From separating solutions and combining molecules, trained Chemical Engineer, Xavier IGHORODJE is crafting the life of his dreams as a screenwriter, producer, and content creator & developer resident in Lagos Nigeria.
“As a child, a toddler, I was fond of tearing out leaves off my school note-books to draw out cartoon or movie characters and act up film and movies. So fast forward past me being involved as the drama unit leader as a children’s teacher in the church, I brought my artsy background into university and pretty much started writing stage plays on the side.”
Like most Nigerian parents hoping for a better life for their children, the senior Mr. Ighorodje had pressed Xavier to apply for a scholarship to run a Masters program in the UK.
“I declined for a couple of reasons. I honestly felt scholarships were a long shot; if you wanted me to do the masters, have the fees upfront. Plus as an engineer, I would be in a pool of several good or average engineers. However, as a writer, I was convinced I could be one of the best in my profession. We argued, went back and forth, I stuck to my guns and here I am.”
Many people would envy this courage. But he confesses that it wasn’t always rosy.
“There were of course very bad days, like the year 2014 was one of my darkest years. I resigned from a content creation job that no longer brought me joy. I had no funds. Depression set in. It got to a point that I started customizing tees to make ends meet. But I’m grateful that it didn’t break me and… drum rolls here I am. Taadaa! ☺”
Like most young entrepreneurs and creatives, Xavier noted poor power supply as one of the biggest challenges he deals with. With most of his job happening virtually on a computer, access to regular power supply was and remains a vital factor. He talks about how he has survived to date.
“Initially it used to be a quiet work-space with the power supply to work off from, then I got my office, then I moved my office to my apartment where I could afford relatively uninterrupted power supply.”
These days, he is more concerned about getting more work than he can physically handle and already sees a need to train writers to help out.
“But a lot of writers are unwilling to learn and simply not just good enough or they run the moment they see how creatively and mentally demanding the job is. But still, we move!”
However, something he has learned now is that the waiting for the breakthrough is the hardest part. “But it doesn’t happen once. There are several moments in your life requiring that you be patient. “… be patient. Be tough. Someday the pain will be useful to you.”
Advising young writers in the industry, he says, “Polish your skills, get a fire spec script that can be shot on a low budget and copyright it. Get an accompanying treatment for the script. Send the treatment out, then the script. Keep your fingers crossed. Be very patient with yourself. Do not let social media fool you; a lot of stars are really broke. Focus on monetizing your art, not posing for the internet and hopefully, we’ll have nice tales to share when our paths cross.”
He noted that talent is not enough. He shared more nuggets for aspiring writers looking to have their words acted out on screen.
“Talent can only get you so far”, he said. “There is the discipline that comes from actually taking out time to study the skills of your craft. There is dedication that pushes you through the abyss of financial brokenness, disappointments, and failed relationships. There is humility to understand that you know nothing and not try to prove yourself in a room of a better or more decorated writer, but instead listen and learn.”
“There are a lot of things to learn by understudying a working writer that books or the internet will never show you. You also need to be dependable. Clients will set unreasonable deadlines and unless you’re in a position to ignore that deadline, your word should be your bond at all times. Then patience in excess, the only way to persevere in this craft is patience, if not you’ll easily get disappointed when the perceived rewards are not forthcoming.”
“You cannot also always forget the place of people who believe in you enough to either train you or trust in the brilliance of your ideas enough to financially commit to them. I’ve got two of such people in my life and most of the early work I did and still do are from these people.”
“Lastly, and I’d like to stress this, my career path is a little different from most people, so I can only speak for myself. But I had anonymous spiritual leaders (Pastors) who didn’t even know what I wanted to do with my life, walk up to me and tell me that they had heard from God that I was supposed to stay on this path. I can never underestimate the direction and focus that knowing God wanted me to do this gave to me. So I don’t know what whoever is reading this serves, but this is genuinely my story.”
Admitting that not all the popular stories in the industry are good stories but got out there because of amazing marketing and star power, he believes there is a lot of room for improvement and growth.
“This is a beautiful thing because we haven’t even started to tell the stories that matter to us yet. But we are getting there. I am speaking specifically about the ‘film’ industry. Not TV. Generally, for the TV and film industry, this is a seeming golden age. Content has never been this high in demand at any point in time in the world. So imagine the possibilities if more TV networks arise and tap into this. Imagine if NTA begins to commission projects as they did back in the days. Imagine if HiTV didn’t fold up. The more players are in that space, the better for everyone.”
The screenwriter opined that TV projects are usually more organized when he was asked the difference working on TV and feature films. “With the exception of One Chance, which I co-created and wrote for Ndani TV and a couple of others, most of my known work for TV is usually commissioned by Africa’s largest television network – MNET. There is a level of precision that comes with your deliverables from the development of these ideas till when you see it on screen. To put it precisely, the TV industry is a lot more organized overall. For film projects, there is a lot less discipline in that industry, unless the work is commissioned by a network or one of the more popular studios.”
Working mainly in the filmmaking industry, he also has other projects at hand. “There is a book project I have been working on for a while and I started my content creation company last year. Creating this balance is not an easy feat. But I have the help of a strong support system to always help get me mentally on track when I derail.”
On what’s next, he says, “Marriage to the love of my life and more TV Shows. Besides my normal MNET job, I am working on a TV show and a film next year. Then there is a cooking show being pitched to a major network. Then hopefully, I get around finishing the first draft for the