Many Nigerians fell in love when Ndani TV’s Skinny Girl in Transit began its first season. It was unlike anything we’d ever had, and we wanted more of that fresh, entertaining, authentically Nigerian originality. Soon, another Ndani TV series, Rumour Has It, followed, and viewers were on cloud 9. Joy Ehonwa had 10 questions for the delightful, multi-talented Dami Elebe, who wrote SGIT Season One and is a co-writer on Rumour Has It.
CN: Until recently, most people knew you as a radio presenter with Beat FM. How did your screenwriting career begin; is it what you’ve always wanted to do, or did it take you by surprise?
DE: Screenwriting began before the radio presenting even took off but I just wasn’t established. I didn’t have anything produced; it was basically me, my family and my laptop that knew I could write. I always had stories in my head and felt I could be a novelist but when it comes to writing I am better at dialogues than the description. This was how I knew books weren’t it. I had to find a way to write just the dialogues. So in 2009 I started teaching myself how to write scripts and here we are today.
CN: What is the most challenging aspect of your work as a screenwriter?
DE: Believe it or not, naming my characters. Sometimes I have to go searching for names because, for some reason, I find it so hard to name anything. When the name eventually comes, it sticks. I try not to make my characters’ names sound fake so I always research and make sure it is as realistic as possible. If my characters lack a good name how can I hope to build a great character?
CN: What do you consider to be the best career decision you have ever made?
DE: Not quitting. I was about to give up on writing until Ndani TV took a chance on someone who had no portfolio.
CN: What would you say is the formula for a hit TV series?
DE: Drama. Might sound silly but the truth is people love to watch other people’s drama and comment. This is the formula for Nigeria. We might love other kinds of shows from the international database but some of them do not go with our Nigerian realities so it could be lost on a viewer but we love drama.
CN: What’s the worst thing that can happen in your line of work?
DE: People hate your story, your script. If they hate it in a “don’t bother to make corrections’ way, this to me is the worst. Because making up stories is so hard to do, seeing your hard work being tagged as garbage is horrible. It’ll even be worse if someone produced it thinking it would be a hit because they trusted your judgement, only for the viewers to tear it down. It could be disheartening.
CN: Which of the characters you’ve created is your favourite?
DE: That’s like having children and asking which one I prefer. I love all my characters. There is really no favourite, they all make up the story and I cannot pick. Honestly.
CN: Which songs motivate you?
DE: It depends on what I need motivation for. For example, when I paint or sculpt, I love listening to alternative music like Damien Rice. It really depends on the mood I am in, what I am doing and what I need the motivation for.
CN: What kinds of gifts do you like to receive?
DE: Anything thoughtful and useful. I hate “just pretty” gifts. I like gifts that mean the person really thought about it, knows I needed it and went ahead to buy it. Nothing as annoying as a useless gift you’ll forget.
CN: Radio show, two online TV series…what’s next for Dami? Should we expect a movie? A book?
DE: I hate giving up on things so I might try the book thing again but I definitely want to do a movie very soon. That is actually my main dream.
CN: What are your favourite quotes?
DE: My mummy always told me that “success is the best revenge” I never bothered to find out if someone originally put those words together but hey it’s a quote and my mummy told me about it.
All episodes of Skinny Girl in Transit and Rumour Has It can be found on Ndani TV’s YouTube channel.