Damilola Fatunmise; Fatimah Muhammad-Omolaja
After 16 years in the United States of America where he studied filmmaking, Martin Gbados returned home to pursue his passion. And by dint of sheer grace, all his works have received national and international acclaims.
In this chat, the producer of award winning movie, A Soldier’s Story, opens up on the potentials of Nollywood, challenges and what it takes to be a filmmaker.
What actually inspired A Soldier’s Story?
A Soldier’s Story is a story of bravery, blood and betrayal, a story of love and sacrifice. When Frankie Ogar, my business partner, director and writer of A Soldier’s Story decided to do this movie, we felt we had to do it well, to make sure that the sacrifices that have been made and still being made by Nigerian soldiers are captured in the movie. These are men who risk their lives every day to make sure we live our own lives safely.
Nigerian soldiers have been known for their peace keeping missions across Africa and beyond and we felt it was time to appreciate them through this movie. It is to show the world their sacrifice, which a lot of people take for granted. Pertinent to mention here that in America, their soldiers are celebrated because they believe there is no greater honour than a man laying his life down for his people. Our military men and women deserve more from us and we need to care for their loved ones.
The cast of a movie makes it appreciable to viewers; tell us about your cast.
The cast for Soldier’s Story was a breath of fresh air, as we believed we chose the best. We had Daniel K Daniel, who was the Best Actor in Africa, having won Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA) 2016 for Best Actor through his role in A Soldier’s Story. He repeated the same feat at the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA 2016) winning Best Actor award for his role in Soldier’s Story. We also had Sambasa Nzeribe, who won AMVCA 2016 Best Supporting Actor for his role in A Soldier’s Story. He equally won Best Actor at Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards 2017. Others are Adesua Etomi, AMVCA 2016 Best Actress; Linda Ejiofor, Tope Tedela, Zainab Balogun, Olumide Oworu, Chico Aligwekwe, an OAP with Classic FM; and Baaj Adebule, who is currently on the TV series, HUSH.
So, as you can see, we had an awesome cast who all brought their A-game on set of A Soldier’s Story. The crew as well was the best. With Hakeem ‘Effect’ Onilogbo doing his magic, winning Best Makeup Effect at Africa Movie Academy Awards 2016 for A Soldier’s Story. In deed, the movie surpassed all our expectations. The love we got from viewers across the continent and beyond has been awesome. A Soldier’s Story won over 10 awards locally and internationally and is currently showing in the biggest Online Video on Demand platform in the world, NETFLIX. When Genesis Cinemas decided to make A Soldier’s Story the first Nigerian movie they distributed, they knew they were making a sound business decision, which has paid off.
Do you have a follow up to the film?
A Soldier’s Story is a trilogy like Bourne Identity, each one with a life of its own but with the same cast and sequence. The next one is A Soldier’s Story – Return from the Dead and then A Soldier’s Story – Never Say Goodbye. We have just finished shooting A Soldier’s Story – Return from the Dead. This will surpass anything ever done in Nollywood, as it is quite a huge project that involved both Hollywood and Nollywood actors. The Film has Eric Roberts, popular Hollywood actor playing a major role in it. We also have Somekele Idalamah, Daniel K Daniel, and even veteran Nollywood actors like Segun Arinze and Alex Usifo, just to mention a few. This is the biggest film project ever to come out of Nollywood.
How would you describe your engagement with Hollywood?
We engaged major Hollywood studio, Crater Studios, to handle our special effects, and the best film trailer company in the world, Revolve Agency, which handled films like X-Men and Pirates of the Caribbean. We are leaving nothing behind to make sure we build the movie as a franchise. With the help of our media partner, 3PR Limited, we hope to attract major sponsors and partners. A Soldier’s Story is a Mekdoss Productions, Frankie Ogar Films and 3PR Limited’s partnered project. By the time we are done, A Soldier’s Story will be the first Nigerian movie to have a game App where you can download, play and become any character in the movie, and rescue hostages as well. The reach and marketing we have designed for the movie and other franchise items attached to it, like the game app and merchandise, place its total value at over N1 billion.
