Nkechi Chima Onyele
Because of his huge impact on Kannywood, most people believe he’s a northerner. But filmmaker, actor and entrepreneur, Usman Adeyemi popularly known as Uzee, hails from Offa, Kwara State.
With two degrees in Political Science and English Language from University of Abuja and University of Jos respectively, Uzee has vowed to revolutionise the movie industry.
In this chat, he gives an insight into Kannywood, calling on federal government to embrace entertainment and give entertainers a sense of belonging.
Could you tell us briefly about the man behind the camera?
Since inception of Kannywood, we have been grooming talents and creating platforms to develop talents, especially young stars within and outside Kannywood, which also orbits to Nollywood. My foray into the movie industry began in Nollywood, precisely 2003 in Lagos. Immediately after my National Diploma in Kaduna State Polytechnic, I came to Lagos in search of greener pastures. Coincidentally, I met Andy Amenechi during an audition at National Theatre; he advised me to move behind the cameras, where he believed my destiny lies. Thereafter, I relocated to South Africa to study Filmmaking, specialising in Makeup and Special Effects. On my return, I excelled in the industry with massive makeup jobs, which included ‘London Boy’ for Temi Opeoluwa of Magic House of Macro. Luckily, the movie won the Best Makeup Artiste award at the 2008 Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA), where I met Kannywood star, Ali Nuhu, who encouraged me to join Kannywood. But then, I had intention of diversifying into filmmaking. Consequently, in 2009, I shot my first flick, ‘Under’, in Ghana featuring stars like Tonto Dikeh and Frank Artus among others, and the movie was a success. Similarly, I shot flicks like ‘Redline’, ‘Thorny’, ‘Power of Tomorrow’, ‘Dark Closet’ and Kannywood film, Hassana da Hussaina. While ‘Oga Abuja’ was my first Kannywood movie with experts like Ali Nuhu and John Okafor aka Mr. Ibu among others, the flick was a knockout that gave birth to the brand, Uzee Concept.
Where exactly do you come from?
I hail from Offa, Kwara State but was born and bred in the north, Kaduna precisely. My father is an Air Force officer. My mother is an indigene of Ogun State but both are based in Kaduna State.
How old are you?
I am 31-years-old.
You are the only Kannywood filmmaker who features Nollywood stars in his movies, what’s responsible for this?
It’s to encourage unity in the industry. Nigerian movie industry is one, despite the segregation of Kannywood and Nollywood. Subsequently, working with Nollywood stars in Hausa movies allures my productions. It always outlines my movies in Kannywood. In fact, I have shot movies with the likes of Jim Iyke, Nkem Owoh (Maja), which was a success because the storyline centered on ethnic and religious co-habitation, without disputes. The movie earned numerous awards such as Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards (AMVCA), City People Awards and United Nations Awards. However, I have received local and international nominations and awards and I’m grateful to God and my fans for the encouragement.
Aside filmmaking, what else do you do?
I am an executive producer and anchor of a talk show, ‘Taurarin Zamani’, which airs on local and international stations in the north.
How would you describe your life as a filmmaker?
Remarkably, it’s been rewarding for me. I’m overjoyed that God has discovered talents through me and they are excelling in their career. I see filmmaking as evangelism, reaching out to people about the realities of life and how to conquer fears and overtake the world.
How are you coping with shooting movies in Abuja with its exorbitant location fees?
Fundamentally, there are enormous challenges surrounding movie making. As a filmmaker, you are required to invest to gain profit. Nonetheless, it involves a lot of commitment to achieve your vision. In other words, there should be right budget to shoot movies in a city like Abuja, unlike Asaba and Lagos.
Sincerely, film locations are not scarce in Abuja, but budgeting is limited. If you are prepared you can shoot movies in the presidency, which we have done. Also, Teco Benson has shot a movie in the (Aso Rock) villa, which was made possible by top location manager known as Onyeka. As a filmmaker who has travelled far and wide to shoot movies, my experiences have exposed me on how creativity is imperative to filmmaking. Regrettably, most filmmakers manage their budget to get low or uniform productions. There is need for adequate budgeting for unique productions. I must acknowledge that Abuja has enthralling locations for shooting movies. Nevertheless, as a Kannywood pioneer, I am working towards bringing revolution to the north, especially Abuja, for youth empowerment.
What are you working on presently?
Presently, I’m working on a Kannywood feature film entitled, ‘Makeroom’ with a story line positioned to change the movie industry and enhance the lives of its viewers.
Do you still do makeup?
No! I don’t do makeup for artistes or clients anymore, because filmmaking is a tedious job, which also comprises makeup. So, I employ makeup artistes for productions.
Some filmmakers often indulge in sex for role practice, what do you make of this?
Honestly, I don’t indulge in sex for role practice, because it kills professionalism. Also, it destroys reputation. As an entrepreneur, integrity is important; no matter my relationship with artistes, productivity is my guiding principle.
What are your criteria for casting?
As a filmmaker, you are expected to romance standards for efficiency. Since my work is not centered on a particular film, I can shoot crime stories, thriller or romance, with suitable actors for every character. So, it’s about the appropriate character not who is involved.
Which artistes would you give kudos for professionalism?
A lot of them! But Mercy Johnson Okojie stands out for professionalism. She is a woman of indisputable character and a great talent to work with on set. In fact, she is intelligent, likable, industrious, energetic and respectful regardless of her status. Also, Eucharia Anunobi and Nkem Owoh are some of the best thespians ever produced in Nigeria.
As a handsome man, how do you handle female advances?
Definitely, attraction comes from female artistes but I don’t allow it come between my jobs. I’m a professional to the core, so I distinct career from pleasure.
Can you date an actress?
Honestly, I can’t date an actress because it will affect professionalism. There is no way she wouldn’t impose herself on all my movies.
Are you in a relationship, when should we expect the wedding bell?
I’m single but not searching.
How do you think the present administration could contribute to the growth of the film industry?
The current government should embrace entertainment and give entertainers a sense of belonging to reduce unemployment and social vices in the country.