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A Chat with Musila Munuve

(Photo provided by Musila Munuve)

Hi Musila, please give us a brief introduction about yourself.

I am an aspiring filmmaker currently pursuing my MFA at UT Austin.

I remember you said you received your Bachelor's in Computer Science but transitioned to a career in film. What did that transition look like for you?

I developed an interest in photography at the end of high school and continued to pursue it during undergrad. Just after I graduated from my undergrad a friend who liked my photography approached me to shoot his short film for him. In the conversations afterward, he sent me resources to learn about being a cinematographer and I really enjoyed learning about it and specifically the work of Bradford Young. I was working in UX Design at the time and wanted to go back to school for a master's but after learning about cinematography an MFA instead of an MS became an attractive option. I began to work on music videos and short films of my own to build my portfolio and eventually got into film school.

How or when did you realize you were interested in studying film?

I have a vivid memory of watching Mother of George a few years ago and being struck by how beautiful the film was. I didn't know who Bradford Young was then but every frame was stunning and with my photography background I wanted to be able to compose these moving images that held as much power as a still image.

Why is film important to you?

Film is my current iteration of trying to make the world a more beautiful, more human world. There have been multiple ways I've tried to do this in the past but I believe film has the power to reach people emotionally and for that reason can be a powerful tool for change.

How is studying film at UT Austin different from working on your own projects (prior to your enrollment in the program)?

Studying at UT has allowed me to dedicate all my time to film, without worrying about making mistakes or having the films be financially viable just yet, and it has connected me to a film community. Prior to enrolment, I was trying to make films after work which often meant I was drained financially and physically while making these films. Being a student takes away that pressure and as a by-product makes it more acceptable, encouraged even, to make mistakes and learn from them. The support from my cohort and the community at UT is also invaluable in finding people to learn from and collaborate with.

What is the inspiration behind your work and why?

The inspiration in my work at the moment is a combination of Blackness, youth, love, and time.

How do you incorporate your inspiration into your work?

These are concepts I tend to think about naturally so it finds its way naturally in the work I do and the scripts I write. It's less of a conscious effort than a set of guiding principles or concepts.

Why is representation in film important to you and what does it look like to you?

Representation in art generally is important to me because I see art as a way of understanding ourselves and the world around us. The more we see certain images of ourselves the more we see ourselves in certain lights and understand who and what we can be. I think though representation shouldn't be a goal in and of itself. The type of representation is also important.

What is your step-by-step process when you work on a project (starting from coming up with ideas…)?

I am usually inspired by some emotion, so as I go through life I try to keep track of novel or overwhelming emotions and draw from these when writing. Once I have the inspiration it's a continuous process of revision and rewriting. At this point, you have to have some sort of deadline because no script will ever be perfect. From that point, the process varies but there's some combination of development, production, and post-production. I don't have a set process for this part yet.

What equipment do you use to produce your videos and overall content (cameras, lights, etc.)?

I don't have a set of equipment that I consistently use. I try to use whatever is available to me and to use it in a way that serves the story.

What is your least favorite part (if you have any) about being in a film and favorite part(s)?

I haven't done it long enough to have a least favorite part but there are a lot of logistics that stand between the initial idea and the final film that can be frustrating.

Are there any artists that you have wanted to work with whether that be filmmakers, actors, singers, etc.?

A lot of my work is inspired by music and one of my favorite artists is Frank Ocean. His meticulousness and the wide range of references he brings into his art are something I would love to collaborate with. Bradford Young was the first person who made me want to become a filmmaker so to work with him would be a dream.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? (i.e., in life or in general).

I have no idea. I hope to be making films. I hope to be somewhat financially stable from my art. I hope to have a family.

Do you have any advice for aspiring filmmakers or artists in general?

My advice would be to develop your film language as much as possible. One of the ways to do that is to watch as many films as possible and to build a collection of references to emulate or subvert. Another way is to create as many films as possible and to develop your artistic voice in that way.

Check out some of Musila's work below! :)

Papaya: Musila Munuve (2021)

Short Film/Adaptation

exportformau: Musila Munuve (2022)

Short Documentary


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