Eighteen years in the past, Femi Oguns was handing out flyers round London providing youth the prospect to be taught on the UK’s first ever Black-centric drama college.
Today, Identity School of Acting and sister company Identity Agency Group are artistic powerhouses. IAG reps dozens of established and rising stars, together with John Boyega, Letitia Wright, Malachi Kirby, Ella Balinska, Melanie Liburd, and Simona Brown. Most of the corporate’s main lights educated at Identity School of Acting.
Identity’s purpose from the outset was to extend range in an entrenched trade, and to shake up a homogenous and institution system. Oguns needed to foster an surroundings the place actors can be judged on their benefit and talent slightly than the colour of their pores and skin.
Cocktails With Deadline Disruptors On The Croisette At The Cannes Film Festival 2021 – Photo Gallery
Oguns has finished simply that. So profitable was the drama college, that the Londoner launched an L.A. offshoot in 2018. And that’s not all. In this chat with the actor-writer turned agent-producer-entrepreneur, Oguns reveals he has additionally not too long ago acquired a London theater as a stage for the corporate’s expertise.
Despite his achievements, arising towards the chances, it could possibly be stated that IAG flies below the radar, particularly in Hollywood.
Oguns discusses his journey, the continuing challenges round illustration, and what’s subsequent.
DEADLINE: Plenty of the actors on IAG’s roster have taken off lately. How has their success impacted the company?
FEMI OGUNS: It can solely be taken as that fixed reminder that the sacrifice was nicely value it. IAG continues to cement itself because the chief within the illustration of numerous and extraordinary expertise.
DEADLINE: How is IAG coping through the pandemic? To what extent has enterprise and the underside line been impacted?
OGUNS: I feel it’s truthful to say that the pandemic has had an opposed impact on all sectors of the trade and past, however one factor that has been derived from this, in my expertise, is the willingness to adapt and, in flip, evolve. As a enterprise, these difficult instances have proven us how sturdy a mannequin we’ve.
DEADLINE: Which elements of the enterprise are rising most quickly in the mean time?
OGUNS: I can truthfully say, hand on coronary heart, each single half, whether or not it’s all all the way down to social international consciousness that has overridden the monetary. Diversity taken critically has labored in our favor.
DEADLINE: Is the company planning on pivoting to a administration mannequin?
OGUNS: We have to recollect British companies have all the time been managers from the inception (nicely, the nice ones anyway). It’s solely once we be part of our U.S. companions that we modify our place ever so barely.
DEADLINE: You opened up a drama college in L.A. just a few years in the past. How is that going, and the way is the college doing in London? Do you might have plans to open any extra?
OGUNS: It was very scary. After the roaring success of the opening in Los Angeles, which was capped off with a fully-packed viewers of trade professionals all in attendance to have a good time our first-year anniversary on the Chinese Theatre, we needed to shut a few months later as a result of pandemic. Thinking on our toes and never eager to undo the wonderful foundations set, we needed to take lessons online. It was extraordinarily daunting, however I all the time say, battle breathes creativity, and never solely has it been a refreshing expertise for the scholars and tutors alike, nevertheless it’s additionally created an avenue for actors who would by no means have been capable of afford to journey to London or Los Angeles. I’m proud to say we’ve college students from all around the world now, from the African continent to China, all sharing and creating with each other. The solely caveat is all of them want to talk fluent English and have that uncooked expertise. The nice information is, the college in London has reopened, Los Angeles will reopen in September, and the online platform is now right here to remain, opening as much as a brand new international viewers.
DEADLINE: When you first set out, one among your goals was to extend range within the trade and to shake up the present system. How has that considering formed the curriculum on the faculties, and the way has the curriculum developed alongside the trade’s evolution by way of illustration?
OGUNS: It’s all the time been on the heart for the reason that very begin 18 years in the past, and the by-product of how efficient it’s could be seen within the streams of success popping out of the college. Our curriculum is exclusive, efficient and progressive.
DEADLINE: IAG could possibly be a chief goal for American corporations seeking to develop their abroad portfolios. Has there been curiosity and the way lengthy are you able to maintain out?
OGUNS: Yes, there has. And I don’t maintain, I surf!
DEADLINE: Does IAG have non-public backing or traders? Could it get extra funding?
OGUNS: Nope, all self-sufficient.
DEADLINE: To what extent have you considered increasing the company into nations past the U.S.? Which ones?
OGUNS: So far, we’ve thought of Australia, Canada, China and Africa.
DEADLINE: Who are a number of the up-and-comers on IAG’s roster who’re most fun proper now? Who ought to we be looking for?
OGUNS: There are many, however I’ll identify just one for now, to keep away from a backlash once I return within the workplace. So, you need to be careful for Simone Ashley, the brand new lead in Bridgerton.
DEADLINE: You’ve been branching out into producing. What are you engaged on in the mean time and the way a lot will producing be part of the combo at IAG going ahead?
OGUNS: I like to consider it as the ultimate piece of the puzzle. We have the company, the college, and now our very personal theater opening this yr—the manufacturing firm was all the time subsequent. It by no means made sense to coach, then nurture and develop after which not create content material with the artists you’ve gone on a journey with. Watch this area.
DEADLINE: You’ve spoken earlier than about very intently crafting John Boyega’s profession and trajectory with him. To what extent are you continue to doing that collectively and do you are taking the same method with any of your different actors?
OGUNS: This is a components not solely remoted to 1 consumer however to all of them. That’s how we get the collective consequence and success.
DEADLINE: What is your evaluation of the place the U.Okay. trade as an entire is at the moment by way of reaching higher illustration and variety?
OGUNS: When America sneezes, the remainder of the world catches a chilly, so I’m not stunned the U.Okay. has lastly put its wheels in movement. There is certainly a gentle change taking place, however nonetheless work to be finished.
DEADLINE: To what extent do you suppose campaigns reminiscent of #TimesUp and #OscarsSoWhite/ #BAFTASoWhite have had a constructive affect on the trade, and to what extent are you feeling enthused now in regards to the work organizations reminiscent of BAFTA are doing within the area of range?
OGUNS: It has had a serious affect. I name it throwing a chilly bucket [of water] over the heads of the naysayers to present them a wake-up name. It’s wonderful what an ice bucket can do on a sizzling summer season’s day. Even they really feel refreshed.
DEADLINE: We’ve mentioned informal racism and stereotyping from sure casting administrators prior to now. To what extent is that also an issue?
OGUNS: If it involves my doorstep, which it has finished prior to now, I find yourself charging the producers twice the quantity once they come again to their senses, for losing my time and theirs.
DEADLINE: Are there sufficient gatekeepers from numerous backgrounds within the U.Okay.?
OGUNS: If it’s important to ask me that query, there presents the reply!
DEADLINE: As your actors develop into extra profitable in America, they might encounter frustration from native actors about ‘Brits taking U.S. roles’ or Brits taking roles about African-American expertise. To what extent do you perceive that frustration?
OGUNS: An issue is an issue merely ready for a solution. That’s why I introduced Identity School of Acting to the States. For me it was all the time solely about one factor: actors having the right entry to unimaginable coaching.
DEADLINE: How do you look again in your journey now? You have been an actor and author, however you additionally handed out flyers within the streets attempting to get folks within the thought of a drama college. And look what that has develop into. Does something stand out that you just want you had finished in a different way?
OGUNS: You can’t second guess when God has all the time been at work.