Today on Pearls And Heels we feature Matrid Wanja Nyagah. Matrid Nyagah is a young passionate filmmaker. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in theatre arts and film production from Kenyatta University. She is a founding director of Udada International Women’s Film Festival. Matrid has been involved in a number of productions locally as a director and producer. These productions include: twists of fate (screened at the Kenya National Theatre), M-Net series – Parasites, love or die, flowers and bricks and Ebru Africa’s short films unseen, in-laws, the needy and our desire. She was one of the jury members of the 2016 edition of Slum Film Festival. She is also a dance choreographer – both traditional and contemporary dance; she has trained, directed and facilitated both national drama and music festival workshops for schools and colleges.
Describe your typical day?
I am self employed/ freelancer so my day is usually not planned to the letter. I wakeup early workout for an hour, make breakfast and start working on my laptop; replying to emails and of course catching myself up with the rest of the world via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
I also read a lot on Women in Film around the world as I would like to have a variety of partnerships for my Uda Internatioal Women’s Film Festival.
I mostly work from the house but will go to the office only when am involved in a production or have meetings.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a lawyer and a surgeon when I grow up. On the other hand, I loved being a performer since I was a kid. I was lucky enough to have very supportive parents. My mother nurtured the confidence I have today. Being shy and unable to express myself as not an option in our family. With time I knew I would be a lawyer/surgeon/ part time performing artist. I am now living the dream; full time filmmaker and greatly involved in the arts.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
If I had the chance to start my career over again I would focus on what I do best (Producing and directing) and strive to excel in it and become an expert.
I would give myself a chance to learn more and exercise a little bit of patience.
I would also run my organization Udada International Women’s Film Festival with a team that entirely is passionate and share the same vision as mine.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
Putting God first in everything I do, being very passionate and determined and lastly having the patience to go for what I want in order to be the best at my skills.
I believe in committing everything I do before my Maker. That is where I get guidance and wisdom to do what I do so as to be the best.
Running a film festival is not easy same as being a producer, it comes with lots of challenges and at times one feels like giving up. What keeps me going is the passion I have for what I do and also the patience to endure all that comes with the job.
As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
As a professional filmmaker, working in Nairobi is quite competitive and challenging as there are so many of us working in the same field. Personally I like it because some of the challenges I face make me want to keep going and work even extra harder.
I am already making it work in the film Industry as I have been able to network with some of the key players in the industry both locally and Internationally. I also mentor some young burgeoning filmmakers through my organization, so I would confidently say that Nairobi is open to what I do.
I believe that it could be better if we would work together rather than against each other then we would definitely raise the standards of our film industry not only in Nairobi but around the country.
What motivates you?
Knowing I have given a project 100%. I am very passionate about what I do some of my friends say I am overly too passionate. I give all the projects that I am involved my full attention. Seeing a project right from the inception all through to the final product being a success really motivates me.
Having people appreciate and applaud me for a job well done motivates me. My family who are my number one supporters encourage and also challenge me to become the best.
Hearing people from different parts of the world talk big about Udada International Women’s Film Festival motivates and challenges me to strive and make it even bigger and most impactful festival in the world.
How do you define success?
Success for me is being an inspiration to others in a very positive way.
Being impactful to the society positively.
Being able to overcome the challenges and struggles that you go through and come out victorious.
Being truthful to yourself and others.
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My dad (Mr. Erasmus Nyagah) has been the greatest inspiration and mentor to me. He has always encouraged and challenged me to strive to be the best in my field and that there is no any other option. He does not take NO for an answer, He is very disciplined and it is because of him that I am self employed and do what I love. Growing up he always taught us that we should have hands on skills and be job creators and not job seekers.
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
One is the fact that I am very flexible so I dictate a lot on what I will do and how I will spend my time.
The process of creating from scratch especially on a production and of course seeing the final product come to fruition successfully.
When running the festival, coming up with programs that will run for the whole week during the festival and going out there to source for funding as I end up meeting a lot amazing people who mentor me along the way to make the festival a success. The opening and closing of the film festival is also one favorite aspect of my job. Standing at the back and seeing how people appreciate and participate in the festival makes me feel so humbled and happy.
What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
Commit yourself and work to your Maker, be humble, passionate, confidence, speak your mind and be honest with yourself first before others.
Have a vision, a goal, a purpose. Value the skill that you have and strive to sharpen it daily so as to stand out, remember you are not the only one in the field.
What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
For somebody starting out I my line of work, I would like to tell them to have a goal/purpose/vision that they are working towards and strive to be the best in their skill. Do not want to do everything and become good at everything as you will end up being half baked. Specialize and have all the knowledge and skills in your field. Strive to always learn and humble yourself.
What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of career?
Seeing the film festival grow from something small and becoming impactful to the society. It has been running for three years and each year has shown a really significant amount of growth generally.
Using the festival as a platform for mentorship programs for the university students studying film and also for the players out there in the industry.
Being a co-producer in a short film we did with students from Hamburg University this year based on a true story about the Mandera Bus Attack.
Being chosen to be vice chair of the AFRICAN WOMEN FILMMAKERS HUB that was Inaugurated in Zimbabwe 2016 during the International Images Film Festival For Women.
What makes you happy?
Being around the people that I love especially my family which always comes first.
Being with my crazy friends and just goofing around which I do a lot.
When I have done my job well and everyone is happy I am happy too.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Cooking, Traveling, listening to good music, dancing, singing and volunteering ( I do this often with young children from a children’s home).
I spend time with my family and travel a lot. It is usually inspiring for me to meet new people and learn different cultures. It makes me appreciate myself and my background more.
I do a lot singing too.
Where you see yourself in around 10 years?
In ten years my festival will be the most impactful and big Film festival that will bring different filmmakers both female and male from different parts of the world where filmmakers will share and exhibit their works, have major co-productions and tell our African stories.
My production house will be one the Top notch recommended production houses that will play a big part in changing the film Industry in Kenya and Africa.
I will also have created job for so many people and mentored them.
I will be one of the best film distributors we will have in Kenya and the rest of Africa.
I will be a mother of many children and a wife to one man.