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How to start your own production company, with Henrie Kwushue

The South London multi-hyphenate and Dazed 100 Ideas Fund recipient tells us how she made a viral web series

If you don’t already know the name Henrie Kwushue, you will very soon. The 26-year-old presenter, producer, DJ and filmmaker hails from South East London and got her start in radio with youth station Reprezent, first as a teen on work experience, then later as a regular host after finishing secondary school. Eventually promoted to the drivetime slot at the platform, Kwushue began to make a name for herself within the London radio community, chatting to some of the most exciting UK talent and even gaining a short residency at BBC 1Xtra in late 2019.

Cut to the present day, and after walking out on a lunch break from her job in retail, the effervescent host has now founded her own production company HTK Productions, launched an incredible docuseries exploring the effects of gentrification in London’s most affected areas with Is Your Area Changing? and become one of the primary hosts and producers on 2020’s favourite Black-owned radio station No Signal.

After winning funding from the Dazed 100 Ideas Fund, her latest project is a film series called ‘Untold Stories’, which aims to employ and empower otherwise marginalised voices in the world of production, and centre those voices to create quality, engaging content. At times, the creative industries can feel pretty opaque to outsiders and hard to break into without existing connections, something that needs to change in order for true diversity to be achieved. ‘Untold Stories’ is seeking to bring about that change directly, providing a supportive platform for those searching for a foot in the door. Here, Henrie breaks down tips for making that jump into the world of production and starting your own company.

START SIMPLE AND SMALL

Henrie Kwushue: “In terms of making my first series, I didn’t actually storyboard or plan a lot. I just wrote down the idea of what I wanted to do, which was just show the daytime and the nighttime and ask a couple of people some questions. Even on my first day of shooting, I was just learning on the job. So I just got a videographer to come out with me in the streets and just film and get some B roll, and then I had my manager. So it was literally just like three or four of us, every single day doing it. My manager was pretty much the director and everything else, no one had any clear roles either.”

PATIENCE, YOUNG GRASSHOPPER

Henrie Kwushue: “One thing I wish I’d known going into it was probably that it would take a lot longer than I thought it would. I think when I came up with the idea, I thought it was just going to be an in and out kind of situation. But these things do take a lot of time. I’d tell myself to be a bit more realistic, because when it wasn't coming out as fast as I'd hoped I definitely was getting frustrated with myself. But how can I get frustrated when I already know the team is super, super small and a lot of the creative direction is down to me anyway? So yeah, I’d give myself a bit more of a break.”

NURTURE NEW TALENT AROUND YOU

Henrie Kwushue: “The whole point of my project with Dazed and Converse is to employ people that were seen as marginalised *something* because of things that are out of their control. It was really important for me to work with those kinds of people because I believe that everyone deserves a foot in the door, no matter who you are. I remember when I was starting out, people would ask me to give them experience [working with me for free], saying things like ‘I know that if you employed me I could do the job.’ So I wanted people like that, that were hungry to do it, that could do incredible things with it, but who just hadn’t had that chance. Luckily enough, I’ve been able to hire, I think, four Black women, one Filipino girl, and two Black guys and it’s just been so incredible working together. It’s been so cohesive. What I look for in a collaborator is creative eye and personality: I love someone that can make me smile, make me laugh, but also bring creativity to the table.”

GET INVOLVED AT EVERY STAGE OF THE PROCESS

Henrie Kwushue: “The whole post-production part for me, watching it all back, has to be my favourite bit of the process. In places like Brixton and Dalston, I was really nervous that I wasn't getting as much content as I possibly could but then going into the editing suite and actually editing it, I was like, rah, we've actually come up with something so good here. I was heavily, heavily involved in it – the groundwork was usually laid beforehand (by the team) and then after that I would come in and change, cut, redraft, and do the final edit myself.

Being across everything really helped because it allowed me to put my own spin on it and shape it to look, I guess, how it did in my head. It meant that I got to control the entire narrative so everything felt authentically me by the end of it: exactly where the jokes would go, where the silences were, the comedic effect, literally down to the smallest bits. I think it’s just important to be able to get my own humour across even if other people don’t find it funny… if it’s me then it’s me.

The pro of doing it that way was that it got me back into the editing suite for the first time properly since uni and reminded me that I can actually do this. The cons were that I was so deep in it that I couldn’t take an outsider point of view necessarily. So sometimes I’d have to bring a friend to the studio to ask you know, does this look good? Is this funny? Because I really don’t know, I’ve been working on it for twelve hours!”

"Imagine if (the series) stayed as an idea in my head, imagine if I didn’t push myself and say let’s do this… just go out and bloody do it!" – Henrie Kwushue

THINK ABOUT YOUR TRANSFERABLE SKILLS

Henrie Kwushue: “My post-production skills actually came through radio. So many of the things I’ve learnt in the media industry are transferable when it comes to stuff like editing. Before I got into uni, I had already learned how to use Adobe Audition to edit some stuff because I studied media in college. And once you get the nuts and bolts of editing on any software, you can definitely transfer those skills. Since then, I've been through maybe four different radio systems?

Then at uni, they had the exact same Adobe Audition there, plus something called Avid, which is what people in the news use to edit: the hardest thing ever. It's so hard to use because it's so technical – this is what all the people at these big broadcasters are using, and I was like, do they not like their own lives, bro? But yeah, from that, I also started to use Adobe Audition to kind of edit some of my own personal content for Instagram etc. Premiere Pro is what we ended up using for ‘Is Your Area Changing?’ and then now, if I don't have the time for it – because it's so fiddly – I also use iMovie. Honestly, once you get to grips with any piece of editing software, you can pretty much edit anything on anything.”

DON’T WAIT FOR AN INVITATION

Henrie Kwushue: “It’s hard because I actually had never really had a production job. I’ve been trying ever since uni and it’s been the hardest. I’ve only been like a runner on a couple of different productions but never actually got into production, even though I saw all my friends get into it. I didn’t like the system, but that just made me want to go and do my own thing, do you know what I mean? It was really hard for me to see that in the beginning so I just made it work for myself. That’s why I’m a big fan of self-starting. It’s not the easiest thing in the world but if you do have ideas, why not just go and execute it anyway, in addition to whatever you’re already doing.”

MAKE THE THINGS YOU WANT TO SEE

Henrie Kwushue: “The number one thing that people have to think about is themselves. So I always say, don’t make content for other people. Like if you find something funny or if you find something interesting or if you find something enraging or even cute, buff, whatever, that’s going to be relatable to somebody – your only job is to make it and not think about what other people will think about it. Just think about yourself, what it is about you that’s special, and what appeals to you. It’s almost guaranteed that somewhere in the world, it will be relatable to someone else.”

JUST GO OUT AND DO THE WORK

Henrie Kwushue: “Another thing I always say is... just go out and bloody do it. Like every single time I think of my life and what I've done – obviously with the big inclusion of prayer because if I didn't find God, I'd be finished – it’s been a case of alright, cool, I kind of want to do this, just go out and do it. With Is Your Area Changing? I was even shook to ask the cameraman about trying to do this with me, because I didn’t know how it was going to turn out.

But if I'd left it and just had it as an idea in my brain – which is what a lot of people do, thinking this would be sick to do, but never going out and executing it – you never know if that would have been your next biggest thing. That’s what I always think with that series and I find it so mad. Like the fact that for me, it was on the Londonist or has however many views, I'm like, bruv, that's mad! Imagine if it just stayed as an idea in my head, imagine if I didn’t push myself and say let’s do this, imagine if I was just too shook. We don’t know where we would have been today.”