Wednesday 1 November 2017

For young Nollywood producers

I find the beginnings of any write up very hard so forgive me if this doesn't start out very nice.

As many of you may know, Niyi Akinmolayan( he said I should always refer to him as hot and sexy, so you may add these adjectives before his name) and I made a film two years ago. FALLING.

It didn't hit in the cinemas. I remember when I got the first report, I wanted to cry. Actually the first shocker is usually when you see your schedule. You know immediately that the distributors don't believe in your film but you talk yourself out of distress; tell yourself there were after all very few screens when Ije made over 50m, remind yourself of all the positive thinking messages you listened to. Usually, you'd be wrong and your movie would fail. Falling did but fortunately only in cinemas. Our film went on to be a big hit everywhere else. It produced the best actress for that year and my aggregator admits that it is one of his best performing films. I'm sure all the people who worked on the project will agree that it's done a lot for their career. I know it has for me. So maybe I should say, with some arrogance, that the cinema audience did not understand us. (picture a tongue out emoticon here)

It hasn't stopped there. Last year I was commissioned by Africa Magic to make three movies for them. Our very first conversation on the subject was based on FALLING.

The point of my post is to encourage young filmmakers(I feel so old saying that) to stay true to themselves. A good movie will always find home. That home may just not be at the cinemas. There's been a lot of talk about the audience preferring comedies and so producers feel obliged to make movies of this genre. I don't know that this is true. Nollywood didn't happen today and the audience has always been varied. But I would agree that some films may be easier to sell than others. So if you're ready to throw a lot of weight into marketing, I'd say do you. The cinema is only one platform. There's the internet, cable and more. Sadly we seem to have lost the DVD market.

The time to make money is now, and the opportunities exist. Don't make a film that will fly above everyone's head simply because you want to prove a point. When you're 60, wearing unironed adire without a dime in your pensions fund, no one will care that once upon a time you were the ish. People only care about the present ish so make an effort to stay relevant.

Most of my movies have recorded commercial successes but this is never my primary intention. I try to make films that people will remember, that will outlive me. That said, I make an effort to include what I hope will be some commercial value because what's the point if no one watches your film?

I've been largely lucky in Nollywood perhaps because my sister came before me so she suffered
enough for two of us(hehehehe) but there's definitely a place for hard work and consistency. Keep at it, learn from your mistakes, tomorrow will definitely be better.  Lost in London, directed by Sunkanmi Adebayo, made more than the entire gross of Falling, in its opening weekend. We had learnt a few things. We still didn't meet our target but it was progress. It is our hope that our next film, GETTING OVER HIM, directed by Desmond Elliot (I'm an ashawo when it comes to directors) will beat LOST IN LONDON's record. I like to say that I am only in competition with myself. So don't be discouraged, keep trying.

The second point of this post is to tell you that our third film for Africa Magic; AMERICAN BOY will air on Africa Magic Urban 153 on November 3 by 10pm. Do not miss it. American Boy is directed by Sunkanmi Adebayo.

Sunday 6 August 2017

Banana Island Ghost

Last year, I watched a comedy that scarred me and so I took a break from Nigerian comedies in cinemas, but I was curious about Banana Island Ghost so I decided to make an exception. 

I am wary about big budget Nollywood films, it often feels like they want to bamboozle me with spectacle and ignore STORY. For a story teller, this hurts.  BIG is big on spectacle quite alright, but the good News is it’s also big on story and performance.  
I was rolling my eyes ten minutes into the film feeling like they were trying to force me to laugh and then the accident happened and everything changed.
Patrick Diabuah as the ghost is a brilliant choice, even more brilliant is the choice to pair him with Chioma Omeruah (Chigurl). An unlikely pair who prove that opposites attract. Their acting is effortless, they both become the characters they play and as their bond grows, our love for them grows.
BIG tells the story of a ghost who is scared to go to heaven because he doesn’t have a soul mate, so convinces God to give him three days to fall in love. In the three days, he meets Ijeoma who will do anything to keep the banks from reclaiming her father’s property in Banana Island.
BB Sasore’s hard work is very evident. The drone shots are beautiful and he makes many other aesthetic choices.  The special effects made us all applaud in the hall. They were all very decent.
There are some plot gaps, naturally. Like the boyfriend who appears from nowhere, we know he’s there just for laughs but the laughs work so we don’t really mind. Or Ijeoma’s performance at the charity event, I thought someone would sign her to justify the event but it’s clearly just for the showdown at the end of the show. Again, the scene was worth it so we didn’t mind.
I’m particularly pleased by the choice of an upcoming actor as the lead. It is often my argument with distributors. I get the desire for star studded but while we need to make money, we also need to build an industry.  It’s heart breaking how much of a struggle it is to cast a fifty year old ‘baby boy’. The choices are very limited for an industry that is said to be the second largest in the world. Imagine if RMD hadn’t come back to acting. If we don’t invest in actors now, the next generation will have the same problems we’re having.
I remember some cinemas turned down Falling because we didn’t have enough ‘stars’. One of them would go on to cast Etomi in their own film a couple of years later. (Catch your shade?)
We’re all in this industry together and we must build it together so that our children may find it easier than we did, the same way the people who came before us paved the way for us now.
So BIG ups to BIG for choosing Patrick and congratulations Patrick for proving yourself worthy.
Banana Island Ghost feels like it was made with the primary intention of entertaining its audience; it succeeded. We left the hall feeling good.

