BEHIND THE SCENE : OJUJU the movie
I’m never going to do anything simple. Otherwise, I would be going against my very nature. I have to be able to challenge myself, and push myself, if I’m ever going to feel alive doing this. Otherwise, I might as well as just quit and go back to my boring 9 to 5.
Congratulations on your new movie, “ OJUJU “ , we have read a few releases online about the movie, we would like to feature the movie in our behind the scenes section of our magazine.
We have some questions below, we would also like to have a few behind the scene pictures for this publication, preferably 5 to 8 pictures including the on the set pictures of the filmmaker.
VOM : How did you conceive the film idea “ojuju” , since it was written and directed by you?
FILMMAKER : I was visiting a friend in this slum neighbourhood, and I noticed the peculiar features of this environment. It had one point of ingress and egress; as well as the fact that they had only one source of water from which everyone in the area fetched water from. That immediately lit a bulb in my head, and I knew that was a premise for something. I just didn’t know what exactly. As I continued my visits there, I would further observe the environment, and the people there, how they lived, how they talked. It’s a known statistic that about 70 Million Nigerians don’t have access to clean drinking water. And I’ve often wondered about that – how if an epidemic resulting from drinking polluted water were to occur, the people living in the slums would be the most hit. So for me, it was simply a question of marrying that known fact, with the realities surrounding a slum community, case in quote – this particular slum with one point of ingress and egress; which basically means that if the epidemic spreads it would be difficult for survivors to escape, being that the only point of exit is blocked out by flesh eating zombies, or in this case Ojujus. I was also heavily influenced by the old George Romero zombie films that I grew up on. Those thoughts were the birthing seeds of what would later become the script for Ojuju, and because It wasn’t too much of the fantasy stuff, but rather relying on a real and authentic environment, the screenplay pretty much wrote itself. I believe I had a first draft ready in 3 days.
VOM : How was the casting done?
FILMMAKER: Some of the actors were people we already wanted to work with, like Gabriel Afolayan, Kelechi Udegbe, Paul Utomi and Meg Otanwa - so we pretty much casted them right off the bat. Then we held an audition in Surulere, Lagos few days before the shoot proper. From the audition, I was able to cast the likes of Omowunmi Dada, who played the female lead. Yvonne Enakhena. Brutus Richard. And a few others.
VOM : What film gear did you use to shoot the movie “Ojuju”
FILMMAKER: We shot on a Blackmagic Cinema Camera (BMCC), and a Canon 5D Mark II and III. Also a GoPro for Aerial and underwater shots. Because of the no-budget nature of the film, it was just impossible to stick with a particular gear through the duration of the shoot. We just had to work with what was available, as well as what worked for us.
VOM : Blackmagic Production Cinema Camera was used, why the choice of blackmagic ?
FILMMAKER: The BMCC was available to me at the time, so it was a question of doing high definition, but without that DSLR “flash” look, that’s almost generic to the 7Ds and the 5Ds. But in the end, we didn’t have the BMCC all through, and we ended up shooting on a 5D anyways. It was just a convenience choice. We stuck with cameras that allowed us to shoot on the go, and not worry about backing up rushes, or editing bulky footage, and what not. We stuck with choices that suited us. Simply put – we cut our coat according to our size.
VOM : Nigeria has not shot many horror flicks , how did the cast cope with interpretation of their lines in this new terrain.
FILMMAKER: I think the actors are best suited to answer that. But if I were to have a go at it, I would say that I was quite fortunate with the actors that I worked with on Ojuju. They may not be the biggest names in the industry, but I say this everywhere – they are definitely the cream of the crop. Even without any rehearsals they still came through. Some of them got the scripts just days to the shoot. Brutus got the script on location. But they really did get it. I mean, they understood what we were trying to achieve. And as much as it wasn’t a perfect attempt, they were able to basically grasp the idea and deliver. And they were very willing to explore new territory, as well as place this enormous faith in me. I know a few actors who didn’t want to have anything to do with the film because they were scared. Most actors like to play it safe, and stay in familiar courts. But these actors, they were really bold, and adventurous. And I think a lot of what they brought to the film stems from that adventurous spirit.
VOM : Tell us about the festivals you were nominated in or won with “Ojuju the Movie”?
FILMMAKER: We premiered Ojuju at the Africa International Film Festival held in Tinapa, Calabar in November 2014. It was nominated for virtually every feature film category, and it won the award for Best Nigerian Film. We were beyond shocked. I didn’t see that coming. Especially with all the big budget films competing. We also took the film to the Eko International Film Festival in Lagos, also in November. The Film has also been accepted most recently at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, California where it will be screening come February 2015. Quite a number of reputable film festivals around the world have indicated interest in screening Ojuju. Right now, we’re kinda sieving through the right ones. Because what you don’t want to do as a filmmaker is get carried away by all the festivals. You want to screen your film at the right festivals, where it gets to the right audiences and gets the right exposure.
VOM : Did you have doubts in you that you were going into a terrain(genre) Nigerians do not operate in when you were about to start pre-production ?
