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Mediablaze meets: Fiz Olajide

Fatmatta Sesay
29th October 2020

“I was super fearless in my twenties, I felt like the world was my oyster and I could do anything. I was thinking about what my next move should be and I thought MTV would be so cool, so I got a job there. My team worked as a middle man between production companies and creative agencies and brands. I would watch the production companies and knew I wanted to work more closely with them. I eventually got a job as a Junior Producer at a documentary film company called ‘Lonelyleap’ where I spent the last 9 years. I'm now leaving to pursue a career as a freelance documentary director.

“My background isn’t in film but I make documentaries and I’m really good at it. Though, I was terrible when I first started. I didn't understand the craft but I learned. It’s an art that I love and respect. I work with some amazing documentary filmmakers. I started in our London office and then moved to New York in 2013. Now, I’m running this documentary company in New York doing amazing things, flying around the world and meeting incredible people.

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“I have just come off a three-week shoot in the [American] South doing my first feature documentary project outside of my company as a Director. It follows a 25-year old bike messenger who decided that he wanted to do a trip where he and a group of cyclists would ride the route of the Underground Railroad. [The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established and used by enslaved African-Americans to escape into free states and Canada]. It’s a story of endurance and fitness; they’re riding 1100 miles across different states. It’s also the story of four black and a Latino cyclists who set out to learn what school didn’t teach them. We interviewed activists and historians and even met with Ahmaud Abury’s family. Aubry was a young man who was racially profiled and murdered by a father and son while out for a run earlier this year. It was important to his family that we share his story and keep his name alive. I think through the film, we have done that. It was a beautiful moment.

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“We [in the UK] don’t get taught much about our own history, our own black history. You have to seek it out and learn it yourself. I think it's great that this month is Black History Month because it helps restart the conversation. I’ve even seen some brands doing some really cool things.

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“For things to be authentically inclusive it's going to take a long time. We have to tell our own stories. It’s one thing having a seat at the table, but we also need a voice. Let us be a part of the creative, the writing, the casting. I want us to be Account Directors and to own production companies. If we’re not at the top, we’re just the worker bees hearing things that we don’t agree with, seeing things that frustrate us but not being in a position to change things. I feel fortunate that I run my company in the New York office. I have an open dialogue with my staff. If a film treatment they are working on doesn’t feel inclusive, they know I will pull them up on it. You can’t have a black female boss and not consider these things. I think it’s cool that we are creating our own magazines, newspapers and platforms. We should create and have things for ourselves but there is also power in joining institutions that have been around for so long.

“I do fear that we may lose momentum. Let’s not think that once we get out of 2020 we can say,‘okay now we can forget about it’. We all still have to have the stamina to keep asking the right questions, having the tough conversations and being really open. The world keeps evolving, these conversations need to evolve with it. A lot of people think that all the injustice in the world will just die out.

Injustice, racism and discrimination will not go away magically just because we are talking about it.

We have to be intentional about being part of the solution and inspiring future generations. That’s my focus anyway. I know that I can’t change the system. It’s a huge task and everyone has to play their own little part.

“We cannot be content or complacent. We are on a journey to equality. You don’t stop halfway. “

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