Saskatchewan

Regina filmmaker finds new path after making career sacrifice for love

A Regina filmmaker left a promising career behind in Nigeria and moved to Saskatchewan for a fresh start. Now, he's forging a new path in film, and with the Common Weal Community Arts program.
Umeh did not allow the elimination of Saskatchewan’s film tax credit in 2012 to stop him from making a handful of films since arriving in Regina. ( Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

A Regina filmmaker says he is trying his best to help revive the province's film industry.

Filmmaker Sobe Charles Umeh left a promising career behind in Nigeria and moved to Saskatchewan for a fresh start.

A number of Umeh's projects are now streaming on major video on demand streaming television services like Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime. 

His production company, 1st Rate Pictures, was garnering major buzz in Nigeria when Umeh married his wife, Isioma Concilia in 2014.

Following their wedding, Concilia moved to Regina and soon it became inevitable that Umeh would need to do the same to save their marriage.

Although it took Umeh years to finally move, a threat of divorce from his wife who was already living in Regina was the push he needed to finally leave.

After deciding to move to Regina for love, Umeh says he was determined to follow his dreams regardless of the challenges.

Umeh's production company, 1st Rate Pictures, was creating waves in Nigeria's film industry, Nollywood, before he decided to leave. (Submitted by Charles Umeh)

"I felt really bad that I had to leave all that success behind down there to come over here," he said. "I thought about looking at it as a bigger picture — taking your art into a bigger climate but I came to Regina and realized that the industry here is dead so it kinda killed my morale."

Umeh is talking about the Saskatchewan film tax credit, which was eliminated in 2012 and caused many people in the film industry to leave the province. 

Filmmaker, Sobe Charles Umeh, left a promising career behind in Nigeria and moved to Saskatchewan for a fresh start

CBC News Saskatoon

2 months ago
2:20
Sobe Charles Umeh says he is trying his best to help revive the Saskatchewan's film industry 2:20

"It's been a struggle to make a film in Saskatchewan right now. The industry — it's gradually dying," he said. "I mean we are struggling to keep it alive but it's gradually dying. I hope something is going to revive it again."

Despite this, Umeh has been able to produce one feature length film and two short films since moving to Regina. He has also been able to find connections with fellow filmmakers, focused on creating art.

"It has been a labour of love for everybody and that was how we made Sorelle, my first feature film and that was the very first film I made in Canada," he said.

While he continues to grow as a filmmaker, Umeh has shifted his focus to socially conscious projects through Common Weal Community Arts. The organization commissions storytelling projects as well as facilitates artist workshops, live theatre, video, and cultural events. Umeh was excited to discover that he landed the role after a rigorous application process.

Umeh's focus is shifting to making socially conscious films and his latest role as Common Weal's southern artistic director will help him accomplish this (Richard Agecoutay /CBC)

"At this point in my life with the whole switch of my career to be more socially conscious — which is the core of Common Weal, the only organization that does socially engaged art in the whole of Saskatchewan, so it is a great fit for me," Umeh said.

Umeh is currently in the early stages of making two socially-conscious films here in Regina. He is excited to begin shooting next month.

At Common Weal, Umeh hopes to inspire filmmakers in the city and beyond to follow their passion and slowly help revive the film industry in the province.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Adeoluwa Atayero is a reporter for CBC News based in Saskatchewan. Before moving to Canada, Atayero worked as reporter, content manager and communications consultant in Lagos, Nigeria. He holds a masters in journalism from the University of Regina. @theadeatayero

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