Nosa Eke’s imagination produces fascinating characters and strange environments – and it also inspires her to use technology in wild ways, so she can invite audiences to jump into her worlds.
Nosa Eke is a new breed of storyteller. She made a name for herself by dreaming up characters who you might recognise from your everyday but live in otherworldly places. And her work transcends the traditions of page, stage and screen; her stories are just as likely to come to life in a video game, on a mobile app, or out of the Amazon Alexa adorning your coffee table.
By embracing the possibilities of new technology, Nosa invites her audience to participate. Her ambitious mix of classic and futuristic storytelling won her a spot in the BFI-Flare BAFTA Mentorship programme for emerging LGBTQ+ filmmakers and led to working with tech giants. Google Creative Labs’ director Tea Uglow calls her a “future creative leader” and Apple describes her as a “next-level gaming talent.” She also happens to be black and gay, but she would like you to know that that’s not what this story is about. “I don’t necessarily assign a sexuality to a character,” Nosa says. “It might be rooted in my experiences if that’s what the story is about – or if that’s what it calls for. But it’s more about having a character walking through the world. Nobody is ever saying, ‘Oh, this is a caucasian story’, but I do get a lot of: ‘This is a black story, or this is a queer story.’ Then I’m like, ‘No, this is just a story’.”
Growing up, her sister, Imwen – 17 years Nosa’s senior – took her to the cinema all the time. Here, the sisters bonded, dreamed big and it dawned on her that storytelling could be a job. Nosa’s cinema obsession grew. She made homemade trailers for real – and imaginary – movies, joined a film club in Brixton run by Alison McCloskey, now Project Manager at BFI’s Future Film Academy, and started making short films. She went to the National Film and Television School, received a scholarship and finished her digital series ‘The Grind,’ which screened at the Underwire Festival, Sony Pictures Entertainment studios in LA and elsewhere. ‘The Grind’ told the tale of young London hustlers. Created for YouTube and Instagram, it featured livestreamed, improvised performances where the audience could help shape the story in real-time. ‘The Grind’ opened doors for Nosa to collaborate with new film partners, find mentors and bring to life even more ideas that were percolating in her mind.
“When I was a kid I used to watch a lot of ‘Buffy (the Vampire Slayer)’ and ‘Lost’ and I liked that there was a whole TV aspect, but there was this whole other story told through comics or books,” Nosa says. “‘Lost’ did that web series and left Easter eggs in real life about the show and I just thought that was so cool.” Nosa’s notebook offers a window into her creative process as she flips it open while having a mid-afternoon coffee at Loading, a gaming bar near her East London home. As she writes, a Post-it on the opposite page asks “How does the story work?” and “What are the multiplatform elements?”
Why is she so passionate about making stories for apps like Instagram, Periscope or Unrd (a free app that delivers interactive stories by mimicking the texts, videos and streaming features of WhatsApp)? “I want to be able to tell stories that people can access,” she says. “People say ‘These are the platforms,’ but I always like to make a point of saying available platforms. I don’t want it to be something like opera where not everyone can afford to go there and see that. I want to make things where the audience can get to the content and not hit a big paywall. That’s really important.”
Over the last year, Nosa has been busy developing original works through the BFI-Flare BAFTA Mentorship programme with her mentor Wayne Yip, who she shadowed as he directed ‘Doctor Who’. With the BFI, she’s working on an interactive feature film that will be told through tech and fashion and her first traditional short inspired by early Spielberg and her own experience. The story is about a LGBT teen who wants to come out but her fear takes form as a monster in the closet.
On top of that, she’s writing a game for EA Games and the BBC have approached her to help write a series for Amazon Alexa. “A voice device is sort of a nascent platform at the moment,” she says. “It’s coming up, but there’s just a whole other world of opportunities. The main challenge is that you can’t necessarily see anything. Usually in film, you would cut to an extreme close-up to show something super important, but you can’t do that in a voice device. So how do you bring people’s attention just to that? It might be in the dialogue, or sound design. Figuring that out is fun.”
So where do these ideas for characters, new media combinations and parallel worlds come from? When she’s not happily writing in her room at home, surrounded by favourite books, music and art from friends, Nosa says she loves to skateboard. Last year, she joined @Sibling_LDN, an inclusive group of skateboarders that describes its more than 100 members as "LGBTQIA+, people of colour, womxn, trans and non-binary people." What motivates her most, she says, is simply being around people who are free to be themselves.
NOSA EKE’S ADVICE FOR FUELLING YOUR CREATIVITY
Reach out to the best mentors you can find.
Professionally stalk people on social media, just follow them. It can’t hurt to put a question out there and ask them if you can have a coffee and give me some advice. A lot of the mentors I have, it kind of snowballed that way into amazing friends now. Put yourself in the best position for things and hopefully something happens.
Use the digital content around to fire up your imagination.
Go to who you really admire and see if you can find an interview on YouTube. That helps quite a bit actually. Listen to music. Before I start a project, I will always make a playlist of songs that I think go well with the tone or a certain character, so if I’m writing a scene for that character, I put that playlist on and let the ideas come.
New technology inspires new possibilities.
Ten years ago a lot of this stuff wasn’t possible, now it is and you can kind of get to it and manipulate the tech in any way that you want to. It’s really interesting for me to get a challenge and say, “This is a new platform: how can I mold what it does best to the best of my storytelling abilities. When you try to mix that in an authentic way, it’s hopefully a good story. It’s bringing something new into the world.
You don’t actually know your limits.
You can’t reach the dream if you never go for it. You won’t be able to do it unless you try. And you might as well try. It’s worked out pretty well so far. Everyone has a phone in their back pocket so there’s nothing stopping us now.
At Accenture, it is our core belief that each of us should be able to bring our true selves to work. It’s something we live by every day. It is this freedom that allows us to do our best work and contribute forward-thinking ideas; it makes us more creative and enables innovation to flourish. With stories like this one, we celebrate individuals who are re-shaping culture, embracing the new, changing the narrative for their community, unlocking overlooked potential, and challenging outdated expectations. Find out more about Accenture’s commitment to creating a supportive environment where everyone can thrive.