Interview: Dr Clare Anyiam-Osigwe, creator of colourism romcom ‘No Shade’

Including her brilliant advice for budding filmmakers

‘No Shade’ is Dr Clare Anyiam-Osigwe’s debut film, and it’s a corker. A romantic comedy drama, the film follows freelance photographer Jade as she tries to navigate love and relationships while discovering “that the one thing keeping [her] from happy ever after is her inherent beauty – her complexion and skin tone. Her shade.”

The film is one of very few to deal with the issue of Colourism, which Dr Anyiam-Osigwe defines as “The degradation (mentally, verbally, physically) of someone because of their skin tone by someone in the same race.”

Black-on-black racism, essentially, in this case.

Here’s the trailer:

We caught up with Clare — who previously founded a skincare brand that won her a British Empire Medal — to discuss the film and the issues around it.

Not gonna lie, we were pretty starstruck.

Hi Clare, thank you so much for talking to us. First off, could you tell us a bit about No Shade?

I wrote No Shade after a conversation with a friend. She was upset because a friend of ours had told her she’s “f***able” but not good enough to officially date. He made it clear that her dark skin was preventing him from seeing her as attractive. I could relate to this as it was something that guys had told me at university. I couldn’t believe that black guys still spoke to black women like that.

I was hoping that the film would be a teachable tool, helping women and men to look at the devastating affects of Colourism and how blatantly hurtful it is. I wanted to do it in a way that was entertaining and thought provoking.

Tell us about your career to date, and how you ended up making No Shade.

My career has centred around the three things I love: film, beauty and education. I love teaching people, I adore natural beauty and am a film geek. My first degree was film, my masters was in drama and English teaching and my doctorate was biochemistry, enabling me to further my career in beauty as a vegan formulator.

“All skills are transferable. Everything I learnt as a beauty entrepreneur helped me to create my first film.”

Being a black Brit, fresh out of uni 12 years ago, the industry wasn’t in a good place for original storytelling from diverse showrunners or filmmakers. I decided to take a hiatus and wait for signs of change. I focused on building Premae, the first allergy-free beauty line. I experienced lots of success with my brand and used my film skills to educate people on health and beauty. I travelled the world and helped make a difference in people’s lives. All skills are transferable. Everything I learnt as a beauty entrepreneur helped me to create my first film.

Last year, there felt like an emerging shift in film. I’d been working in the background doing PR and producing for BUFF – the British Urban Film Festival since 2014. My husband, Emmanuel is the founder.

His belief in me as a filmmaker encouraged me to step out of beauty and back into film. I intend on staying in film as it’s my first love. Whether as a writer, DOP [Director of Photography], director or on-screen talent, I do see that things are changing in the industry and I want to be a part of that.

What’s your advice for women, especially women of colour, who want to get into filmmaking but feel excluded from such a white, male world?

My advice to women filmmakers, especially women of colour is the same as the advise I gave to female entrepreneurs: know the business. Women are so creatively gifted and spend lots of time making stuff without true awareness of whether it is financially viable.

Be smart with your resources, help other women and ASK for help. This is something I struggle with, but it lightens the load.

“We are often over-qualified and yet have to prove ourselves time and again by undertaking apprenticeships and work experience to get a foot on the ladder.”

Don’t be afraid to ask for your worth. Women always settle for lower funds than men. Stick to a figure and demonstrate why you should acquire it.

What are your favourite female-made films? Which women in film should we be paying attention to?

I really enjoyed Ava DuVernay’s 13th documentary. I think it is a classic and will be a source of education long after we’re all gone. That’s true legacy at work.

I like Dionne Edwards’ style. Her multi award winning short film ‘We Love Moses’ is seriously brave filmmaking, exploring black British teen homosexuality. Dionne is definitely one to watch.

I love Gina Prince-Bythewood’s films. They remind me of happier times in my teens: Love & Basketball and Disappearing Acts. These films helped shapes my ideas about black love and the positive portrayal of it. Something I’d never seen in British cinema.

What can we do to get more female-made, POC-made films into the world? How can we support No Shade?

Give black British female filmmakers the green light. We are often over-qualified and yet have to prove ourselves time and again by undertaking apprenticeships and work experience to get a foot on the ladder.

Trust us to make 2, 3, 5 films and grow in that capacity. Give us the same budget as a first-time male director (typically £1-5m from a studio, or £100k-£1m from the likes of National Lottery-funded or publicly-funded organisations).

In the absence of that trust, for now you can support No Shade by renting the movie on demand now for £4.49 — each stream helps me finance my next project, submit to festivals and negotiate stringer licence deals with distributors and OTT [‘over the top‘ services like Netflix].

Once you’ve watched the film, leave a video testimonial on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram @noshadefilm – the world is watching and engagement helps leverage the auteurship of a filmmaker.

Well, there it is. Next time you settle in for a film night, you know what to watch.

Enormous thanks to Dr Anyiam-Osigwe for her time.

Holly Brockwell
About Holly Brockwell 291 Articles
Tech addict Holly founded Gadgette in 2015, and won Woman of the Year for it. She's firmly #TeamAndroid, has ambitions to become a robot, and beat all other Hollies to her awesome Twitter handle.