Born In: Laie, Hawaii, United States
Rick Famuyiwa is a Nigerian-American filmmaker. Though he is probably better known these days for his work in television, such as The Mandalorian, he has an impressive body of pathbreaking work behind him. Born to first-generation Nigerian immigrants, Famuyiwa was brought up by his mother. She was a career woman who wanted to give her sons a good upbringing in life. She was not the one to take racial inequity lying down and was greatly influential in shaping Famuyiwa’s personality. During his college days, Famuyiwa happened to see the film JFK and he knew that filmmaking was what he wanted to do in his life. He trained in both film production and critical film studies and went on to make a graduate film that was noticed in the film circles. His success, however, did give him an easy entry into Hollywood and he worked as a shoe salesman for a while before making his semi-autobiographical first film, The Wood. Rick Famuyiwa is considered a serious filmmaker in Hollywood. He has frequently spoken out about the difference in attitude towards African-American films and filmmakers. His films deal with pertinent topics such as racial diversity and acceptance of one’s identity. They also depict deep emotional bonds like friendship and family.
Spouse/Ex-: Glenita Mosley (m. 1999)
Born Country: United States
education: University of Southern California, St Bernard High School, University of California, Los Angeles
Rick Famuyiwa’s parents, Idowu and Florence Famuyiwa, immigrated to the USA from Nigeria in 1970. Three years later Rick was born on June 18, 1973. When Rick was four-years-old his parents separated.
Florence Famuyiwa who was pursuing degrees in biology and medical technology had to move from one city to another because of her studies. So, Rick and his younger brother, Kevin, lived in Northern California, Northern Carolina and Los Angeles during their childhood.
Florence Famuyiwa found her new country full of opportunities but being a woman of colour, she also experienced racial discrimination.
In his third grade, Famuyiwa started going to the Castlemont Elementary School. When his mother found out that Rick who had been reading since preschool had been put in the remedial reading class in school she met the teachers and made sure that he was transferred to his grade level.
In 1986, the family moved to Inglewood, California. Florence enrolled Rick in St. Bernard School in Playa del Rey. The annual fee which was more than $3000 was a stretch for Florence to pay. Famuyiwa acknowledges that had it not been for his mother, his future would have been very different.
Famuyiwa loved basketball and became a very skilled player during his high school days. He played for the St. Bernard varsity team as a small player.
Rick Famuyiwa enrolled in the University of South California (USC) as a political science major in 1991. His mother was a lab technician at the University and as the child of an employee, he got a discount which was the main reason for his choosing USC.
In his early day at USC he saw the film ‘JFK’. Fascinated by the storytelling and the filmmaking craft of Oliver Stone, he realised that filmmaking is what he wanted to do.
Rick Famuyiwa did not have to go too far to study filmmaking as USC had one of the best film schools in the country. He applied but was turned down twice. In his third attempt, he wrote an essay on how he wanted to make a film on African American culture and was accepted.
While at USC film school, Rick Famuyiwa met Prof. Tim Boyd of the Critical Studies Department who became his mentor. Through his teachings and personal interactions, Boyd taught Famuyiwa that one does not have to compromise oneself to be successful.
It was during a film screening in Tim Boyd’s class that he saw Tim Warrington’s Streetcorner Stories. He knew that this was the kind of film he wanted to make for his final project. His project Blacktop Lingo went on to get accepted at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.
Famuyiwa graduated from USC with a double major in Film Production and Cinematic Arts Critical Studies in 1996.
Rick Famiyuwa’s film school success was not followed by a grand Hollywood entry. He and Tim Boyd started collaborating as writers but none of their scripts found any takers initially.
Famuyiwa decided to take up a job to pay his bills and found one because of his background in basketball. It was a shoe salesman’s job in Niketown in Beverley Hills.
While keeping his day job, Rick Famuyiwa continued to write scripts. One of the scripts that he worked on was on a theme that was close to his heart. It was a story based on his teenage years in Inglewood and was titled The Wood.
Famuyiwa submitted The Wood to the Sundance Institute’s Director’s Lab. He was invited to the Sundance Filmmaker’s Institute and while staying there, he put finishing touches to the script which went on to become his first feature film. The Wood was released in 1999 and was nominated for multiple awards.
He has gone on to direct films that have gained critical acclaim. He has also worked in Television. He directed the HBO original movie Confirmation (2016) which was based on the Anita Hill case. He has also directed episodes for the series The Mandalorian (2019-)
Rick Famuyiwa’s first film, The Wood, made in 1999 is a semi-autobiographical work. The story is drawn from his own experiences as a teenager and the two main characters are based on him and his best friend.
Famuyiwa wrote and directed, Dope, in 2015. This coming-of-age film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Editor Lee Haugen won the award for Best Editing for the film.
The Chi made in 2018 is again a coming-of-age film located in the south side of Chicago. The film gained both critical and popular appreciation.
Rick Famuyiwa married his girlfriend from college Glenita Mosley in 1999. The couple has two daughters.
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