Award winning moviemaker, Andy Boyo recently lit up Nollywood with the release of his latest movie effort entitled, House of Talent. This is coming on the heels of the success of Last Night, his-one-man movie, which he directed and which starred award winning Ghanaian actor, Prince David Osei who wrote and produced the movie. Among others the movie won rave reviews grossing over N50m at the Box Office and making a mark in Hollywood. In this chat, Boyo talks about his passion for making movies, the state of Nollywood and sex-for-role among other interesting issues.
Recently, House of Talent, your latest movie hit cinemas, what was your drive?
Actually, I released two movies with two different genres back-to-back. The first was House of Talent, an entertainment movie revolving around a love triangle tale. It is the kind of movie for the typical Nigerian audience. The second is The Fugitive, which has subtle messages for the audience. It is a movie you have to pay attention to or you miss the message. The first one had wider distribution and acceptance because it is the trending genre. It has comedy, music, dance and general entertainment while the second was not popular with the semi-lettered audience because it was rather too serious. It subtly treats issues like the discouragement of xenophobia through African unification, challenges the learned profession’s imitation of the colonial dressing in court by depicting wigless African lawyers and judges in court, pitching justice against the criminal syndicate dominance and attacking human trafficking and so on. The lettered audience applauded the movie as very engaging with request for a part two. I will be releasing a third movie with a different genre early 2020 entitled Haram. This could be controversial as it brings tribal and religious bias to the fore. I am just experimenting. Nigerian comedy and romantic dramas are the readily acceptable genres at the moment but serious themed movies mixed with comedy and entertainment are slowly coming to play.
Tell us about growing up and childhood, and who were your early influences talking about TV?
During my era growing up, TV had just come to being. That was in 1959 when Western Nigeria Television (WNTV) was established. I was just a child and I joined the children’s program where I acted. I was influenced by our TV aunty, Julie Coker. The late Ambassador Segun Olusola and his wife, Aunty Elsie Olusola of blessed memory were a great influence at WNTV. I got gratification from the acknowledgement from some of my school mates who watched me back then. TV at that time was for the privileged few; NTA was not even existing then.
How did you come into the movie industry and could you recount the good old days?
My passion for the arts grew from my exposure at WNTV. Even though my parents sternly discouraged me from pursuing this, encouraging me instead to pursue a professional career so I opted for Engineering because I was good in the sciences. While working at Aerospace and later in the Oil & Gas sector in California, I freelanced in Hollywood as a crew member and also an extra in several movies. My passion for movie making was boiling in me. When I eventually relocated home and established my Oil & Gas company, Nollywood was in its infancy. I was in the Oil & Gas sector that I met Emmanuel Ogugua who is now the Vice Chairman, Board of Trustees, Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN). He had a passion for Nollywood and pitched me on investing in Nollywood. He introduced Fred Amata, Keppy Ekpenyoung, Obi Osutele, and Zark Orji to me with the intention that we shoot what was to be the third movie in Nollywood entitled, The Concubine. I initially bought into it but after putting on my business cap and shoving aside my passion, I decided the venture will not yield profit because I did not have the requisite distribution skills and network and besides, I already had a bad experience of piracy having been involved in a music album that was pirated and was a complete loss. But I continued to watch passionately as Nollywood grew. By 2005 I was unsatisfied with the quality that Nollywood was churning out so I decided to see if I could make a difference by being part of Nollywood. Initially, I came in as an investor but when my producer started giving me the same quality that I sought to change, I decided to produce and direct myself. I experimented and after several styles of shooting, I discovered that you can shoot a quality film with a compelling story with low cost and crew and with your crew and cast as your partners or co-executive producers. So, with that model I shot the first ever African-one-cast only movie. This movie went on to make over N50 million and win many awards worldwide. I have just shot another one with similar concept but this time, it is the location that is one but I employed quite a number of stars while still keeping the budget relatively low.
What are your challenges as a moviemaker? Is moviemaking paying your bills?
First of all, let me clarify that movie making is my hobby and passion; it doesn’t pay my bills. My involvement is to help pay the bills of others through job creation. I like to do movies that are challenging in that they have scenes that are very technical. For example, a scene where you throw somebody out of a glass window or a scene where somebody jumps off a 20-storey building and lands on another building without using a stunt double yet the scene is executed in a very stress free and safe manner.
When Nollywood hit Nigeria over two decades ago, hopes were high that with time we would be competing with Hollywood but the reverse seems to be the case as both actors and movie makers are having a hard time making a living. What is your take on the state of the industry?
The bottom line is economics. Nollywood is beginning to churn out quality movies that are cinema worthy. That means higher budget is required. Unfortunately, majority of our films do not break even. Unless you are expending somebody else’s funds for your movie, you will not live to shoot another movie in most cases. The moviemakers that lend money from banks to shoot can’t pay back regardless of the low interest incentive. The independent investors after high profit expectations do not recover their investment and are not likely to reinvest in the sector. On the other hand, the state of the economy does not encourage the masses to seek paid but free entertainment. So, many filmmakers are begging to seek a living by other means. The solution would take too many pages to cover. However, I will give a few summarised suggestions on the way forward. We must attack the poverty of our people, minmise the piracy rate, give advantage to indigenous films over foreign films at the cinemas and also, taxes paid on exhibited films including the entertainment tax levied by some states should be reinvested in movie making facilities or film grants among others.
Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart was nominated at the Oscars before it was disqualified. What is the implication of this for Nollywood and how can we sustain the momentum?
For the first time if I am not wrong, we presented a film for Oscar consideration. I have not watched Lionheart so I cannot make any judgement. However, if Netflix identified it as good and paid handsomely for it as claimed, then, there must be a measure of credibility for the pedigree of Lionheart for it to be our nominated film. Going forward, since filmmakers know that we now have a slot to present our films for Oscar consideration, the ambition to ultimately win an Oscar will keep the momentum of making quality films going.
Sex for role is an issue that pervades all spheres of our society. What has been your experience in Nollywood and what do you have to say to those who engage in it?
I don’t know what sex has to do with getting a role. If you are a good actor, sex or no sex, you will get the role you fit into. If you are a bad actor, sex or no sex, you will not get the role unless the producer wants to make a bad film. But as we know, sex is a tool that some wannabes use to get roles while the producers use their demand for sex to pressure desperate wannabes into submission. This is very unfortunate but it happens. However, sleeping around is the quickest route out of Nollywood.