(Based on true events)
Introduction by: Elena ‘L’ Mejía J.
‘Whether we realise it or not, stories make the core of our being. We are all made up of stories.’
And for Cynthia, especially in the case of movies, we can also see the possibilities of who we can be. Cynthia is immensely inspired by this projection of the present, of possible futures and of passions nurtured. This led to such a strong connection to each different story that she ended up dreaming of being a filmmaker herself.
From wanting to be paediatrician and later a scientist to now working in a medical laboratory, Cynthia doesn’t want just one dream. She wants to be the source of stories that hold many dreams, the scriptwriter of the dreams of a new Nigerian generation. To start off on a good foot, she found the support of a whole community of creatives from many fields. She has the certainty that by putting her writing on to every screen that has captured her country’s (and the world’s) attention, she can connect the dreams of so many people.
But how can dreams be possible without speaking about truthful realities? How can I be inspired by a movie if I don’t feel like me or my community’s story is portrayed there?
As Cynthia put it: ‘People are being fed recycled stories, I don’t see us there. I don’t want to play it safe.’
Cynthia is bold. She knows that the dream of gender equality, true cultural diversity, or social justice cannot be achieved without putting actual people’s stories front and centre. Even though it may be filled with hurtful troubles, it is necessary.
Nonetheless, she also knows it is not a solitary road. Every film she makes must be able to bring families, children and communities along for the journey. This is why we can see in her work the poetry of the day-to-day lives of people that can also be fun sometimes.
Knowing this brings even more meaning to the name of her platform, Trendy Media Production. The word ‘trend’ doesn’t just refer to screens or techniques, but to current issues that affect women and children, to the main struggles people face in the present, to reaching communities with free screenings, and so much more.
Her work is impactful, shifting minds, going inside our day-to-day to show us how big societal problems intersect with our lives. And she does so in a way that we can see ourselves in her films.
This is how Cynthia is Doing Things with Stories.
Note: Some names and events were changed due to privacy reasons, but the story remains largely true.
INT. LIVING ROOM – NIGHT
It’s a pretty warm night as the entire family sits in the living room watching an old Nigerian movie. CINDY, however, sits intently, with her eyes and full attention glued to the television screen.
Cindy, go and get me water to drink.
You’re so focused on the movie like you have an exam
to write on it.
Cindy says nothing as she gets up to bring her mum some water. As she walks away, she doesn’t take her eyes off the screen. She rushes out and rushes back in with a bottle of water and a glass for her mum. Her attention is between pouring the glass of water and the movie on the TV screen. She spills some water on her mum absentmindedly, and receives some serious scolding for it.
A FEW YEARS LATER:
INT. CINDY’S ROOM – DAY
Cindy is in her dorm room, sitting upright on her bed and reading a novel, when she hears a knock on the door.
PERSON AT THE DOOR
(fake gothic voice)
It’s a ghost.
Daniel, you can’t even be serious. Come inside.
DANIEL opens the door and walks into the room. He sits on the bed beside her.
Feeling like you know my voice that well. What if
it was an actual ghost?
But you aren’t a ghost, are you?
You can’t be so sure, can you?
Cindy rolls her eyes.
What are you reading?
Cindy nods, then drops the book aside.
Nothing much, I just said let me come and see you.
Any latest business ideas? ‘Cos I know you breathe
business ideas daily.
My problem with you is that you know me too well.
That’s how best friends do.
I was thinking of setting up a company that allows
screenwriters to get hired easily.
Think about it. There’s good money in that.
Like how much?
You could get paid about 5 million naira for a
Yes, of course.
Truth is, I’m not really concerned about the money here, I’m more concerned about the stories we tell. If I want to do this, it’s because I want to change the narrative in the Nollywood space.
Right! Money is not the main motivation for me either.
We need script writers who can do better to tell
Thank you for bringing this up. Screenwriting is one dream of mine I haven’t paid much attention to. I think I’ll begin to nurture that dream.
Way to go!
Cindy gets up from the bed.
Let me get you something to eat.
EXT. BALCONY – DAYS LATER
Cindy is seated at her balcony with a tab, a notebook and a pen. She scrolls through her tab and she uses her teeth to hold her pen. A video starts to play from her tab—it’s an introductory course to screenwriting. She listens and takes down notes.
A YEAR LATER:
INT. BEDROOM – NIGHT
It’s COVID year, and it’s been six months of lockdown already.
Cindy sits on her bed and she thinks of next steps in her life.
It’s been a whole year of reading scripts and learning
how to write a script. I think it’s time I wrote my
But where do I start? What stories do I write? I
should probably start with short films.
Cindy proceeds to YouTube to watch as many short films as she can. She changes her position at intervals. She’s been on this for close to two hours. She pauses the current short film she’s on.
Hmm… I think I like how short films are structured. Though short, you can get the message of the film instantly.
So, I need to find a theme to write a short film on.
Cindy proceeds to write down a long list of topics she cares about, like self-love, mental health, purpose, family, domestic violence, toxic parenting, gender roles. It’s a long list she’s put down. She stares at her notepad long and hard and finally settles for gender roles. She still has experiences that trigger from her visit to her cousin’s during the lockdown. Random pictures from things that happened during the lockdown begin to flash in her mind.
INT. DINING ROOM – NIGHT
Cindy’s cousin brings food in a tray for her husband who is seated at the dining table waiting to be served. He eats his food with so much satisfaction, gets up and calls for his wife to take out the empty plate. She somehow gets distracted and forgets to take out the dishes.
INT. BEDROOM – 5 A.M THE NEXT DAY
Cindy’s cousin wakes up to the jolting sound of her alarm clock. She stretches and yawns, then looks over at her husband who is sleeping peacefully and snoring. She puts on her slippers and heads over to her children’s room to get them ready for school. She makes a stop at the dining room and finds the dirty plate from the dish she served her husband the previous night still lying there. She picks up the plate and shakes her head in disapproval.
INT. CYNTHIA’S BEDROOM – NIGHT
Cindy drops a tear and wipes it off immediately.
Now I need a title for my short film.
FIVE MONTHS LATER:
INT. EVENT HALL – DAY
Cindy is in a film festival, right in the middle of a panel as a part of the panelists of selected filmmakers sharing the story behind her debut short film, Keeping It 100.
So, Cindy, tell us, how did Keeping It 100 come
about? Take us through the journey.
Thank you very much for that wonderful question.
Keeping It 100 really started out as a dream for me. A dream that made me realise that dreams certainly do come true. I had a story and through the support of my creative network from Street Project Foundation, I was able to see that dream come alive. The moment people watched my film, Keeping It 100, and began to share their own stories and experiences of gender roles was the moment I realised I had created something powerful and I wasn’t going to stop at one story. After that, I grew the muscle to establish my own company, Trendy Media Production, because I wanted to tell stories that matter, stories that drive change.
The audience reacts with lots of cheering and clapping.
Wow! That’s so inspirational, Cindy. Well done and
congratulations on Trendy Media.