to take a chance.” She went on to create three short films before beginning to work on Strip. She describes the second one, Goodbye, Apathy, as her favorite short film that she has created. It was picked up by Shorts International, one of the highest praises a short film can receive, “it gave me my confidence to move on to a feature.”
Strip itself was a long process that began almost eight years ago. Just graduating college, she was looking for ideas for a feature when she came up with the idea to explore “how far would someone go to save their Dad?” The film showcases “a dark domino effect” of a daughter who enters the world of erotic dance in order to help her father survive a financial crisis. Seeing the idea come to life has been “surreal.” The film premiered at an Atlanta film festival in October of 2020, describing the positive reaction Osaretin explained that “it really solidifies my confidence as a filmmaker.”
The process of creating the film was not easy, in fact she emphasized that it was “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” Strip was 90% funded by her job as a waitress in Atlantic City. She used her own money to fly out actresses for filming, she even used to carry props in suitcases on the subway in order to ensure that the filming would turn out the best it possibly could. Describing the process of a feature film, she explained that with a big budget a movie can be filmed in merely a few months. Her process of creating Strip, being very different, took almost two years just to film. “I really feel like it’s something I can look back on and be proud that I had the strength.” All of her hard work paid off, as the goal of Strip was to be acknowledged and appreciated as someone who has a talent for direction and filmmaking. “I felt like I had to pull off my first film by myself.”
A recent study found that in America, only 4.3% of directors are women, even less are African American women. This number is shockingly low and is proof of why Osaretin is so important to the film community. She described her experience as “very lonely.” She’s only met “one black female filmmaker” as a teenager in high school. “I wish I had more women that I was acquainted with that could relate to my experience.” The statistics show that she is an outlier, but she made sure to emphasize the fact that these statistics should not distract young women who may share her passion. “I would encourage them to persevere and pursue their passion even if they’re the only one doing it…the fact that you are an outlier later on can help you.”
What’s next for Osaretin? She plans to begin developing more films this fall. “Strip has given me some momentum where I could be given a chance again.” Strip’s success has given her the opportunity to prove that she has what it takes to be successful in the film industry. She does not plan to slow down, “I’m someone you can look out for.” Osaretin’s dedication is an inspiration for all filmmakers, proving that with enough hard work and passion, you can make a good film even without a large budget.
Strip is coming to the XOD Network as well as Apple TV, Android TV, Google Play, and other smart TV platforms on August 30th.