Journalist, artist, and recent Warwick graduate Xaymaca Awoyungbo recently released Service Charge, a series of interviews with creatives and entrepreneurs where he finds out about their professional journeys. He tells The Boar about his process, from reworking the series’ name to assembling a production team to realise his vision.
The Boar: What inspired the name and theme of Service Charge?
X.A.: I think food brings people together, and that’s what I’m trying to do with Forever Sauce. In terms of the name ‘Service Charge’, it came to me quite quickly after I thought of the idea to incorporate food into the series. Initially, I thought of the name ‘Free Lunch’, but it was already taken. So, I slept on it and came up with the name Service Charge the next morning. It neatly connected the food theme with the services that my guests provide, so it worked. I got great feedback on the name from my friends and family, so I knew I was onto a winner.
It’s so important to find a balance between education and entertainment because the internet can be a very distracting place. I believe there’s enough entertainment out there, so I’d like to add value by educating people as well. When I create videos, I ask myself what I want people to learn from the video. Then, I explore how I can make that entertaining. The entertainment side is still important because it keeps people engaged. I feel like most people want to learn, especially if it’s packaged in the right way. Many people would be more likely to watch a documentary than read a research paper. With Forever Sauce, I’m trying to give people the value of a research paper or article in a digestible, appealing format.
The Boar: You’ve interviewed the likes of Amia Brave and Ben Warner; how do you adapt your style of questioning when speaking to people from such different industries?
X.A.: It looks like I use less slang with Ben! To be honest, the most important things are research and respect for anyone I’m interviewing. They go hand in hand because, through my research, I build up an idea of what things the person is interested in and what might be sensitive topics. Then, because I respect the person, I’ll ask questions accordingly. I’m also quite a curious person, so I like interviewing people from different fields and walks of life. There’s always something I can learn.
“My friends and I have recognised the importance of reconnecting with our countries of heritage to gain a different perspective.”
– Xaymaca Awoyungbo
The Boar: On your blog, Forever Sauce, you mention some of the work you admire by the likes of Coel, Chaudhry, and Wade. What do you think the next generation gain because of exposure to their creations?
X.A.: I believe we’re already seeing the effects of people like Michaela Coel, Big Zuu, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. They’re all multi-hyphenates, so young people are watching and deciding not to limit themselves either. People are also finding that globally, when we realise that there are so many stories being told, it doesn’t make sense to limit ourselves to one country or even a city. My friends and I have recognised the importance of reconnecting with our countries of heritage to gain a different perspective. That’s only going to enrich our characters and our stories.
The Boar: How did you bring the production team together?
X.A.: ‘When they ask me how it happened, I just tell ‘em God works’.
I found it difficult to build the team as, prior to Service Charge, I’d mainly worked alone on projects. Since I knew I’d reached a level where working by myself wouldn’t be effective anymore, letting go of some responsibilities helped me learn from others and ultimately create a better show.
At the start of 2023, I felt like I didn’t have strong enough relationships with creatives at Warwick to ask them to work on the show. I realised that asking people I’d only met a couple of times wasn’t really working. So, I attended events and tried to see how I could help others rather than focusing solely on how they could help me. I also reached out to people I already knew, like Ellis. I knew Ellis from my history seminars because we worked on a group project together. He studied film along with history, so I knew his expertise would be crucial. He bought into the idea right away, so I had a cinematographer.
I met Lèna through you after I interviewed you for an article about Warwick’s creative societies. I’d also seen her filming in church. Bianka was one of Ellis’ friends, and she was responsible for sound mixing. And lastly, Belinda, who I met maybe a month before, quickly became one of my friends. She was keen to work on Service Charge as a production assistant. I can’t forget to highlight the other contributors to the show. The amazing photographers: Tomi, Jahzara, and Moyin. Then people like Mine, Rohan, and the Curiositea and Benugo employees who enabled us to complete the project. It was beautiful to develop relationships with so many people.
“Every decision you make with the production affects the way that the story is told.”
– Xaymaca Awoyungbo
The Boar: What did you learn from the Service Charge crew?
X.A.: Ellis taught me that film is a language. Every decision you make with the production affects the way that the story is told. Lèna was the glue that held the project together as she worked on every shoot, always on time and ready to work. She taught me a great deal about colour and lighting. The way Bianka paid great attention to detail was vital. Belinda was incredibly resourceful and a quick learner. She thought on her feet to provide paper clips and elastic bands when one of the soft boxes broke. We didn’t start filming until the shots were how we wanted.
“I’m not in competition with anyone because I’m focused on being a better version of myself.”
– Xaymaca Awoyungbo
The Boar: You’ve transitioned from working independently to leading a team. What does collaboration mean to you?
X.A.: Collaboration isn’t about ego; it’s about working with others to achieve a shared goal. Working with such talented people elevated the show. Even though I led the project, I often had to humble myself to learn from everyone else. If someone had a suggestion that would elevate the show, we’d try it. What’s the point of having a team if their contributions aren’t valued?
I’m not in competition with anyone because I’m focused on being a better version of myself. I choose to celebrate my peers because they’re doing amazing things. Sometimes that encouragement can make someone’s day.
“Do it for the passion, and the money will follow.”
– Lèna-awa Sall
Producer and media coordinator Lèna-awa Sall also shared her perspective on bringing Service Charge to life:
The Boar: How did you find the shoot?
L.S.: It was a great team to work with; everyone brought their A-game. Xaymaca was a good director with a strong vision. He was open to our ideas, and the shoot felt collaborative. This experience, from behind-the-scenes conversations to talks with the guests themselves, has reinforced my professional goals. As a creative myself, it was encouraging to see people following their passions, and it made me more certain of the path I’ve chosen. The team Xaymaca assembled was made up of creatives relatively new to production. This meant that we grew together and learned from each other. To any prospective producers, interested in working on similar projects, I would say to experiment. Try different things. Find your style. Learn about the equipment. At the beginning, don’t think about the money. Do it for the passion, and the money will follow. Don’t be limited by the equipment or budget if it is small. Your storytelling will always be the most meaningful element.
Service Charge is available now on Awoyungbo’s YouTube channel, Forever Sauce.