From kajola to make a move, Akinmolayan breathes out of luck
Niyi Akinmolayan is a filmmaker and content creator. He owns and manages a post-production studio called Anthills in Lekki-Ajah, Lagos. His dream is to revolutionise the Nigerian film industry. In this chat with DANIEL ANAZIA, he spoke on his movies, including Kajola, Make a Move, Falling and Out of Luck.
At what point did you consider filmmaking as a career or option for life?
Filmmaking wasn’t even the thing on my mind. Way back in school, I found a subtle love for the computers and what could be done with it. Then, I used to do a lot of graphics works and animation, the passion, in fact, took me from one studio to the other. You know, when you do this kind of work, you end up working with a lot of filmmakers and television production people. It was in one of this journey that it occurred to me that I could express myself a lot better with the language of film narratives. So, I decided to give it a try and see what could come out of it. I did a bit of training in film; there and then, I knew what I wanted to do. I knew I would be involved in production business. From early I life, I knew I wanted to do animation for family entertainment and also tell stories with films as a medium. I became a director officially when I made my first feature, Kajola, in 2009 and released it in 2010. Since then, I have gone to make a couple of films including Make A Move, which was released in 2013; Falling in August 2015, and Out Of Luck in December 2015. These are like the core films that I have made and they have been out in the cinemas. So, the journey has been practically six to seven years now.
What was your academic forte?
Art is something that comes naturally in my house. Mine is a house of a lot of artistes, despite the fact that we all grew up doing one form of art or the other. Back in school, I would represent my school in debates and talk shows and would even act in school plays, but I never saw that as a means of changing the world. For me, it was just a way to make people laugh! Science, I believed was the solution. So, art was something that came natural to us. My dad wanted us to be scientists, doctors, engineers and all that. So we never really thought about the art as something to make money out of.
Growing up, I desired to become a theoretical physicist with dreams of working in giant laboratories. I wanted to put an end to the crude oil problems in Nigeria by working on alternative sources of energy. So, as it turned out, I ended up in Yaba College of Technology, where I studied electrical electronics engineering. It was the most frustrating, yet revealing period of my life, as I realised that I had learnt nothing useful for my true ambitions. I kept thinking how I could possibly change the world with a certificate and no useful and practical knowledge of anything. It wasn’t what I had dreamed of. But I realised that if I had to make a difference, I needed to try something no one had tried before. As it were, no one was teaching visual effects or animation and the only place I had was the Internet. I would spend hours browsing for resources and learning how to use multimedia software. So, it was very easy for me when I started using computers to create art works. Some of the things that take people years to learn I figure out very quickly because it was something that have become of me, and learning the technical aspect of it became very hand because I was already an engineering student. While I didn’t set out to do this, the moment I notice that I could use some of my technical training to make better art I decide to take to art immediately after school.
From the jobs you done so far, which would you say was more challenging?
Here is a rule that I always want to live by: I want my last work to be my best. So, naturally, that means that I always put excellence and quality in what I do so as to get a new opportunity or job. This is how I would make the comparison, Kajola was really challenging, because it was my first, and I didn’t have any prior experience, on filmmaking, and here I was on the set with films stars. So, it was a lot of pressure, which was mostly technical and the normal pressure that comes with someone that is new on the turf. But I would say that my last film, Out of Luck, is the most challenging, because it is the most recent, and it is like my favourite, yet of all the works I have done. The scale of the story is the biggest of the stories that I have done. I have to weigh more locations, cars and characters. Also, it tells a story from an angle that I was excited about and made us shot I really strange places that I wasn’t experienced with. Again, putting the film together was more creative but challenging. So, you can picture it, as whatever comes from me as recently would most probably be my most challenging work if I can put that way.
What are the challenges you are often faced with making any of your work?
There are lots of challenges, but the most pressing is getting finance to fund the project. For the kind of films I make, my budget runs into hundred millions of naira. I know this may sound like a big joke to ears, but it’s the reality. To make a movie that is world class and standard to the international community, you must spend good fortune to get good result and quality desired. I don’t venture into movie production, if I don’t have the much-needed investment. It’s important to note that the movie is 20 per cent pre-production, 10 per cent production and 70 per cent post production.
Without sounding arrogant, my team and I at Anthill Multimedia are well equipped with all the technical know-how on movie making. It takes more than five people to produce a movie. Post-production takes more time than pre-production and production stages, reason our movies looks and come out the way they does. We worked on movie, scene-by-scene, cut-by-cut and frame-by-frame.
I often spend time to explain to the casts (actors) what we needed to achieve and how we want the movie to turn out. Sometimes, I would have to act the scenes for them explaining how and where they should move. Some shots required about six camera setups and the action scene took 13 cameras shooting at the same time. We make use of dollies, cranes, devices and gadgets we invent for ourselves and for each scene we would have to calibrate distances and optics so we can composite the visual effects properly in post-production.
The third and quite unfortunate challenge is power! It makes me realise just like I’d always believed that our economy is the way it is, because of poor power supply, and until we find alternative sources, nothing is going to change. Sometimes, we use about eight generators (each 7.5KVA) and two inverters all costing millions of naira, which also extends the budget. We grapple with the loss of computer hard drives and boards, which of results in the loss of work, and we have to start all over again. This often extends the time and budget.
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