Kevin Nwankwor is a current New York Film Academy film student, whose Tempting Fate won four out of five Doves at the Dove Foundation. We sat down and talked to Nwankwor about his latest works, the early years of his career, and what he plans to do next.
Tell us a little about your film.
Nwankwor: Tempting Fate is a movie about two brothers, one of deep faith and the other buried in a life of crime, their worlds are torn apart when the wrong brother goes to jail and the other commits an unforgivable act.
The older brother, Edu, is a talented singer. He is calm, reflective and peaceful. He relies on his spirituality and the love of his wonderful girlfriend, Tracey, to help him combat a life-threatening illness.
On the other hand, Ugo is hotheaded, impulsive and at times a menacing human being. He finds himself wrapped in a life of crime which he knows will lead him down a path of destruction, but it’s not an easy one to leave; a point his gang leader Scorpion has made clear.
In an attempt to get money for a lifesaving procedure for his brother, Ugo triggers a chain of events that sends their worlds crashing. The film deals with themes of love, betrayal, and forgiveness.
You started your film career here at NYFA. What was the transition, from student to professional, like?
Nwankwor: It was not easy. First, there was this fear of failure. Then doubt sets in. But again, I must commend NYFA instructors because they took their time to really open my eyes to the “make believes” that happens in movies, not only by teaching but also sending us links to materials and showing us where we can get discounts as filmmakers.
My experience at NYFA made the transition an easy one, but above all the huge support from my family including my wife, Unoma Nwankwor, who is an award-winning author, my two kids, my special uncle who is also my Executive Producer, my Mum, and parents-in-law is what made the transition smooth.
Assistant Director is notoriously one of the most physically and mentally challenging jobs on set. What did your time as an AD teach you about the filmmaking process?
I worked as a Director in three of my movies and as an Assistant Director in two other movies. To be successful as an assistant director, you really have to work with a director that knows what he is doing – a director that knows his stuff. The worst thing that can happen to you as an AD is to work on an unprofessional set.
Yes, it is your duty as the assistant director to run the set but, unfortunately, if the director is unprofessional, late to sets, and the members of the crew are the director’s family members and you are kind of in a position where you know things are wrong but unfortunately your hands are tied you can only make the best of your situation.
Yes, I love it when I work as an assistant director but with a professional crew life is easier for you. Working as a producer / director… has been a pleasant journey for me especially with the skills I acquired from NYFA in terms of movie budgeting and scheduling. Before I started at NYFA, I was passionate about filmmaking. I knew what I wanted. NYFA groomed me and equipped me with skills towards my vision of making exceptional movies not just to entertain but also to inspire, motivate, and change lives.
What were you feeling the first time your film premiered?
Nwankwor: Hmmm – Tears, tears, and more tears. I trusted God all the way. I had some doubts along the way, tried to quit at some point but realized that quitting was not an option. But the very day the movie premiered I was filled with tears especially because I knew that I created a movie that made people cry and rejoice when they left the theater. Listening to their testimonies and reviews was fulfilling for me.
Now that you’ve shown your film, are you looking for distribution?
Nwankwor: Yes, we are seeking distribution for TV and another medium. We are currently on Pay-Per-View Stage on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play but we are in talks with Netflix at the moment and hopefully some other distribution companies. We made a Spanish dub of the movie so it’s available in Spanish and English.
What advice would you give to current students looking for success?
Nwankwor: Nothing is impossible. It all starts with overcoming fear. When I made my first budget it was $500K. I did not have $400 in my account… but I went on my knees asking God to direct me to the right person. The first person I pitched this project to was the last person I was expecting to act because he doesn’t look like a man that has a passion for entertainment.
But as God will have it, he believed in me and invested in the project and me. Soon the film was made. So, don’t be discouraged, be tenacious, work hard, have a positive attitude and above all believe in your project because if you do not, no one will, and if you believe that it will succeed then you will be willing to take the risk. No success without risk, even if it does not come immediately. It will surely come, so stay focused.
What’s up next for you?
Nwankwor: I am currently working on two projects now: Selina, a collaboration with Nachipala Productions, and Muna, which is my next feature film. My goal is to complete this new phase I started with NYFA. With the support from NYFA, I would like to go back to Africa and help the youths to hone their skills and talents in filmmaking and acting.
You can find more about Tempting Fate and Nwankwor’s other works at www.facebook.com/TemptingFateFilm/ and on Instagram and Twitter at @knn335.