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Wish You Were Here: An Interview with Ryan Njenga

Tell us about yourself. What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

I’ve always loved art and I loved how films could take you to another world and another place. I don’t think any other art form can do that quite as well. As I grew older, I also grew to love how it encompassed all other art forms - photography, music, acting, blocking, etc.

Director Ryan Njenga

Talk about your last work. What are some of the challenges you faced during production?

WISH YOU WERE HERE was honestly a blast to make - the hardest part was that it took time. We took our time to craft the best story possible and make sure each aspect of the film, from cinematography, production design, music, etc. - was perfect. Honestly, the hardest part might have been just waiting to put the film out haha.

Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project?

I’m obsessed with trying to tell a story in a new and unique way, while still keeping it accessible and relatable. For WISH YOU WERE HERE, I chose a non-linear story structure because it felt the most unique and honest to the point-of-view of going through a break-up – you’re not telling yourself the story of the relationship in order, you’re going through these memories as your emotions take you through, from the middle to the end to the beginning and back again.

With each project, I make sure to collect the best artists around me and give them a position I know they can succeed in. I have a very distinct vision for each project, but I make sure to leave enough room for them to bring their own personality, to make the work come to life. I think following one’s vision too closely leads to a piece of work that likes life and personality.

Who are your filmmaking influencers? What are the films that were influential for you?

Paul Thomas Anderson, Barry Jenkins, Wes Anderson, Atlanta and Stanley Kubrick are my biggest influences, in terms of filmmakers – Punch Drunk Love, The Master and Inherent Vice are some of my favorite films, as well as Moonrise Kingdom and If Beale Street Could Talk. I’m most inspired by Kubrick through his obsessive and dedicated focus on his craft. We don’t get a lot of artists like him anymore.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists? What are some of the things they must follow/avoid?

Just follow your heart and never be afraid to fail. Failure creates experimentation and inspiration.

Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world?

Absolutely. Film is propaganda, film and art in general can start movements and entire mood changes. If the timing is right and the talent is right, you can make something bigger than all of us.

What do you think people like to watch these days? Has the pandemic changed people's taste?

I think right now, people just want relief – it’s been a hard few years and we want joy, we want fun, we want escape. That goes with music and with the movies we’re watching.

Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

We have a lot of exciting projects coming up. The best place to keep up with our work is at @njengafilms on Instagram or my own instagram, @ryannjenga


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