GUAP Interviews: Multidisciplinary Visual Artist; Safeen James On Short Film ‘1 In Our Hands’ [@safeenjames]

Safeen James

Tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Safeen James and I am a British born Nigerian. I consider myself to be a multidisciplinary visual artist. My work discusses themes around cultural identity and is almost a manifestation of my thoughts of the community I belong to. Whether that’s in the UK or Nigeria.

What inspired you to do what you do?
I’m inspired by the notion that Stories keep ideas of people alive. I believe it will keep us connected to people even after we’re gone. And so far it has kept me connected to my own cultural heritage. So I continue to create, in hopes that these stories will uphold ideas that can outlive me.

What was the biggest challenge when creating this film? 
The biggest challenge was actually trying to identify the difference between coming across as a representative voice of young Native Nigerians and just making a contribution to this conversation. My goal was the latter and it was a challenge to figure out how to communicate that visually. I have to acknowledge that I am a Nigerian in Diaspora discussing a Native Nigerian issue so I had to continuously check that this project did not come across as a saviour’s complex.

Safeen James

What was the funniest thing that happened on set?

In the film there’s a panning scene where a tyre is burning whilst money is falling. It took about 2 hours to finally get this tyre burning, so we had to quickly capture the shot, before the fire went out again. We start rolling, the assistants on set are literally throwing money in the air whilst running after the camera to make sure it’s all in shot (an extreme sport). I then yell cut. Only to find that the camera wasn’t even recording anything the whole time. So every person on set looks at each other and without even being told just started to pick up all this fake money off the floor. We just silently took that L. It really wasn’t funny in that moment but we can laugh about it now.

What are some of the highlights/successes you’ve had most recently?

Well I’ve just graduated from London College of Fashion! I studied Creative Direction for Fashion. I’m grateful to have made it out in one piece, given the current climate. Since releasing the film I have held a panel discussion and screening where I was able to get a public opinion about the project; which was a really humbling experience. And I recently joined the team at Nataal Magazine as an Art Director so I am excited for that journey and how it will help me grow as a creative and filmmaker.

Safeen James

What’s next for you on your journey?

To keep discussing these social and cultural issues that are relevant to the community that I belong to. So the hunt for stories continues. I intend to enter some more film festivals to give these stories a better reach. And I’m really keen on finding other creatives to learn from and collaborate with.

What would be your advice to other young film makers? 

Value your agency! The creative space is flooded with incredibly talented practitioners and you’re one of them! As young filmmakers, we have much to learn but that doesn’t mean our ideas shouldn’t be valued.

See Also

Experiment! Try different techniques. Watch tutorials. Test with different cameras. As a filmmaker, you might not always be editing or handling a camera, but it’s important to have this knowledge so that you are able to communicate exactly what you want to crew members using technical language.

Do research! Even in fields outside of Film. This will help you to have well informed and refined contributions to the creative space that you are trying to take up.

Finally, Be true to yourself and genuine with your practice. A film is a form of communication, if you’re going to communicate anything let it be from a place of authenticity and in its truest form. 

Safeen James

Check out the GUAP Arts & Culture section, to discover new art, film, and creative individuals. 

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