Could you identify some of the challenges filmmakers encounter and what you have done to overcome them?
The biggest challenge filmmakers face in Nigeria is financing. There are lots of good filmmakers in the country looking for the support to bring their dreams to life. The investors need to take advantage of this billion-dollar industry. I am surprised that state governments are not doing more to attract filmmakers to their states, by throwing in incentives knowing full well that making a film in their states will create employment and revenue.
Also, the issue of area boys disrupting production needs to be tackled, especially in Lagos. If as a filmmaker I have paid the Lagos State Film Board to shoot in Lagos, it is their duty to make sure I have a smooth production. In addition, other states need to see the value and huge IGR that come from shooting movies in a state and create a film commission that will help attract productions, and also offer producers like me incentives to come and shoot in their state. All over the world, states have film commissions that go out to lobby producers to come and make films because of the huge business it brings
Creativity and ingenuity differentiate producers; what would you say is your strength?
We all strive to do good work; sometimes circumstances limit our creativity, which could be training, exposure or even the film budget. I can tell African stories without defacing our people or our image. What you see or hear is what you believe. So, if filmmakers know the powers they have, it’s only fair they use it positively. I strive for perfection but I am not there yet. I want to make movies that I can sit down on a negotiation table with a distribution company like NETFLIX and ask for $20 million because I know the quality of what I have. $20 million is not a big deal for NETFLIX or any international distribution company, but for you to have that bargaining chip, you must have done a wonderful job and provided them with a saleable material.
What does it take to be a producer?
You must decide it’s what you want to do, meaning you must have passion for it. Then you must study your craft. I read every day, research and watch others on how they got to where they are. I want to be the Jerry Bruckheimer of Nigeria. I want to be known as the best content producer in Nigeria for television, films and stage. If you seriously want to be a producer, you must study, study and study. Then, find and attach yourself to a producer that you like and learn from him or her.
How many films have you produced so far and what would you say about Nollywood generally?
I have done three films. I rather deal with quality than quantity. Nollywood is about to take a big turn and only those who position themselves well and know what they are doing will be able to navigate the turn. Generally, we are doing well in Nollywood in terms of numbers but we need to improve on the quality. There must be a reason why NETFLIX has come to Africa, why they would give Iroko TV $50 million loan, and why World Bank would invest in Nollywood through Project Act. This is because they see something in us. This is why I want our investors to see that as well.
The foundation laid by people like Herbert Ogunde, Amaka Igwe, Okechukwu Ogunjiofor, Teco Benson, the Amatas, the Ejiros, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Peace Anyiam Osigwe, Ben Bruce and others is now being taken to a higher ground by new filmmakers like Steve Gukas, Stanley, Niyi, Frankie Ogar, Walter Banger, Grace Okon, Tope Oshin, Stephanie Okereke, Rita Dominic, Mo Abudu, Bolanle Peters, Mildred Okwo and a host of others. The number of movie theaters has also grown from 22, from when we released A Soldier’s Story, to about 32 in less than 12 months. The future of Nollywood is so bright and encouraging.
What do you think government can do to help the industry?
Government needs to see the enormous potentials in the film industry. Filmmakers need to be encouraged through the setting up an interest free loan scheme and reduce the requirements. Most filmmakers don’t have any landed property to give as collateral for loans. They just want assistance from government. This is why I am excited about what Foot Prints to Africa is trying to do with Small and Medium Scale Enterprises especially the Nollywood industry and the plans for a film city. Bank of Industry and Heritage Bank are helping and have been the financial strength behind most films you see, more banks need to come on board
What is your experience with piracy?
Piracy is there and we can’t deny it. As filmmakers, the question is ‘am I my brother’s keeper?’ We need to be citizen police and protect the works of other filmmakers when we see them being pirated. To make a movie is hard; a lot is involved and it’s a crime against God and the state to steal from someone’s hard work. Government needs to support us and set some examples with these people who pirate our works. When someone goes to jail for five years for piracy and made to pay projected returns on my movie, then we have started to deal with piracy. We need serious laws to help us. Other filmmakers and I would soon pay a courtesy visit to the Senate President, to make the laws more stringent on piracy.