The film is produced by Biola Alabi Media and directed by BB Sasore.

PS. If you think some Nigerian Policemen can be ridiculous, wait till you meet the DPO (Saidi Balogun) and his men.

Monday 17 July 2017

Olajumoke: Of long hair and long lashes.

I initially titled this post Olajumoke, The Bread Seller but I decided to tuck in my Nollywoodness.

I was going to go straight into what I thought about the remodelling of Olajumoke’s life then it occurred to me that some people may not know her. Last month I was talking to a friend about Bobriskky and he drew a blank. He’d never heard of the guy (He’s a guy, abi?). It’s easy to think we all know the same things but as our worlds all differ, so do our stories.
‘Olajumoke Orisaguna or Jumoke Sunday (born 1989) is a Nigerian model who received public attention when she appeared on the cover of a magazine before she was employed as a model. The story was reported in various media sources, including CNN.’ - Wikipedia
Sometime last year, Olajumoke photo bombed a music video shoot while hawking bread. Her life has not been the same since then.  I followed the story briefly then lost interest, it seemed the media also lost interest but lately Orisaguna is back in the News.

Her pictures have been popping up everywhere, in most of them she looks like a completely new person. In some of them, people alleged that she might be bleaching or toning(that’s the more acceptable term, I think. )

So it’s got me wondering, is this our definition of grass to grace? To wear fancy clothes, long hair and spot a brighter skin? Are these the standards by which we measure growth? Has Jumoke now arrived?
I can’t help but compare her to Malala Yousafzi. I know that seems like a bit of a stretch but that’s what I had expected or something close.  I think that part of the reason our society is failing our young ones is the absence of heroes, no one for them to look up to. I had thought that Jumoke would be nurtured so that she can nurture, so that many people with backgrounds similar to hers would dare to dream. But is this the dream? Fancy clothes and parties? Is this the new Nigerian dream? While I have nothing against fancy clothes and bags, I can’t but ask the question, is this it?
Are young people expected to look at her and aspire to be like her? And what exactly would being like her mean?
I understand that Jumoke is now a model so her appearance is important but surely she can be a lot more than that. No?

Wednesday 8 March 2017

The Women On My Mind

Seeing as it is International Women’s day, I decided to mention a few Nigerian women I admire, a few out of very many.

Chimamanda Adichie. Author.  I could have sworn that I had a picture with Adichie so I could show off but haters won’t let me be great, I cannot find it. Yesterday, I was talking to a friend about a recent Adichie article and he said ‘that one should stop talking’ before I could even say what the article was about. This is not uncommon. I find that many Nigerians feel Adichie should speak less. I do not understand this. Why should she like everyone else not be entitled to her opinions whether they sit well with us or not.  While I do not always agree with her, it is the very thing I admire most about her, that she has her opinions and states them. I like that she’d strong willed and refuses to be bullied by a society that feels they have the right to decide for her, what her thoughts should be.

I believe that artists are given talents not simply so they can make money off it but so they can influence society and that Chimamanda has definitely done. Her Tedx talk; We should all be Feminists has reached far and wide converting many to the bright side. Like her, I want a world where we no longer need feminism because we would have achieved gender equality.

Emem Isong Misodi. Filmmaker.  I definitely have a picture with her. Emem has been a rebel from as
 far back as I can remember.  And it is that rebellious spirit that I believe has contributed to her immense growth. She made her first Film, Breaking Point, with almost nothing. She knew she wanted to make films, so she quit her banking job and did just that. Now many years later, she has several film credits and awards to her name. But what stands out for me is the number of people she’s raised, I myself being top of that list. Let me tell you a brief personal story, when I was a cabin crew, I’d just returned from a trip and they wanted me to make another unscheduled trip at almost midnight. I just couldn’t do it but my boss wouldn’t take no. When I called Emem, she told me to tell them to shove their jobs up where the sun don’t shine.  She promised to pay me what they were paying me till I found another job. She didn’t though, and I had to quickly find another job in order not to starve.  Actually she got me the next job.  Everyone needs a strong support system. My family provide mine.

Mrs M. M. Isong.  Educationist. Also happens to be my mother. My mum gave us everything but most importantly she gave us a free will.  There was discipline, too much if you ask me but on the things that really mattered, She allowed us to choose. For instance, at 14, I no longer wanted to go to their church, she didn’t force me.  They’d drop me at my new church even though she didn’t approve. We chose what we wanted to study, my brother was originally a science student , made his papers but decided he preferred the Arts so his GCE and SSCE results are very different. My mother was cool with this. I can’t really explain my mother, she was liberal and very strict at the same time but suffice to say that she is the greatest woman of all time. Most of what I am is because she raised me.

