#WhereLeadersAreMade: Wanjiru Njendu, Award-winning filmmaker
Ms. Wanjiru Njendu is an award-winning filmmaker based in Los Angeles, USA, with a strong and varied background in the film industry, with a creative imagination earning her the nickname 'Magic' at a young age.
Between building up an award-winning directing portfolio with her films starring actors such as Simone Missick (CBS’s All Rise and Marvel’s Luke Cage) and Adetokumboh McCormack (ABC’s LOST and Netflix’s Castlevania), Wanjiru also has left her mark as a producer. This versatility also led to her being selected as a fellow in the Producer's Guild of America Diversity workshop.
In an effort to showcase Kenya, she produced the 5th Annual Women In Film International Committee’s Short Film Series, “Out of Africa, A Night of Kenyan Film & Culture” which was held at Universal Studios in 2011. The event which was hosted by actor Edi Gathegi and musician-actress Ida Onyango was headlined by Nobel Prize nominated author Prof. Ngugi wa Thiong’o who presented a reading of his works. It also showcased an art piece by artist Wangechi Mutu. 8 Kenyan films were presented during the event with the City of Los Angeles honoring it as one of the top 2011 cultural contributions to the city.
Wanjiru also directed the red carpet interviews with the Oscar nominated actresses for Women In Film’s Annual Pre-Oscar party, a live taping of the SAG-AFTRA / Women In Film Q&A panel for the film MISSRepresentation as well as the purple carpet interviews with the Emmy nominated actresses for the Variety/Women In Film Pre-Emmy party. The interviews showcased nominated actresses like Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alison Janney, among others.
In 2016, her documentary film ‘Safari ya Jamhuri: The Journey to freedom’ was used to provide evidence for a lawsuit against the British Government by the Mau Mau colonial war survivors from Kenya.
Wanjiru has studio experience having worked for both The Walt Disney Studios Company in various areas and Universal Pictures’ as part of their Creative Marketing team. While at Universal she worked on marketing and publicity on The Fast and Furious franchise, the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, Pitch Perfect franchise, the Ride Along sequel, The Despicable Me films as well Straight Out of Compton, Get on up and the Oscar winning film Get Out. She was also part of teams that ran the Oscar campaign for films such as Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7, Lone Survivor, 47 Ronin, Sing and Trolls.
In 2020 Wanjiru was invited to become of the Member of the prestigious Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (Oscars).
Upon leaving Universal Pictures', Wanjiru dived back fully into directing. She directed Boxed a psychological thriller short film based on the true story of the terrifying daring escape of Henry "Box" Brown, an enslaved man who used creativity to escape from slavery in 1849 by mailing himself to freedom. The film won numerous awards including Best Short film at The Hague Global Cinema Film Festival (one of the highest Human Rights film festivals) and took home Best Diaspora short film at The 2020 African Movie Academy Awards. In 2021, Boxed has been selected by the distinguished Académie des César for their Nuits en Or program which will take place in summer 2021 in Paris, France.
In addition, she was the shadowing director on the Netflix series “Daybreak” under director Mark Tonderai. Most recently, Wanjiru directed Stray, a horror proof of concept film with a feature option, which was acquired by 20th Digital Studios (a subsidiary company of The Walt Disney Company). The film is streaming on Hulu, ABC and FX networks. During the industry’s shutdown due to the pandemic she has been working on development of the feature film of Stray as well as several other films, TV series and animated projects.
Wanjiru is also the Creative Director and serves on the board of Little Einsteins East Africa which is a member of the global Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S.T.E.M) Ed Coalition. Founded in 2016, Einsteins East Africa is a STEM Edutainment program on hands-on learning activities for Children from as young as 1 1/2 to 12 years of age using S.T.E.M. concepts, in a fun and hands on manner. Little Einsteins East Africa is based in Nairobi, Kenya and also runs STEM programs in Kigali, Rwanda.
Wanjiru holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from USIU-Africa and a Master's Degree in Visual Media and Arts with a focus on Film from Emerson College in Boston, USA.