Stephanie Dadet is crafting the African story through film and TV

Destiny reveals itself in many ways, and for Stephanie Dadet, film and television were written in her stars.

From watching TV in her parent’s living room to creating some of Nigeria’s most captivating TV shows, Stephanie Dadet was born for greatness in the Nollywood industry and has the statistics to prove it. Writing for films like “Slum King,” “Diiche,” “Agu,” and “The Ripples” is no easy feat, but through these films, Stephanie Dadet displays her indubitable passion for storytelling through film.

In this week’s #MCNWorkLife, we dive into the works and wonders of Stephanie Dadet. In her various roles as screenwriter, producer, director, and managing director of 268 Entertainment, Stephanie details her love for the pen and film and her journey through the Nigerian film industry.

Tell us, who is Stephanie Dadet?

I am an all-round creative. I love creating story worlds that are complex and interesting. As a person, I am complicated. I am an introvert, and I enjoy the simple things in life.

What was your childhood dream job, and how did it translate to your current work?

From the very beginning, I knew I wanted to work in film. I watched movies inside as a child because I didn’t want to go outside.

How did you discover your love for the film industry?

Like every typical filmmaker or creative, this wasn’t the plan my parents had for me. My first degree was in business, and I didn’t want it. But I fell in love with the industry. Whenever I could leave school to come to Lagos, I met filmmakers who invited me to shoots and events. Some were willing to listen to ideas, read stories, and give feedback. Nollywood has always been an industry I’ve loved and knew I would end up in. I didn’t know how, but I knew it would happen, and here I am.

What came first for you between writing, directing, and producing?

Writing. Writing remains my first love. Funny story; I hated directing. I was forced to do it by my producer. For production, I applied to a film school, and when I did that, I got a call back from the course supervisor. And he told me I would do better in production, and that’s what I studied in film school. However, writing remains my number one priority.

Tell us about your writing process and what inspires you.

My inspiration for stories and writing comes from the things around me. From my friends’ stories to a random altercation on the road or a conversation I eavesdrop on to simple and plain boredom, my inspiration comes from life and living. You know the saying, ‘art imitates life’. That’s how I would summarise my inspiration.

You have worked as a screenwriter for various TV shows like “Diiche,” “Slum King,” “Agu,” and “Ripples: The New Generation.” Tell us about your writing process and what inspires you throughout your creative process.

Passion keeps me inspired. I love what I do and the people I work with. Because these projects are different and have distinctive parts, I’ve gotten to experience other people with different ideas. Working with them keeps me inspired and fired up to do more with my talent. So, both my passion, the community of writers I have found through working on various projects, and my support system have inspired me.

In your role as director, you have worked on various projects like “The Big Book of Lies—Unbridled” for Accelerate Plus, and the upcoming 5-part TV series “Anatomy of a Predator,” amongst others.

What has directing been like for you, and how do you ensure the actors are on board with your ideas and execution style?

Directing has been fun. I didn’t know it would be this fun, but it has been fun. Fortunately, I have worked with several international directors, from commercials to TV and film. Working with various people has helped me become the director I am today.

My first process is casting. I am passionate about casting because the right actor for the proper role is essential, and I take my time to find the right person. I only care how long it takes once I find the person. It’s not only about the looks but also the performance. I’m not a technical director, so I love to pay attention to the actors’ performances.

My second process is with the director of photography. I’m not a technical director because they know their work and what to do. I can trust my DOP to understand what I want from the film after we discuss the direction I’m hoping for. After doing that, my focus remains on the actors and the performance.

I speak to my actors to ensure they are comfortable on and off-set. I make sure I talk to them before, during, and after shooting to get their thoughts on their parts, what they would like to do, and what they feel like adding or taking out of their performance. When the actors are comfortable with what they’re doing, and the process feels authentic to them, my work as a director becomes more straightforward, and everything is seamless.

You also function as the managing director of 268 Entertainment. How did that come into play?

It is a company I own. It is still tied to my work in South Africa and has little to do with Nigeria. However, I’m considering creating more home-based content through 268 Entertainment in the coming years.

How do you balance your roles as a screenwriter, director, producer, and managing director of a production company?

I don’t know how to do it. I only do some simultaneously; I take it project by project. I can work on two projects at once but in different capacities. I never functioned in two roles on one project.

What has been the most significant motivating factor in your career so far?

