Written by: 
Jessica DeLeón

Bola Ogun was about to realize her dream.

After years of working in Hollywood, she was ready to direct her first major production -- an episode of Queen Sugar, the drama that runs on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network.

So what was it like when she was able to call "action" for the first time?

"It's a little bit like, 'I'm really doing this!' and 'Oh my god, I better not screw this up,'" she says.

Bola Ogun
Bola Ogun

Now she's racking up the credits -- including episodes of Big Shot, God Friended Me, Legacies, Lucifer and Walker. Her biggest coup is the season finale for the upcoming second season of the Netflix superhero drama Raising Dion, executive produced by Michael B. Jordan.

"It's crazy," she says. "I mean, it's sort of what any actor or singer or performer or anybody in the arts would say. It's crazy, and it's weird when it starts happening. When you begin to get hired as a professional more often, you work just as hard as you did to get there. As a production assistant, you're usually the first on set and the first out, and your job is focused on just getting the day done with the miscellaneous tasks you're in charge of. As a director, your job is about the whole project creatively and logistically. I'm using the same skills I used in the production department but instead of telling background actors to go to hair and make-up, I'm telling the whole cast and crew when we're doing the 'money' shots!"

Getting there
Bola Ogun
Bola Ogun

Ogun put in the work to get to this stage, beginning in her years at UNT in the 2000s, when she was a musical theater major.

She remembers studying a variety of scripts in her playwriting class, from Anton Chekov to Sam Shepherd

"You break the plays down," she says. "I still use some of the skills asking myself, 'What is this about? What is this supposed to feel like?'"

She appeared in two plays while at UNT -- Once Upon a Mattress and Scapino!

"As an actor, even undergoing bad makeup, you learn from all of those experiences," she says.

Then she moved to Hollywood, working as a production assistant for nine years on major films like The Dark Knight Rises and the TV show True Blood.

She directed, wrote and produced short films such as The Water Phoenix and Are We Good Parents?, which won her the AT&T Shape Emerging Filmmaker and Best Short Award and earned her a mentoring session with Ava DuVernay, the creator of Queen Sugar and director of Selma.

Ogun shadowed nine directors through six years and went through intensive directing mentoring programs such as the Warner Brothers Directing Workshop; American Film Institute's Workshop for Women; the HALF Shadowing program from Ryan Murphy, the producer of Glee and American Horror Story; and the Rebel Without a Crew series from From Dusk Till Dawn filmmaker Robert Rodriguez in which she made a movie in two weeks on a tight budget.

When she got her first directing gig, she says it was like the saying, "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." And it also means being mentally prepared.

"I mean it is hard," Ogun says. "It's very hard. You know it takes a lot of stamina and perseverance. You have to get used to hearing 'no.' You've got to make yourself a more valuable candidate."

On the set

Now that she's in the director's chair, Ogun gets to experience the excitement and the responsibility.

For example, she works with some of the industry's top stars, such as Big Shot leading man John Stamos. 

"You're coworkers -- but oh, it's John Stamos!" she says.

As a director, she not only oversees what happens on screen, but also off.

"When you take on that responsibility, you are aware you are the captain of that ship and the crew only runs as it feels," she says.

That includes wearing face masks for 10 to 12 hours during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Ogun knows it's a unique job.

"I'm focused, and I'm having fun," she says. "We play pretend for a living and there's no reason why it shouldn't be fun. We get to blow stuff up. We get to have gross special effects on people. It's never the same and it's exciting."

Her repertoire so far has ranged from drama to fantasy to family shows. She's especially proud of Dion.

"To get a season finale this early in my career -- it really is special, and I don't take them lightly," she says.

Does she have a movie in her future?

"There's all sorts of things happening," she says. "Stay tuned."

Bola Ogun on the set of the Disney+ series “Big Shot.”

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