By Ifeanyi Ndukwe
Chima Okereke is a past National Secretary Director’s Guild of Nigeria, an erudite filmmaker and thespian from the Imo State University, with advanced studies from the University of Ibadan and Colorado Film School, Denver, USA. In this interview with Orient Weekend, he sheds light on state of the nation’s entertainment industry.
How would appraise the quality of movies being produced in Nigeria in recent times, in relation to other African countries, India and America?
It is growing. It is getting better but it is not yet where it should be. There is a genuine push for growth by practitioners.
What do you consider as the greatest challenge facing the Nigerian movie industry?
The organizational structure and regulation are the major challenges that have restricted real growth and development for the capacity to have real investments, return on Investments and more talents development beyond what it is now.
A lot has been said about the abundant talent and huge investment opportunities in the local movie industry. What do you consider as key to transforming the industry to rival that of Bollywood and Hollywood?
It is simply solid and better structure. The present structure in Nollywood cannot make Nollywood what it ought to be – a global player. Individuals, Guilds and Associations in Nollywood are handicapped by this structure. Then capacity building and Development are the other factors.
Can you tell us how your journey into movie industry started and what actually motivated you to pursue such career?
I studied Theatre Arts at Imo State University, while in school I go outside the school to check the guys that were doing video coverage and from there I did some amateur productions during my under graduate days and after graduation. I decided to know more and really pursue movie making as a full time professional career. I called some producers and Directors then, many dropped calls on me. Some said they were too busy to talk to me. I called Reginald Ebere, a great writer and Director and he spoke with me and met me. He talked to me sincerely, advised me and told me to reach out to the then president of Director’s Guild of Nigeria, Mr. Fidelis Duker. I met him, Mr. Duker is one of the most grounded practitioners. In fact he was in the middle of a production but he created time for me. I told him I wanted to be a crew, Production Assistant. From there he then guided me to professional movie making, producing, Directing etc.
Tell us some of the films you have produced so far and what makes them unique?
I have done quite some, Police Love, Hidden Scar, Wedding Bells, Tufia, Before The Wedding, UwaUmunwanyi, The Beautiful Strangers, just to name a few.
What was your first film directorial debut and how you got the job?
I did some amateur productions until I decided to know more and met Mr. Fidelis Duker. I assisted him as an Assistant Director in some of his Series. Strange Visitors which I wrote for FAD Productions, is the one that comes to my mind.
Who influenced your professional career so much in the industry?
I would say Mr. Fidelis Duker, a producer and director. He accepted me and showed me how movie production works after my graduation.
Which of the films produced this year so far do you considered as one of the best in the industry in terms of directing and why?
I can’t exactly say which, they are good in their own forms.
How would you react to the statement credited to Mr. Paul Obazele, alleging that most Nollywood directors are gay?
It is not most directors, there could be, but like in other professions, there are those whose lifestyles move in that direction. I can’t point to any director I know who is gay. That statement was over stated. It is his personal opinion and may not be really factual.
Would you encourage other upcoming actors to go for directing?
Yes, they should, fresh talents make the mistake of always going towards acting when they have other talents like scriptwriting and directing. Fresh Talent
s should train as Directors and pursue it as their specialization.
What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your directorial skills?
People management. Directing is about the picture on screen but you need to work with humans and to get the best out of them, you need to manage their capabilities as well as their behaviours. Secondly, capacity building, it has really assisted my growth.
What are the qualities you see in a movie that make you take a decision to part of it?
My first rule is, I don’t direct movie that ridicules women. For me also, the way themes are treated in a story script is a factor for me.
What has been the most inspiring project you did since this year?
I have been on post production of my last movie but in between that I have written three scripts that I’m proud of their themes, the story and the unique characters in them.
What sets you off in a movie and what thrills you in a film?
Amateur theme treatment, cliches. And for my thrills is unique story treatment. When a theme is treated so well that one follows the characters in their journeys, I love it.
What are the common mistakes film makers and directors make that you want them to address?
Lack of sufficient research and unnecessary cutting of corners. Then the last is not going for capacity building. Many filmmakers still hold their outdated concepts and ways of doing things. I had a Masters in Film Studies but I had to go to the United States of America for further skill and knowledge upgrade in a Film School. We should always improve ourselves.
Why do you think that there are few women directors in Nollywood compared to male category?
It is systemic in humanity. Certain positions, specializations or professions are seen strictly a male “area” so women don’t go for them. Directing is one of them. Even in Hollywood, you have just few directors compared to the number of males.
If given a chance, how would you depict our country, Nigeria in your films?
The way it is, but the Censors Board which is the classification agency will demand that you remove the areas they “think” are against government or will say too much.