My biggest inspiration is being part of an industry that has grown massively in the past few years. Nollywood is my biggest inspiration. Compared to 20 years ago, our industry’s quality is outstanding. Being part of it makes me feel good because I am a part of the Nollywood story. Nollywood has much more to offer, and it’s encouraging to see.

As a woman in the film industry, what do you think is the most prominent challenge women in your profession face when advancing their careers?

Being in a male-dominated industry is scary. You walk into a room, and all the producers and directors are men. It can be difficult. Unlike corporate work, your work speaks for itself in the film industry. As a woman, even though it’s scary when you walk into a room, only five are there out of 50 producers and directors. At the same time, it means they know what they’re doing, and for you to be there, it means you know what you’re doing, and you’re good at it too, and nobody can take your place or what you do.

Sometimes, people can be sexist, but with the current climate we are in, people have become more respectful than they were before. We’re not facing the same challenges that women used to meet in previous eras. As a woman, I haven’t exactly faced any gender-based challenges. The only limitations I’ve encountered are self-imposed.

What initiatives have you participated in to promote gender equality and support other women throughout your career?

I do a lot of personal mentoring. From writing to producing and directing, most of the people I mentor are women, and they are primarily writers. I’m lucky enough to bring these people into the field through simple DM mentorship. I always recommend my mentees if I find myself in a position where I can’t do everything independently.

Tell us about the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career and how you dealt with it.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced is my career itself. It differs from a regular 9-5 because you’re moving from project to project. Staying motivated during dry seasons is difficult, especially at the beginning of your career. Reminding yourself that you are passionate and constantly grinding is a lot of work and can make you want to give up. You just have to be honest about what’s possible and what’s not. Finding something to hold on to is the only way I handle it.

Tell us about a work accomplishment you’re proud of and how you made it a reality.

‘Unscripted’ is a project that I’m very proud of. It started as a joke for us, but the entire process was exciting. We set out to have fun on that project, and we did. Every single part was terrific and seamless, from the production to the post-production process.

How would you describe a day in your life?

I work till weird night hours, like 4 a.m., and then I go to bed. I wake up at 8 or 9 a.m., and there’s a bit of procrastination, but I get up and review the previous day’s work before I start. I always ensure I don’t do anything for at least three hours daily. On most days, I’m a procrastinator, and I love the high energy of deadlines, so I tend to put things together at the last minute because it feels better.

What brings you the most joy in life?

Peace of mind. I am generally happy, so I love having peace of mind. Peace of mind can come from various places, like having enough money in your account.

How do you prioritise your physical and mental well-being?

I just started taking care of myself properly this year. I used to pride myself on being a workaholic and wasn’t checking in on myself. I thought that was how I was supposed to live until I realised how bad that was. It took a toll on my health and affected my work quality. It made me realise that nothing is ever ‘that deep’ and helped me calm down. That’s when I began to take three hours out of the day to rest. If something isn’t working out, I step back and do nothing for a while. I take my breaks very seriously, and this December, I will not be working to prepare for the following year.

What do you like the most about the work you do?

Entertaining people. I love the audience’s reaction and excitement to what we put out. I love it when people like the work that I do. Sometimes, I go on Twitter and see the banter, or on Facebook, I see people analysing the show. It makes me feel good. When the audience loves my work, it shows me that I’m on the right track, and that’s what I love the most about it.

Out of curiosity, have you ever had a fan pester you for details about the end of a film?

The wildest fan I have on my case is my sister. She threatens me and follows me everywhere to find out what will happen next. She’s my most obsessed fan.

What would you change if you were to do things differently in your career?

I would’ve loved to believe in myself a bit more. If I had, I would’ve fought for my career more and done more earlier. That’s the only thing I would change. No regrets, though.

What advice would you give someone looking to start a career in film?

Just do it. The little voice in your head is only there to scare you. If the voice is loud, you’re going in the right direction. Self-doubt tends to grow louder when you are on the right track. You don’t have to figure anything out immediately, so just find out what you’re good at and do it. Don’t be scared, make mistakes, and have fun; make sure you learn.

Can you give us a tip you swear by for maintaining a healthy work-life balance?

Always take time out for yourself. Take that time off, go out, buy something nice, and have the spa day you deserve. Nothing will ever be perfect, so do what you can and rest when necessary.



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