Showcase Filmmaker Spotlight: Chineme Aniagba
By Isaak Griggs, Programming Intern
Queens native Chineme Aniagba enrolled in Temple University to pursue her passion for TV, film, and writing. One of her latests works, Bake ‘N Baked, is about two friends trying to figure each other out in the aftermath of a weed and makeup themed party.
PFS: What is your history with film and how did you get into filmmaking?
CA: My family is from Nigeria, and I was born and raised for the first half of my life in Queens. Before I got into filmmaking, I always really loved television. Like, my parents would get mad at me because I would literally stand right in front of the TV and block everybody. I always liked things that consumed my mind obsessively and television did that. I watched so many cartoons and series. My favorite series of all time was Avatar: The Last Airbender. That made me so excited about TV as a kid. I love film, but television has always been my main thing. I’ve always just been into narratives and creating stories. And I wrote Bake ‘N Baked because I’ve always been into “girl” stories growing up, like The Powerpuff Girls and that early 2000s girly aesthetic. So that was something I really wanted to get across with my film. So yeah, I have just been really attached to television and that’s what got me into writing.
PFS: Reflecting on the aftermath of a weed and makeup themed party is a pretty fun setup. I think you did a great job of representing what that party was visually. What do you draw inspiration from for these visuals?
CA: Yeah, so as a kid, I was just really into super feminine things and then as I got older I lost interest in that. But lately I’ve been looking back over that time and aesthetic and charm, like coloring books where there’s always girls with big heads and big eyes, and wore feather boas and stuff like that. And so this idea of womanhood is what I had and what I thought when I was younger. And now, it kind of feels like now that I’m 21, when you’re an adult things just don’t look like that anymore. The idea of being a grown girl isn’t like that. It’s obviously childish, and I love the idea of these college girls – especially the main character Erika – trying to find a way to assimilate into adulthood but still doesn’t really understand it or get it. And I feel like showing you that through those specific visuals with people that age. And the setting fits in too, where they are on a playground, but they’re kind of forced to use it. They’re not using it for a fun purpose, they’re figuring out an argument about loyalty and friendship.
PFS: So another important visual happens to be vomit. How did you make that gag work?
CA: My production designer Daphne Bonner is great. She had made up different kinds of vomit specialized for each of our cast. One of my actors, Ainyae Stratton, who plays Jasmine, is vegan. So we had to make sure our vomit didn’t have any ingredients that didn’t work for her. I don’t remember exactly, but one had an oatmeal mixture, and the other was made with quinoa. But yeah, oatmeal was the big ingredient for the vomit.
PFS: Are there any previous projects you’ve worked on that influenced the style and content of Bake ‘N Baked?
CA: I’ve worked on a lot of comedies. I wrote for Temple SMASH, which is a student run sketch comedy show at Temple. I also helped write a web series called Ambitious. I’ve always been more into drama-comedies than drama. For me, I feel like dramas are a little bleak, and comedies can be bleak, but at least you’ll be laughing. I also think anything made with humor is more empathetic than things not made with humor. And I appreciate empathetic material more than anything. So all of these projects helped me realize that I love writing art centered around women just being funny and kind of weird and those are the things I want to make.
PFS: What do you hope viewers take away from the conclusion of Bake ‘N Baked?
CA: Well, the thing about Bake ‘N Baked is that it ends with a dance. And one thing I’ve noticed in animated films and children’s movies is there’s always a dance or party of some kind at the end. And I always that that was kind of weird and funny and corny, and I’ve always loved that because it’s something that doesn’t happen in films for adults. It feels like there’s dancing is the way to “resolve” the main conflict. And the thing with Bake ‘N Baked is that the protagonist Erica doesn’t really resolve her conflict. She’s still a socially anxious person, but at least she has somebody with her that makes it a little easier. But with the dancing, for that moment they are just letting go of whatever stress they have so they can laugh at the situation they are in. And it’s really important to be able to laugh when things don’t turn out just right.
PFS: Are there any projects you are working on now?
CA: Right now, I’m writing a couple of things. I’m helping out on two web series as well as a web series I’m developing, called On Our Own, and we’ve shot the pilot for that. It’s about four students who go to an unnamed university in North Philadelphia, it’s about the troubles they go through and the different relationships they have to each other. So writing-wise, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m also figuring out what my next steps are, but just trying to constantly create and keep writing things that make me excited.
Bake ‘N Baked will be screening on Thursday, August 8 at the Roxy Theater as part of Philly Film Showcase, an exhibition supporting new work by talented, up-and-coming local filmmakers.