Shade Room founder Angelica “Angie” Nwandu is best known for running one of the most popular news media platforms on Instagram and other social media networks for black entertainment. In an interview with BGN in January, she spoke openly about her faith and vision behind creating the media platform. She also developed her passion for filmmaking and was outspoken enough to work on Universal Pictures’ upcoming horror-comedy. Juju.
Universal Pictures is greenlighting several films starring black filmmakers in the horror genre. The success of get out, Weand more recently, the critically acclaimed film candy man are proof that the horror genre and black audiences are gaining ground. And now the horror-comedy genre is ready for Jujuwhich will be another Black-led feature under Universal.
In December 2020, Deadline reported that Nwandu was written to write the script for Juju. The original story concept was conceived by her. However, there has been a recent change as Universal has brought in a new writer to pen the script.
In our January phone interview, the media mogul revealed that his script had been “bombed”.
“They brought in another writer. I’m still the executive producer. I am still the story. But it was a punch in the gut,” she recalls.
Juju has stars Issa Rae and La La Anthony attached with Thembi Banks set to direct. This will be Thembi Banks’ directorial debut. No other details were shared by Nwandu about the story or the production stage, but she shared how she felt about the incident.
“I felt like I had to get away from writing screenplays. Maybe I’m not good. For Universal to say we need another writer hurt. I realized that I needed that experience because I had to respect the craft of screenwriting. People take years to perfect their craft,” she says. Although this isn’t Nwandu’s first foray into screenwriting – his film The night is coming was a winner at Sundance in 2018 — she found more challenges writing horror and comedy. She adds, “You really have to understand the nuances of these genres. And then he tries to make a cross-genre film. You need to know how to weave it together in a way that translates and is meaningful and impactful.
She now respects screenwriting more and realizes that you have to understand the hurts and triggers of the people you’re writing about. For The night is comingthe writing process was easy for Nwandu as it was based on his own experiences.
“I suffered a loss, for sure, but it was a nice loss because it will prepare me for the next project,” says Nwandu.
She adds in all transparency: “When I wrote the script for JujuI was in over my head cause I did The night is coming, which was a drama, and it was just completely different. He went to Sundance and I had all these mentors. We have refinement. I jump into a studio, Universal, and it’s like, whoa. But also its horror and its comedy – two things I don’t know well. I learned so much about screenwriting during this process.
Nwandu shared a gripping anecdote about his mentor Charles Murray and how he gave him a tough love for the art of screenwriting. Meanwhile, Nwandu knew she had to be humble about hard work and crafting what it takes to write a good screenplay. One afternoon she went to his house and Murray gave her a piece of paper and a $20 bill. He told her to tear up the $20 bill, of course she hesitated. He then told her to tear up the piece of paper, which she did with no problem. He took the torn piece of paper and the $20 bill (not torn, by the way) and placed them both in a plastic bag. He indicated that the most valuable item in the bag is the torn piece of paper because of what you can put on the paper. Murray told her, “Never value money more than what you can afford, because that’s the real gift.
Nwandu realized through her mentorship of Charles Murray and her experiences throughout her writing career that she could not approach the industry as a prodigy but as a student. She understood that there is a discipline in the art of writing for film and/or television, and it is a process.
Awaiting further details for Juju in terms of story, cast, and release date, Angelica “Angie” Nwandu is a woman who is real about who she is. She talks openly about her faith, its shortcomings and the lessons of life. From overcoming the challenges of building her media empire The Shade Room to being humiliated by major movie studios over her writing skills, Nwandu has had an impressive journey so far in her professional career. You have to respect her restlessness and the fact that she is ready to jump over any obstacle that stands in her way.