FILMMAKER: I think every filmmaker who delves into unpopular territory will have doubts. I had doubts in the audience accepting what I was putting out. I had doubts in the market, the distributors wanting to even distribute what I was putting out. And these doubts are quite justified. We are in every sense a nascent industry. We’re like a plane still about to take-off. There’s a whole lot of safety measures that are strictly adhered to, and it’s like we haven’t taking off yet. When we do take off – it might be different, ‘cause then we’ll have the atmosphere to ourselves. The atmosphere is space and it’s free. But right now we’re stuck on the seatbelt, listening to the metaphorical steward telling us what to do and what not to do, if we want to make sells. And those who ignore, often times are seen as rebels. Even when they don’t plan to be rebels. They just want to do special things. But the doubts are genuine, you know. But one thing I decided a long time ago is that if I’m going to make films I’m never going to do anything simple. Otherwise, I would be going against my very nature. I have to be able to challenge myself, and push myself, if I’m ever going to feel alive doing this. Otherwise, I might as well as just quit and go back to my boring 9 to 5.
VOM : If you could change any policy in Nigeria to help filmmakers , what would it be?
FILMMAKER: I’m not aware of any existing policy that caters to filmmakers. I’m strictly speaking for myself here. Because, if there was I never would have made Ojuju without a budget. We would have had funding for it. And you would think, that coming out of the experience of making Ojuju without a budget, and having it gain all this attention, for a film with no financial backing, you would think that financiers would line up at my door step, just waiting to fund my next project – you would think that, but that’s not case. In a country, where they truly care about film, and care about improving the film industry, and have us compete at the highest levels possible, you’ve got to allow the filmmakers access to funds. It’s not rocket science. Right now, filmmakers in Nigeria create magic. Because we’re all basically independent. And trust me “independent” here means “independent” for real. You are on your OWN. The people who ought to be paying attention aren’t paying attention. It’s like we’re spilling our blood here to keep folks entertained but no one gives a damn. It’s like this - what do we have to do before they pay attention? We’ve hit the brick wall here. And yet you still hear people complaining about Nigerian films, like seriously? Are you kidding me?
VOM : What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?
FILMMAKER: Make sure that you really truly love film. If you want to be famous, rich and have paparazzi all over you, please don’t be a filmmaker. Leave it for those who really truly have love for the craft. I beg you. But if you really, truly love film, and you think you have something to offer, then brace yourself for the journey. It will be hard. And that’s putting it mildly.
VOM : There is been a craze for shooting in 4k and downscaling, what is your take?
FILMMAKER: My take on all the 4k talk is this. Do what works for you. The problem we have is that most people don’t really know what they want. So when they hear shooting 4k is cool, they want to shoot 4k. And when they hear HD is cool, they want to shoot HD. Do what works for you. I can’t stress it enough. The problem though with the philosophy of doing what works for you is that you actually have to KNOW what you want. This involves the laborious duty of actually knowing the technical aspects of filmmaking, and many people have very little patience for that. They just want to shoot on a RED and get it over with. Till we start understanding that Film is an art ex
VOM : What is your take on the New Nollywood, in comparison to the Old Nollywood ?
FILMMAKER: Honestly, such debates about New Nollywood or Old Nollywood bore the crap out of me. They’re even worse than the 4k debate. What does it matter what’s old and what’s new. Like really. Let’s think about it. Here in Nigeria, they say the New Nollywood is the bunch of new filmmakers right, who basically think they’re the bomb and know everything and think the old guys are outdated and cramping their style. Then you have the Old Nollywood which is made up of the old guys, who think the New guys are silly, arrogant, impatient and lack respect. I’ll tell you why all this labeling is silly – how does that help us advance? How does that help make better films? How does that help put money into the hands of creative people who actually want a real chance at being able to create at the highest levels possible, but because of silly labeling or who belongs to who and who belongs to what, he or she won’t get that chance. I look at countries like South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, and I want to weep for Nigeria. We’re busy debating over 4k and who’s New or Old Nollywood, while these nations are going to Cannes, making their nations proud, fostering foreign investment and boosting their economies. Doesn’t that just make us the silliest of people? I’m not new Nollywood. I’m not any label. I’m just a filmmaker who wants to make good films. In the end, that’s all that matters. And that’s all that should matter to anyone, if you really, truly love film.
VOM : Film school vs Apprenticeship ? Which one would you pick for aspiring filmmakers and why?
FILMMAKER: It’s a personal decision. Some people don’t do very well in a formal learning environment. It might even inhibit them. A few renowned directors like Paul Thomas Anderson, Alfonso Cuarón, Quentin Tarantino, and Robert Rodriguez actually swear against film school. And these guys aren’t doing too badly, if you agree. Others go to film school, and they go on and do great things. Thing though is, information is just so readily accessible that one begins to question the wisdom in paying an enormous amount of money on film tuition only to be taught something you would have learnt on some YouTube tutorial, when you may save up the tuition and use it to shoot your first film, and get the most valuable diploma any filmmaker can hope to gain – experience. But that’s just one train of thought. The most important thing is training and leaning. Film like any other field requires time to master. But unlike most other fields, a lot of it is practical and less theoretical. So whether you get your learning from a film school, or from a seasoned filmmaker, get your leaning, and never stop.
VOM : How do you think we can solve film distribution problems in Nigeria?
FILMMAKER: We can’t say this enough. We need more people getting into the cinema chain business. We can’t just have two or three cinema chains in the entire country. It doesn’t make any sense. We have all these people with money, spending it on new films, with no place to distribute them. That’s penny wise, pound foolish. I mean, let us fact the truth and quit all this lollygagging. We don’t even have the slimmest chance of sustaining a film industry if we can’t effectively distribute our films. So all stakeholders and moneybags should quit all the talk, and get back on the drawing board. First things first – build cinemas everywhere.
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