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The business of filmmaking – Part 5 

film-directorI am Omoni Oboli and I represent Naija! The understanding of the business of filmmaking is so paramount to the entertainment industry, that when we can grasp it, the other pieces of the puzzle will seem to just fall into place.

I can’t overemphasize the work of the actor enough. It is pivotal to the success of the movie at the cinema, for DVD sales and also to increase viewership on cable networks, inflight entertainment and online video on demand (VOD) channels. I’ll start by telling my story; I came into the film industry first in 1996, and enjoyed a small and very eventful time as a house help in the movie, SHAME, another small role in the movie, BITTER ENCOUNTER, and then lead roles in three other movies, with two of them being Fidelis Duker’s NOT MY WILL and DESTINED TO DIE, and Hilda Dokuboh’s ANOTHER CAMPUS TALES. After this very enjoyable period, I reluctantly left the industry to complete my studies.

These were the budding years of Nollywood, simply known then as ‘home videos’. The mindset was different back then. It was sheer grit and passion that drove the industry, and everyone knew what was up and where we were. We had no delusions of grandeur, believing we were more than what we were. We knew we were making history, and the zeal to see more fueled our poorly paid talent to give our best for a worthy future.

The work that was put in to make the ‘Home video’ industry strive was such that the actors helped to promote their work and also understand the pitfallls of the producers and playmakers. The need to build was somehow imbibed in our spirit till we all felt like one big family. Don’t get me wrong. Their were issues among industry practitioners, but it wasn’t the general overview. Everyone helped everyone build and promote their work, so that everyone eventually benefitted from the everyone’s success one way or the other. People were criticized, but criticisms were taken in good spirit, and many improved accordingly, and only a few slipped away. The marketers were in unism with the producers, not without some unwholesome deal breakers, but the experts were left to do their thing, while the marketers did their part to just sell the finished products.

I came back into the industry several years later, and my passion for the industry was not yet quenched. I had a fire in me that wanted to light up every scene and push every movie. This was the attitude needed to build an industry, but alas, I came to see that there was a new and different structure that was more dedicated to making movies, marketers interfering with the experts to produce their own, and the actors relegated to just featuring in moves and having their faces splashed across the jackets of VCDs as their only marketing strategy.

This method produced only a few leading actors in the movie industry that were used, and for me to break into it seemed impossible. Thank God for Emem Isong! She took me under her wings after I had read a scene for her when we first met, and was determined to bring me in. My first movie with her was aptly called UNFINISHED BUSINESS, since that’s what I felt I had while I was still hibernating. I was featured alongside Nollywood iconic actress, Genevieve Nnaji and the sizzling heartthrob of the industry, Desmond Elliott.

Then came many other roles that today have helped to define me. When Kunle Afolayan was auditioning for THE FIGURINE, I went uninvited to audition for the role, and when I got it, finished the movie, I didn’t just sit back and wait for the success of the movie. I was at every interview on television, radio, print and electronics media to help promote the movie without asking for a dime. Coming from my more passionate beginning, I saw this as my duty to promote the work I (not someone else) had done.

This was my movie! When Kunle would call me that there was something to be done, I saw it as an opportunity, rather than a chore, to promote my day job. The success of the movie was my success, and no greater joy could I have felt than to see the producer get the well deserved value for his money for employing my services. The performance and the production was good, no doubt, but haven’t we seen enough success stories of incredible talents that never saw the light of day because there was no one to promote it? I didn’t want my light to be hidden under a bushel because I wasn’t ‘sharing’ the money that was sure to follow the success.

So, how did it help me? It opened doors! People didn’t just see my skills on the screen, but also off the screen, and both added to my resume. This was the same story with ANCHOR BABY; I went to every cinema with the producer and granted several interviews, so that the success of the movies I have featured in were not just because they are good movies (and they are), but because I made a great effort to promote them. I didn’t just relax and hope that my face on the poster or the jacket would do the trick. For every producer who gets his return on his investment, you help create another job line for all actors. I haven’t worked with Kunle since THE FIGURINE, but look how many movies and people he has employed and empowered since then.

On a final note, I always try to look at those far ahead of me to see how they got there. The likes of Tyler Perry, Dwayne Johnson (The Rock), Kevin Hart, are such sources of inspiration on how an actor should promote his movie using their various social network platforms, so that there’s no confusion, when you look at their pages, about who they are and what they do. It’s kind of like working in a bank, and while you’re there, you’re selling akara on the side in the office! In this case, the akara is all you’re selling and neglecting your duty. If you want to be a model, that’s fine, but don’t keep making out like you’re an actor, when we don’t see it. Till next week, keep smiling!

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NollywoodOmoni Oboli