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Raymond still had a few key shots left to round out the first day of filming, but he was running low on phone space.

With little time left before his crew lost all natural light, Raymond unlocked his Android (Go edition) smartphone, and transferred a few large video files to his cousin and co-director’s phone using the file-management app Files by Google app. With space suddenly freed up on his phone, Raymond could finish filming the scene.

A young boy stands in front of the camera with fire in his hands, an effect created with technology.
Raymond and his team create remarkable special effects using different tools, with the help of Android

Time is always of the essence on a film shoot, and that day, Raymond and his seven-person filmmaking team—a collective of brothers and cousins from Kaduna, Nigeria, dubbed the Critics Company—knew they needed to make the most of every minute they had to finish their project. A three-part, Stranger Things-inspired teen horror romp, it was one of their most ambitious projects yet. But after making several films together over the past five years, Raymond knew they were up to the challenge.

“On busy shoots, we use Files to keep tabs on storage space, and to transfer files between phones when someone else’s phone doesn’t have enough space to record.”

So far, their work has been a childhood dream come true: Ever since he caught a behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Terminator on a local TV station when he was nine, Raymond knew that filmmaking was for him. His parents, however, had other ideas, hoping he would become a doctor. But Raymond couldn’t imagine spending a lifetime in a hospital—not after he’d seen where filmmaking could take him: different countries, different planets, different universes altogether.

So Raymond made his own online film-school curriculum. Using Google, he searched for free editing and VfX software, and spent nights and weekends mastering them with the help of tutorials on YouTube. He got his brothers and cousins onboard, and together, they learned how to film on their Android phones, write as a team, light scenes, and distribute Critics Company films via their newly minted YouTube channel.

“Filmmaking is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I feel joy while creating because I feel like the experiment in filmmaking never ever stops.”

They completed their first film in 2016: A short film about a brilliant homeless youth who befriends a much wealthier child. Raymond describes the production process in blunt terms—“a learning phase that was horrible”—but, however imperfect, it gave Raymond and his co-producers a glimpse of what they were capable of. They saved up funds for more Android phones for filming, plus a new green-screen cloth, and began transforming their neighborhood into new planets, horrifying zombie-scapes, and futuristic dystopias.

A man with a bionic arm stands with his back to the camera facing a dystopian, dark cityscape.
The Critics Company creates dramatic scenescapes to take audiences to new worlds.

Today, four years after their first film debuted, The Critics Company has produced over 40 films and amassed a global audience of 68,000 subscribers on YouTube. All of its members are still younger than 20. Raymond and the team hope to eventually make waves in Nollywood—Nigeria’s filmmaking industry—and beyond, but until that day, they’ll keep cranking out films on a shoestring budget.

“If you can’t do it with what you have, you can’t do it even when you have more,” Raymond says. And based on what they’ve made so far, it’s clear they’re on the path to so much more.

A small group of people put a green fabric on a wooden structure outside to create a green screen.
Constructing a green screen for film shoots is a team effort.

How Raymond does it.

Android (Go edition).

Raymond and his team shoot their films almost entirely on their Android (Go edition) smartphones, using multiple phones at once to capture different perspectives on every scene.

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Files by Google.

The Critics Company manage file storage during busy shoots using Files by Google on their Android (Go edition) smartphones. Whenever one phone is running low on storage during a day of filming, they free up space by sharing large files offline to another phone using Files by Google.

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YouTube

With the help of YouTube tutorials, Raymond mastered editing and VfX softwares capable of turning even normal surroundings into far-flung worlds. He also manages his team’s popular YouTube Channel, Critics Company, from the YouTube app on his Tecno Camon.

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