An interview with Enuka Okuma


Cookie is a short film directed by Enuka Okuma. The film tells the story of a beautiful young woman named Cookie who is told “not to bother” showing up at work; she retreats into the safety of home with her charming, mischievous, and jobless husband, Johnny.

Cookie and Johnny venture deep into a fun and infantile world of their own, completely void of responsibility. When a meeting of Cookie’s book club is held at their house, the couple’s existence is challenged by the attention Cookie receives from handsome newcomer Patrick, and by the concern Cookie’s best-friend Rachel has regarding Cookie’s recent strange behavior.

Upon confronting her husband, Cookie comes to realize Johnny is not the man she thought she married, and she must find a way to re-integrate into society – with or without her husband.

Bijan Tehrani: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and what you had been doing prior to making your first short film, Cookie?
: Well, I have been an actor for many, many years—probably around 20 years or so. I started as a kid and I have done quite a few series in Canada because I was born in Canada, but I am a US citizen now. I worked mostly for television and a little bit for the film industry as an actress, but I have obviously been around storytelling for many years. I’ve always had a desire to start telling stories and that has gotten stronger over the last few years. Therefore, I decided between season 1 and 2 of the TV show that I was working on, called Rookie Blue, to take the plunge.

BT: What motivated you to become a film director?
EO: Well, I have always been a fan of film and good storytelling and I have always had the desire to become a film director, but you know I worked as an actor for a really long time and it can get frustrating to be at the mercy of others. One has to wait for the phone to ring in order to work as an actor.  But as a director, I get my own creativity out there and am the one who gets to tell the story the way that I see it.  As a filmmaker, I have a little bit more control and have a little bit more say, and the ability express what I want to express, the way that I want to express it.

BT: How did you come up with the story of Cookie?
EO: I have no idea; the idea just came to me. It was Christmas Day and the idea started brewing, right around the Holidays in 2009. I got busy writing it in January 2010 and just honed in on it for a couple of months and we started shooting by June in 2010. I honestly could not tell you where it came from. I had another story in mind that was similar to this, but a movie came out that was very similar to the idea that I originally had, so I tweaked it a little bit. I can’t say what movie it is because then I will give away the plot.

BT: How challenging was it to make your first film?
EO: It was a huge learning curve, and I had to adjust to working in that position. Even though I had been on the set for many years, I had to adjust to calling the shots and being on the other side of things. I did not go to film school; I went to theatre school and studied to become a performer. I had a really good team around me as well: I had a great cinematographer named Seth Johnson, who is a graduate of AFI, and my producer, Christina Northrup, she works at FOX News Regency as a civil production coordinator and she has a wealth of experience from the producer side. My other producer, Andrew Williamson from Canada, he produced a lot of short films, so he was very valuable. So, between myself and the crew that I had around me, I had a lot of help. I knew what I wanted to execute, but I did not know how I would do so. It helped to have some very knowledgeable people around me guiding me through, every step of the way.    

BT: How did you go about casting Cookie?
EO: Lucky me—I am an actor, so I know a lot of actors, and I was fortunate to already know everyone that I cast in the film. I had a lot of talented friends and I wanted to work with people that I knew could pull it off with. There was a fear though, that they would not want to be my friends after we worked together, but the experience worked out well for all of us.

BT: How did you work with the actors? Did you do a lot of rehearsal or did you encourage improvisation?
EO: We had a few rehearsals, probably three or four rehearsals, but our schedule was really tight. The actors were busy and had travel schedules that they had to keep up, so we maximized their time as much as we could. When the camera was rolling, they brought their “A” game, so there were not a lot of rehearsals. 

BT: How much of the film was developed in the editing room?
EO: There was quite a bit of work in the editing room. We had three or four hours of total footage that my editor, Nicolas Hislaire, had to go through. He worked really well with me and very collaboratively—there were arguments, but we ended up coming up with something that we were both really proud of. He made it clear that it was my vision, and the way that I saw the film would be the way that the film would end up. He expressed that it was very collaborative and I was very open to suggestions, and that is important. There are a few scenes that, if I had directed before, we might have cut differently, but I did not have the footage to be able to tell the story.

BT: How has the reaction been to the film?
EO: Our first festival was the Newport Beach Film Festival and we screened on May 1st. We are still gauging reaction, but so far we are pleased. We are also going to be playing at the Santa Cantalina film festival, the Los Angeles New Wave International Film Festival, and we also got into the Canadian Film Center’s World Wide Short Film Festival—which is a pretty big festival for short films, so we are very excited about that.

BT: Do you have any upcoming projects as a film director?
EO: I have a project that I am working on, a feature film, and hopefully I can find the time to finish it.
BT: Thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure to speak with you!


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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