New Creative, Pierre Nyongira, wins first prize at the Royal West of England Academy’s 168 Annual Open Exhibition

Huge congratulations to New Creative, Pierre Nyongira for being awarded 1st Prize for his film, Dinah, at the inaugural Royal West of England’s Academy Open Exhibition. Inspired by the true story of Dinah Black, the short film is about a Bristolian runaway slave in 1687.

Pierre Nyongira and Guillermo Quintanilla (Producer), will receive a £5000 prize and will be featured during the 168th year exhibition which invites painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, sculpture, installation and mixed media artists to showcase their work.

We caught up with Pierre and Guillermo to find out about their experiences on the BBC New Creatives scheme.

Why did you want to tell this story?

Having lived in Bristol it only felt right to share my experience of this city and its history. Before the statue was pulled down, no one ever really spoke of Colston or the Georigan period that really made Bristol into the city it is now and it’s very evident in the architecture and street names. In many ways it is a constant reminder of that dark period for people like me. I was actually inspired by the black students of UOB (University of Bristol) when I was documenting their experience of studying in a very predominant white institution and the mental health that came along with it as a result. Essentially that is what the film is really about at its core, feeling like an outsider. This is the essence of what connects both Dinah and Michael, regardless of them being from two different time periods they both share that same isolation. -Pierre-

I wanted to tell this story because it reflects some of my own personal experiences when I arrived in England from my country El Salvador. Being in another culture and surrounded by people that look different to you, questions your own identity. Even though my experience in England has been overwhelmingly positive, I too sometimes identify with the protagonist (Michael) and long for acceptance. Becoming an expatriate opens up a never-ending journey of self-exploration and trying to find your place in the world. -Guillermo-

What support did you get from CTS? 

CTS were supportive throughout the whole process. I would say especially during the pre-production. This was my first time really writing a script and it was the feedback from Jeremy and Mike that really helped. The story was so different from the first draft to what you see on screen and that was all thanks to their valiant efforts of being honest and pushing me and questioning every aspect of the story and ideas behind it, to really absorb myself into this world that I had created and make sense of it all. Having passed English GCSE on my third try, this experience really boosted my writing confidence and felt like I had actually stories worth telling. -Pierre-

As a producer in the project, Calling the Shots provided me with the right guidelines on how to develop, manage and execute a film. Michael Jenkins, our mentor producer, was extremely supportive throughout the entire process. He was always available to discuss all the logistics and necessary elements to make this film a reality, from health and safety, props, costumes, budgeting, managing of the crew and cast; he was present from the moment we started shooting until we finished and was a key element of allowing us to have a smooth production. -Guillermo-

What was it like making a film in Lockdown?

Making a film in lockdown was really a unique and difficult experience, one of the biggest factors was finding indoor locations that would actually allow a crew of people to film in and as a result there were a lot of times in which I thought this film would really never see the day of light. But like all productions there are always hurdles and problems, in this instance it was COVID. Additionally, it was an odd experience not having the freedom to move around the set and departments, it was very rigid and everyone had to stay in their bubbles and play their part. The only bright side of it all was that we had more time for pre-production which allowed us to refine the script, do casting, location scouting, budgeting, costumes, props, etc. Normally the New Creatives program would run over a period of three months but this production ran over six months. -Pierre-

Extremely challenging but at the end very rewarding. Lockdown allowed us to dedicate more time and effort in every aspect of the film before the start of the production, it changed the normal priorities in what would have been a common shooting plan. Now we had to think about how to keep our crew and cast safe of any potential health hazards, while at the same time being productive on set and capture all the shots within two days. For example, the scene of Michael and the two students inside the lift was achieved without the DOP being present in the same space as them, to comply with social distancing rules the DOP shot the scene by leaving the camera in a free recording mode and reviewed the footage after every single take. -Guillermo-

What did you take away from the experience?

Overall self-confidence as a creative, director and writer. I had many instances of doubt at the beginning of whether I could really do this, having never really written a script and only directed on a small scale. The pressure of feeling to succeed and not plunder this opportunity was overwhelming, especially having so many people involved, including the BBC. I really felt that this was a defining moment for me as a creative on whether I would be able to step-up to the challenge or crumble underneath the pressure. Therefore, I am forever grateful for this opportunity for allowing me to reach that next level in my career as a filmmaker. -Pierre-

The desire to make more films and to work with more fantastic and talented people. This experience has allowed me to grow as a producer, it taught me to listen to others, stay true to your convictions, follow your instincts, be flexible and remain always professional. -Guillermo-

What was the best moment for you?

For me it really was the production period, because having worked on this story through a series of drafts day in and day out and being immersed into this little world that I had created. Then on production day seeing it all come to life, It’s as if I had spoken it into existences. These were no longer just characters in my head, they were real people. All of it all wouldn’t have been possible for the amazing friends, crew and cast, especially CTS and BBC for bringing it all to life. -Pierre-

When Pierre entrusted me to become the producer of his film, he is a terrific person and friend and I enjoyed working with him every single minute of it. We have enough trust in each other that we knew from the very beginning that we could put our friendship aside and work professionally towards the same goal. My second favourite moment was all the wonderful people I met along the way and the satisfaction to see how committed they were with the film. -Guillermo-

Find out more about Dinah, here.