Mary Olushoga. Entrepreneur. I need to start keeping it short or no one’s going to read it. Mary is the
founder of, a platform powering small business success for African entrepreneurs. Mary is a source of strength  for young entrepreneurs, encouraging them and linking them with investors.  Olushoga recently nominated me for a documentary on West African Women making a difference in their society. The video should be available tomorrow.

Mealdred Okwo. Filmmaker. Fondly called Aunty M, Mealdred is our advocate in Nollywood.
Perhaps because she’s a lawyer or because she’s not afraid to be politically incorrect. She speaks up  for what she believes in.  I feel like no one can find my trouble because I’ve got Aunty M on my side.

Bola Aduwo.  Writer. Publicist.  Aduwo is an ultimate believer in people. She uses her blog to showcase and encourage new talent.  ‘You can’t keep hiding’ She used to tell me. And she’s made sure that I hide less and less.

Tara Durotoye.  Make up Artist.  I am an admirer of not just her work but her person. One would think that someone in the bridal/make up industry would be flamboyant but Tara has maintained her simple and warm outlook.  It’s surprising that Tara is only just turning 40. In a country that seems to work against you, her level of success is no mean feat.

Rita Dominic. Actor. Producer.  I watched her at the AMVCA
and it gladdened my heart. She’s been at the top of the game almost from inception and she is still at the top of the game. Did I tell you that we attended the same secondary school?

Mary Njoku.  Entrepreneur.  Mary is CEO of ROK studios.  Mrs. Njoku has contributed  to the
growth of the Nigerian film industry from her time as an actress, till she metamorphosed into a producer and eventually launched one of the biggest platforms showcasing Nollywood content, ROK TV available both on DSTV and on Sky. Mary is also one of my biggest clients.

Dotun Akande.  Founder: Patrick Speech and Languages Centre.  Patrick Speech and Languages Centre is the pioneer special needs school for children with Autism. Dotun set up the school after her son had been diagnosed with autism and has since then invested a lot in creating awareness on autism and offering support for autistic children and their families. Akande believes that autistic children can lead  normal lives with early detection and advocates for this.

Uche Jombo Rodriguez.  Actor, Producer.  Uche is a major source of inspiration, one of the most hard working people I know, Uche has through hard work and will power pulled herself to the top and has stayed there.  I cannot talk about Rodrigues without talking about how much of a giver she is ; of her time, money and self.

Ansa Kpokpogiri.  Filmmaker. Ansa was one of the best people I ever met. She started her Nollywood career from the bottom of the ladder and through sheer hard work and diligence rose to be one of the best.  She was bold, brave and beautiful. She gave so much of herself to her work, her family and her friends. Many times, I wanted to quit, Ansa urged me on and now even in death, I hear her voice telling me everything will be fine. 

Happy International Women's Day!

Sunday 5 March 2017

Who do Nigerians say that I am?

Do we really love God?

I’ve been thinking about this question lately. We say it, we acknowledge it, but do we really love Him?

I was going to write about materialism and how social media has given us a platform to feed this demon that seems to live in the average Nigerian but after last Night’s award, I decided to write about this so called God culture that we have which for some reason does not actually reflect in our society.

So last night, many of the award recipients thanked God for their awards. At first I thought it was cute then as it continued throughout the show, I started to get uncomfortable. I’m not denying the place of God  in our lives but some of those films were for causes, and no one deemed it fit to mention the cause?

It makes me wonder if we made these films to bring the plight of the affected people to fore, or if we saw it as a platform to bring US to the limelight.  We awwww and oooooo over  the speeches at the Oscars but when we’re given a similar platform, all we can do is thank God?
Like I said earlier, this is not in anyway to deny the place of God but come on guys, When Jesus asked Simon whether he loved him and he answered in the affirmative, what did he say to him? He said ‘FEED MY SHEEP’! He didn’t say announce it to the world, He said to feed his sheep! Because it is not by words that you know God’s children by but their actions.

I think we feel that proclaiming God in public shows how much we love God. No it doesn’t, if anything it sounds hypocritical. You know why? Because our surroundings do not show our love for God, our way of life does not show a love for God, our thieving leaders do not show a love for God.  

That’s why there are so many churches but our society remains in the dark, unaffected by this God culture that we claim to have.

Was it not this God who asked us to love him with all our hearts and souls, and to love our neighbours as we love ourselves?  Did he not also say that there is no commandment greater than these? Can we beat our hands on our chest and say that we obey these commandments?  If we can, why is Nigeria still where it is. Our leaders do not drop from Mars, they are part of us.

While it’s trendy to visit orphanages and blast the pictures all over the media, it would also be great to use the award platforms to bring to fore the plight of some of our not so privileged neighbours particularly if we say that we made a film because of them.  It is not enough to call God at every given opportunity; to show how much we love him, we must show how much we love our neighbours.

PS. God bless Rita Dominic. God bless AMVCA. God bless Nollywood.