Fum Fum Ko is a Nigerian-American filmmaker and photographer, born and raised in Austin, Texas. Most recently she produced her online comedy web series, Nneka The Uber Driver. Her short film, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: Naija Edition toured the United States and premiered at the 2016 Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles. She is the creator of Art is Cool, a multi service art and media production company specializing in photography, videography, documentary films. In addition to producing, Fum Fum Ko served as the host of Juneteenth Jamboree, a PBS production dedicated to the discussion of Texas Black History. Fum Fum Ko is a storyteller and believes the inspirational truths portrayed in filmmaking can empower us all. Ediale Kingsley speaks with her on the Nneka The Uber Driver series and other matters worth discussing.
Nneka The Uber Driver, how did this whole project got started in the first place and please introduce this series to people haven’t seen it yet?
Fum Fum Ko: Nneka The Uber Driver is centered around a young Nigerian-American woman named Nneka. Nneka is the oldest sibling, a Harvard graduate, and was on track to follow her mother’s dreams and attend medical school and become a doctor. Now, she’s an Uber driver. And mom’s found out. And so have her twin siblings. As she comes to terms with not being the “perfect” Nigerian-American, she is forced to look for what her true purpose in life may be. Nneka is on a journey of discovering her truth and is taking steps towards loving herself. Part of her growth is learning that she has to follow her heart and let go of trying to appease others.
In 2015, I had a full time job at an elementary school as an afterschool director. I signed up to drive for uber on the weekends so that I could make some extra money and buy film equipment. Although, I worked full time, I was constantly working on film projects in my spare time. Uber was a great opportunity to make some money.
I enjoyed Uber driving, and had a lot of funny encounters with Uber passengers. I remember after long nights of uber driving I would go on FB and write about some of the funny encounters. I remember, a film director that I admired, commented on my status and said that “I should make this a webseries”
Around this same time or a few months prior, I met my now producing partner Nickclette Izuegbu. When we first met, we instantly connected. I thought she was hilarious. We wanted to work together but we didn’t have a project in mind yet. After a couple of months, I told her about my idea for a web series centered around a Nigerian-American Uber driver. I remember I had a page of a skit written out. I gave her my notes, and she wrote and an entire episode! We combined our life experiences and came up with Nneka The Uber Driver. I was an uber driver and Nickclette was a Harvard grad.
We shot a pilot episode and it went viral on FB in 2016. This encouraged us to film an entire season 1 which is available to watch on Youtube and Facebook.
The crew and casts aren’t based in Nigeria. But are they all Nigerians?
Fum Fum Ko: Nickclette and I are both first generation Nigerian-Americans and there are a lot of other first generations Nigerian-Americans here and we believe it is important to tell our stories. We don’t see our stories reflected in mainstream media so we decided we should make a show and share it with the world. A lot of the main cast are nigerians including Ngozi Kim and the Wowo Boyz. Evelyn From The Internets is actually first generation Kenyan-American.
What informed the decision to make it a Nigeria themed series?
Fum Fum Ko – It was an organic development. We wanted to share our story, as first generation Nigerian-Americans, with the world. We don’t see that story reflected in mainstream media. A lot of our friends are first generation and we have many similarities when it comes to our upbringing.
Tell us about the funding and share with us some of your basic challenges before, during and after the production
Fum Fum Ko: Funding – we are currently looking for investors and sponsors. It is hard because we do not have a business background. We just like to create. We want our videos to be of high quality but it is hard because we need money to pay a crew (camera operators, grip, sound tech, editor). Right now we do all of this on our own because we don’t have money to pay a crew. We need money for equipment.
How has it been received since launching?
Fum Fum Ko: Great! We’ve received amazing feedback! We have a large Nigerian fan base! It is so awesome reading the comments and many messages that we receive from our Nigerian fan base! The trailer has been well received. We love that so many people all over the world are connecting with our story!
I saw your short film as well — Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. I think you love telling Nigerian Stories. Any particular reason or just the obvious that you are a Nigerian.
Fum Fum Ko: As a first generation Nigerian-American these stories are a reflection of my life experiences and other experiences of Nigerian-Americans.
How do you source your actors?
Fum Fum Ko: We use different online casting/crew sites like Short Film Texas. We also post on FB and IG. Actors we work with introduce us to other actors.
Do you hope to work with Nollywood stars at some point in your career?
Fum Fum Ko: Yes, I’d love work with Nollywood stars.
I know you are based abroad. But I have to ask. Seeing that you make Nigeria themed movies and series. Would you jump at filming a Nollywood movie, for a Nollywood film exec?
Fum Fum Ko: I would love to film a Nollywood film. This is a dream of mine. Also, If we raise enough money, Nickclette and I want to film Nneka The Uber Driver in Lagos.
Who’s your mentor?
Fum Fum Ko: I do not have a mentor at this time.
You have asked for financial sponsors for the NTUD project. How is that going?
Fum Fum Ko: We have one financial sponsor. We need a few more.
What are your future projects like? Help us peep into your future.
Fum Fum Ko: I am currently working on pitching a documentary. I can’t speak too much on it at the moment
How are your parents taking the reality of you being an awesome filmmaker instead of the Medical practitioner they expected you to be?
Fum Fum Ko: My mom is overjoyed that I am pursuing my passion! She is my number one fan! My dad would like for me to have a traditional job and he wants me to do filmmaking on the side.
Which/who is your
— favorite Nigerian movie?
— favorite Hollywood movie?
— favorite Nollywood Actor?
— favorite Hollywood Actor?
Fum Fum Ko – Nigerian Movie/Actress: The Wedding Party, Adesua Etomi
Hollywood Movie/Actress: The Color Purple. I don’t have a favorite actress. I do like Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah.
If you weren’t making films (or acting). What would you be doing?
Fum Fum Ko: I have no idea!
Aside your art, let’s get to meet your person(s)
Fum Fum Ko: I’m a very spiritual person and I enjoy nature, friends, family. I enjoy traveling, walks, learning, laughing, dancing.
I see a lot of dance scenes in NTUD — do you guys dance a lot in real life?
Fum Fum Ko: I love to dance! If I’m out and the music is good, I will dance!
Your favorite Nigerian artiste please?
Fum Fum Ko: Wizkid!!!
OK, it’s been some awesome delight interacting with y’all. Any last lines to your fans in Nigeria?
Fum Fum Ko: We love you and will be there soon for a meet and greet!!!