Rise and rise of Robert Peters of moviedom
Nearly everything he has touched as a filmmaker since he left Nigeria in 2005 has literary turned gold. Films that he has starred in, photographed and or directed have effortlessly made it to the top 10 of the very exclusive list of Nigerian top box office earners.
The deep actor and later-day director and cinematographer, Robert Oyimemise Peters, had his imprint on that Ayo Makun’s blockbuster, 30 Days in Atlanta. Not only did the movie gross N164 million at the box office, the highest figure recorded by any Nigerian movie at the box office as at the time it was released (The Wedding Party grossed N452million last year), the comic movie made the Guinness Book of World Records listing as Nigeria’s first highest grossing film of recent history.
Last year, Robert again teamed up with the stand up comedian, Makun or AY for short, and they made another blockbuster, A Trip to Jamaica, which again sold massively and broke the earlier record their first collaborative effort earned.
A Trip to Jamaica reportedly made N180million at the box office, a figure that guaranteed the movie a comfortable second place listing on the exclusive list of top Nigerian box office earners.
Though based in Atlanta, United States (US), where he runs White House Studios, an independent movie production company, Robert, who has signed a couple of successful movie productions either as co-producer or as director of photography and as director, has literarily ‘relocated,’ as it were, to motherland, where he has been working on a number of collaborative efforts.
It seems now that any one interested in making his or her project turn gold would want to have the tall and well built Edo State-born multi-talented artist on their set.
Currently on a location in Jos, Plateau State, it was Robert birth date on June 6 and his colleagues and members of his huge fan club took to the various social media platform to celebrate the University of Jos-trained geologist, who quit a priced vocation that was sure to earn him a spot on the fortune list for show business.
Born in Sabon Gari, Kaduna State, and raised between Kaduna and Jos, Robert hails from Ososo town in Akoko Edo. The second of seven children, though his parents wanted him to study Medicine, Robert, an old boy of Government College, Kaduna, settled for Geology instead, and rather than head to Maiduguri, his father’s preferred institution, he chose the University of Jos, because the tin city, as he explained, held a lot of attraction for him.
Upon graduation in 1997, Roberts secured a job with an oil service firm in Warri, Delta State, but relocated to Lagos when the firm folded up and was to be engaged later as a Graduate Assistant at the University of Lagos.
Though he got on well with the job, acting beckoned and pulled him in ‘real hard,’ as he quipped, from his first love- Geology. He said: “I was asking myself recently how I get to this level, because I am sure that if you meet some of my friends today, particularly my school mates, they would tell you that they don’t know what I am doing as a filmmaker. They all thought I was going to end up a lecturer or an oil worker.”
As a child, the closest Robert came to acting was the fact that he exhibited some acting naiveties. He was also a good debater and a jolly good fellow, whom everyone wanted to listen to, and the head of the drama fellowship of the Oasis of Love Church in Jos. It was his membership of that group that provided the platform for him to try out his hands in acting.
But the real attraction and pull for Robert towards acting, as he later confessed, was frustration. He had lost his job in the ‘small oil service company’ and so his next move was to heel from Warri to Lagos in search of another job.
It was while in search of a ‘good job’ in Lagos that acting beckoned. But how did he board the ship? He explained: “It was with Mama Sunday. That was my very first production.
“I got this call that I was needed for an acting job. I hesitated, because I had come out of a production where I was not paid. But here was the producer actually negotiating with me and right there, he gave me some money upfront.
“The first thing I did with the money was to pay the debt I owed my mother. She had given me some money to accomplish a task, but I blew it. So, when my mother asked where I got the money from, I quickly declared that I was now a movie star, and that was how it started.”
Mama Sunday was released almost at the point when Robert was leaving the orientation camp for his place of primary assignment. He recalled that even though his screen debut was on television, as Dr. Don Johnson on a Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) Jos entry for the now defunct Nigerian Festival of Television Production (NIFETEP), his effort on Mama Sunday turned him into an instant hit amongst his colleagues at the NYSC camp.
A filmmaker with a zeal that has taken him beyond an earlier focus on the middle line, Robert has been able to cut a swath amongst industry players both at home and abroad, and it is now evident that he has been able to etch himself on the minds of major players in moviedom.
Indeed today, the macho built Robert, who currently thinks in terms of screen bites, has emerged a recognisable figure in the Nigerian and US movie landscape.
A filmmaker with many credits, Robert would not be in a hurry to list his most challenging works. He inferred that he has found most of his jobs challenging, as he never takes up any job that would not task his brain.
However, he looked way back and picked Teco Benson’s movie, Burning Will, and the movie by Peace Ayiam Osigwe’s PMO Global Network, Fear of the Unknown, as a few of his most memorable movies, although ‘from the past.’
However, in his movie pouch are movies, such as Boxing Day, Affairs of the Heart, Shades of Attraction, Closure and The Diary Man. Asked if he would thread this path again and Robert, who named the civil right activist, Malcolm X, reggae legend, Bob Marley, Martin Luther King and Marcus Garvey as his lifetime heroes, snapped: “I have grown in the business now to love filmmaking and if there is anything that I would also like to do outside it, then that would have been singing.
“I love jazz music. I play the piano a little, but I love filmmaking. It has become life for me and on that basis, I think I would still do it again.”
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