Creatives in the Industry: Q&A w/ Juliana

Producer of ‘No Shame In My Name’ podcast Juliana shares lessons on facing fear, bouncing back from rejection and creating community

17 January 2023

Tell us about you

My name is Juliana Ogechi Onyenani. I’m a London-based storyteller, and the producer of the No Shame In My Name podcast – documenting the stories and meanings behind names.

On that note, my first name means ‘youthful’ in Latin. And my middle name means ‘God’s time’, in Igbo. Over the years, I’ve discovered that I’m really curious about people and the humanity contained in their complex characters; which ultimately stems from their complex yet beautiful stories.

Now, allow me to share parts of my own...

What was your journey like when you were first starting out?

My journey in creativity started when I was younger, around the age of seven. I had a playful imagination and wanted to immerse myself in any and every world that involved stories. In my teens, I dabbled in spoken word poetry for a bit.

Come 2016, I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career. So whilst I was trying to figure things out, I kept my creativity going by getting involved in any creative activity I could. I applied to every single free course that I felt would strengthen my craft and build my confidence as a creative. Writing courses, media courses, film courses (like Creativity Works: Rushes), alongside music projects with friends. Some years later, I found myself exploring the worlds of audio storytelling and advertising.

Starting out for me was all about satisfying the hunger that I had to write and tell stories. It was a season of many mistakes, rejections and lessons, but I honestly wouldn’t change it for anything. If I could name that chapter of my life, it would be called ‘Seeking, finding & being’.

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

I hate to say it, but fear has been – and continues to be a challenge that I’m constantly facing – in life and creativity. There have been so many instances where an opportunity has arisen, and fear will talk me out of it.

One thing I can say is that: Fear is a big big block. It stifles creativity. It causes friction in collaboration. And as simple as it sounds, the only way to conquer fear is through action. In terms of overcoming the ugly face of fear, I’d say it’s still a work in progress.

What is your most memorable moment from Creativity Works and why?

I have so many fond memories from being on the Creativity Works course. It was honestly such a pivotal point in my creative journey. I was so blessed to meet a group of lovely, driven, creative people, each with special gifts. I will never forget the showcase that we had at Untold Studios. It was so beautiful seeing everyone share the film projects they’d spent so much time and energy developing. Thinking about it now makes me smile.

How will you take what you’ve learned here and apply it to your life or work?

Here’s a story. Halfway through the Rushes programme, I’d shown my work to Barry (from Tim and Barry) and he basically challenged me with some constructive feedback. It turned out that what I had created wasn't anywhere close to where it needed to be. I had to reshoot, if the message of the story was to be received clearly.

At the time, I was a little heartbroken at hearing this, because I had already spent time, money and effort to make what I thought was good. In hindsight, I’m very grateful for the feedback I got. It taught me a lot about knowing when to go back to the drawing board, using the first draft to create a better second draft – and so on. It also taught me to create more consideration for my audience and learn to step out of my own head, which can be difficult when you’re so close to the work and extra precious over executing the vision in the right way.

What recent projects are you most proud of?

One project that I’m pleased to have created in 2021 is called RIP The Receipts. It’s about receipts, and forgiveness and freedom. The joy of this project has been in unearthing a very real human experience in an unexpected way. I was also privileged to work with Jackie Davies – a wonderful designer, who helped bring the vision to life.

What’s the most useful advice you have ever received related to your career?

Listen more. Don’t be afraid to make changes, (even at the last minute). Be resilient. Humble yourself again and again. Enjoy the process. Find good mentors. Learn from failure. The first draft is never final. Do your best, but don’t expect perfection. Have integrity. Have fun. And in the words of one of my fave online creative mentors @eli1ah: close the app, make the ting.

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