Rita Okoye, Lagos
Best Okoduwa is a social entrepreneur, the CEO and Creative Director at Savvy Minaz Nigeria, a youth-led social enterprise focused on using film and media to proffer effective and sustainable solutions to social problems in Africa and beyond.
He is an award-winning filmmaker producing and directing premium films to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In this interview, the Estate Management graduate from the University of Lagos shares his unforgettable encounter with top Nollywood icons, his foray into show business as well as the inspiration behind the pet projects.
As a graduate of Estate Management from the University of Lagos (UNILAG), how did you find your way into the entertainment industry?
Entertainment came before I had the opportunity to attend a university. At the time I could afford a university degree, due to my science background, I didn’t have the pre-requisite ordinary level requirement to pursue a degree of choice in Art so I leaned towards Environmental Sciences and anticipated pursuing a master’s degree in a classification of my choice in the near future.
Do you practice what you learned?
I have never really practised. I don’t know if I ever will, but I have not completely closed the possibility.
You are regarded as a peace champion; what does that mean to you?
It means everything. I consider peace the bedrock of every form of sustainable development. No meaningful progress can be made in the world, continent, country and communities in the presence of chaos, crime and violence. These also account for the delicate and non-progressive times we are currently in, in this part of the world. Hence, I have decided to put all my skills, wit and resources to judicious use so that the future of Nigeria is characterised by peace, progress and sustainable developments
You have touched so many lives with your philanthropy. What inspired this?
I have seen talents go to waste because the carriers are from poor families, backgrounds and communities. They are most often shut out of the many opportunities out there for young people. Once upon a time, I was one of such persons. I want to ensure that there are fewer criminals to hurt innocent people and be killed by the police or other forms of justice. Instead, there are many young people with the skillset and morals to be good leaders and good citizens of Nigeria.
How do you cope with the deep emotions that go with the individuals you help?
The emotions sometimes come with an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia. Many of the teenagers I have encountered, I have either lived their lives or even worse so I know, I can relate. It sometimes breaks my heart. But there are other times I feel super elated and fulfilled; the times when we have successfully done something meaningful and life-changing for a teenager. Such as enrolling them in vocational schools and taking up the entire bill for the whole tenure of study.
Were there older actors who took you under their wings?
While I was a young writer desperately seeking opportunities, I met Stephanie Linus, who till date is one of the kindest souls I know. It was very easy approaching stars then, she was one of the biggest at the time and I still wonder how I got her attention. She gave me the first charge of hope that I can make it. Same time I got a scholarship in the first year DELYORK started. She wasn’t pleased I didn’t take the scholarship. No one will. I am mad at myself every time I look back. And then I met Aquila Njamah, a veteran who made me his friend, and Mentee. I also met Desmond Elliot who was an angel. He gave me money every time I go out to see him, that would have been the perfect mentorship I desired at the time unless I still think his then PA got uncomfortable and frustrated me whenever I called. I never got the chance to speak with him for so long. And I met Don Pedro Aganbi, who gave me most of the scriptwriting gigs I got while growing. He paid me well and treated me like a professional; and I met Charles Inojie, who till date is a father figure to me in Nollywood.
How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the entertainment industry?
Lots of theatrical releases scheduled for the year 2020 are on indefinite hold, new films made are stranded, budget filmmakers cannot make films at the moment and that poses a risk to the capital at hand as there is no inflow for so long. Musicians can’t make earnings from concerts. Models can’t strut the runway and the list goes on. It’s really a devastating time for the entertainment industry.
How do you keep body, mind and spirit going staying at home?
Since the lockdown started, I’ve taken the opportunity to screenplay some of the treatments I have already. So far I have written three screenplays. I also have enough time to exercise and meditate from time to time. When I am not doing any of these, I am having a very beautiful time with my daughter.
How do you cope with female attention, ever had a weird experience with a female fan?
Filmmakers are mostly behind the scenes. The name is mostly more popular than the person in question. There is hardly this situation. This question is better suited for the actors who are in the limelight. Besides, my wife is an actress.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
The pandemic was unforeseen and it has altered most plans. Before the pandemic, it was quite a heavy schedule for me this year. I had a travel itinerary more than I have had in my lifetime but some are now cancelled and others pending indefinitely. It is very hard to make plans right now as the uncertainties loom heavier by the day. At this point, all of my trust is in God. He will make my path clear again in time.