Justyna Obasi

Park Pictures

1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it? 

My first professional work as a director was a commercial for a skin care brand in 2017. Directing commercials was never planned. It was more of a chance I saw and took because I was curious and wanted to prove my intuitive skills on a big set and earn money for my creative work. I had always wanted to be a feature film writer and director, but was earning my coin at a film production company, doing treatments for other directors. I was a ghost, responsible for many… But then there was an agency board that some directors declined. I asked the producers if I could pitch on it instead, and I ended up winning the job. I wasn’t signed or anything, but suddenly found myself directing a commercial in Estonia. I was the youngest on a huge set (except for the talent), the only person of color (except for one cast member, which I selected) and one of the rare women. I felt like an impostor at first, but I just did my job and then I continued doing it.

2) How did you get into directing? 

I knew I wanted to be an artist and a filmmaker. I’ve never done anything else. Well, there were those jobs you take when you’re young, but I always knew this was going to be my profession. Even when I was in art school, I was already directing music videos, and made a short film which circulated in small festivals. When I realized that my interests in visual arts, music and writing all had a place in filmmaking, that’s when I really decided it was what I wanted to do.

3) What is your most recent project? 

There are two projects that I’m most focused on at the moment. One is a feature film I’m developing with UFA and Panthertainment about a Black man who is the father figure to a white child. The other is an art documentary centered on non-binary and trans people working in the fields of performing arts, dance, stripping and sex work, that explores the broad concept of performance during Berlin’s COVID pandemic. I’m fascinated by the idea of identity, reinvention and transformation of the body in oppressive conditions (such as patriarchy, racism, sexism, homophobia) and especially during this time of global change.

4) What is the best part of being a director?

I’m interested in characters and figuring out why they do what they do. That’s the core of it for me – falling in love with a character and then working with them so they can reveal their truth. It happens very naturally. Of course, every project is different, and for some of my coming-of-age projects I’ve worked with non-actors to reinforce this feeling of authenticity. My process, however, is the same with all talent, trained or not. It involves knowing what I want, but also being open enough in the moment to recognize when there is something happening that is even better than I could have imagined.

6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre--comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.? 

I am still directing commercials, and at the same time I’m expanding my field of work into feature films, where I’m currently developing several projects. After all, that was always the dream.

10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?) 

Moving a lot as a kid taught me to be adventurous, to explore new environments and to be open to different people. Through my diverse heritage, I learned to be sensitive to the spaces I enter. I can sense a room and the people inside it, what they want from me and as a result, I’m very empathetic. I’m good at putting myself in other people’s shoes. That’s a useful skill, especially as a director. But it’s also painful. Because the truth is that as a Black migrant woman in the predominately white Eurozone, I spend a lot of time making other people feel okay about me being there. I’m good at putting myself into other cultures, but I was never able to explore my own identity. Until now. This is a huge part of my work currently. Owning my own space.


Contact Bethany Reilly, Head of Sales, Park Pictures via email