Junior Okoli and Chas Appeti

Source: Delroy Matty/Prime Video

Junior Okoli and Chas Appeti

UK writing and directing team Chas Appeti and Junior Okoli have made their screen debut with Jungle, a time-bending, six-part series for Amazon UK about the connected lives of two strangers in inner-city London.

With echoes of Okoli’s favourite film The Matrix, Jungle is viewed through the prism of the UK grime and drill music scene and told using a blend of rap music and dialogue. It forgoes trained actors for a cast made up mainly of real-life musicians, with more than 30 taking part including Tinie Tempah and IAMDDB.

The two are co-founders of London-based creative agency Nothing Lost. Appeti spent 10 years working as a graphic designer while producing music and DJing on the side, which evolved into him making music videos. It was on a shoot in 2015 that he met Okoli, who was working in music management.

Okoli had grown up with a desire to be a filmmaker. “I never knew how a young Black boy from south London could get into film,” he said. “It seemed like such a distant dream. I thought there was more chance of me going to the moon. It was an aspiration I kept to myself, and only my close friends really knew about it. At that time, to say you wanted to be a director, when everyone around you wanted to be a footballer, or a rapper, or a successful drug dealer – you keep it to yourself.”

Two years after meeting, the pair founded Nothing Lost, with a mission to, in the words of Appeti, “make dope stuff – films, clothes, anything that’s cool and creative”.

Okoli and Appeti kept music management and videography ticking along while Okoli began writing Jungle. They then made a self-funded pilot. Discussions with several broadcasters followed before a music industry contact contacted Amazon in the US with the pilot. The US team was impressed and sent the pilot to UK colleagues including the then-Amazon Studios scripted executive — and Fleabag producer — Lydia Hampson, who, along with the then-head of Amazon Studios Georgia Brown, got behind the project.

Jungle is produced through Nothing Lost, with Appeti and Okoli directing and executive producing, and Kurban Kassam producing. Appeti is director of photography, while Okoli wrote the script.


Source: Delroy Matty/Prime Video


The series was a risk. There was Appeti and Okoli’s perceived lack of experience, which meant a wrestle with Amazon for Appeti to be DoP. UK producer Kassam came on board to offer more formal production experience, with credits that include Sally Potter’s The Party.

The eight-week shoot took place from April 2021 in pandemic London, an experience Appeti describes as “non-stop pressure”. Using musicians as actors also came with its challenges. “There were people who would never work with each other because of street politics, but we explained that this is a project for the greater good,” recalls Okoli. “We’re not going to have the spotlight shone on us like this for a long time.”

They are in talks for a second season of Jungle, set against a different genre of music.

The duo is keen to move into filmmaking. “Cinema is a staple,” says Okoli. “Streaming is like fast food. It’s all good, and it has its application. We all need fast food sometimes and some fast food is amazing, but we have to make big films.”