Taiwo Egunjobi is ready to take the needed time to develop his craft, marketing it might only be his least favourite.
After his feature debut, In Ibadan, which currently has a home on AfroLandTV, a streaming service for African movies and diaspora titles, rising filmmaker, Taiwo Egunjobi, premiered his second film, All Na Vibes, at the recently concluded NollywoodWeek online festival. Serving as the opening night thrill, his new project, is a realistic urban drama that explores youthful alienation and urban discontent in the Nigerian society.
Inspired by real-life incidents, All Na Vibes aims to shine a light on the exciting but sometimes tragic lives of the youth in today’s Nigeria. It follows three out of school teenagers and a hitman over a span of 5 days; dissecting questions on sex, drugs, future prospects, in which different lives intertwine in a tale of violence. The film stars newcomers: Tolu Osalie, Tega Ethan; Molawa Davis and Nollywood veteran, Jide Kosoko, Tope Tedela, Babatunde Aderinoye and many others.
All Na Vibes was co-written with his frequent collaborator, Isaac Ayodeji and produced by Emiolamide Fabgenle who also doubled as the editor. Still set in Ibadan like his debut film, Taiwo Egunjobi saw this as a chance to entertain viewers who prefer the mainstream Nollywood style to the burgeoning arthouse style in the industry. Nevertheless, All Na Vibes is still packed with messages which ensures he retains a central style of his filmmaking, satire, while finding a suitable compromise for a larger audience.
Egunjobi’s stories are grounded in satire— critical of his society— owing inspiration to mentors like Tunde Kelani whose works he grew up with. “Through his films like Saworoide and Agogo Ewo, he is able to tell us some things about our current political and socio-cultural existence in Nigeria”, he tells WKMUp. Nevertheless, Egunjobi doesn’t see himself sticking to a particular niche, and would like to try as many forms of storytelling as possible, drawing inspiration from versatile Hollywood filmmaker, Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven, Erin Brockovich, Contagion) who recently produced the Oscars. Speaking to WKMUp, the Ibadan-based filmmaker says, “I don’t want to be the kind of filmmaker that will be only to make a film only in a single way and in a single language of filmmaking. So All Na Vibes was an opportunity for me to approach the film in a different way than people saw in In Ibadan and I think it was also effective for the story we are telling in All Na Vibes.” He goes further to gush about Soderbergh as a great inspiration, saying, “I respect people like Wes Anderson, who can make films with the same language. Tunde kelani who makes films and you can tell it is his film. But I just find myself drawn to different languages in cinema”.
As a man of arts, Taiwo Egunjobi is not all about the greats, but also draws influences from his peers. He aims to take people in his circle along with him, almost like he is building a tight-knit community of trusted collaborators. Despite the number of professionals around him, he still prefers to practise an hands-on approach to his work, because “as a director you need to be in control of your departments so you can tell a comprehensive story that has a singular vision”, which is testament to the symbols and themes splashed across the colourful All Na Vibes.
For a man interviewed 48 hours after his sophomore premiere, he confesses that he doesn’t like the marketing side of filmmaking although he understands the importance of the press tour that a new film requires. Furthermore, he does not dwell on box office returns as an absolute feedback, but he is already critical of himself, looking for ways to improve going forward, which serves as his advice for the industry at large. As much as he thinks that Nollywood is doing well quantity wise, he also believes that the craft behind the storytelling needs to be seriously worked on in order to serve not only the local audience, but the eyes waiting to consume our content globally.
In anticipation of the commercial release of All Na Vibes which doesn’t have a date attached to it, Taiwo Egunjobi spoke to What Kept Me Up about his style of filmmaking: one man’s vision and assembling a team to deliver on that vision, casting people on-the-go by opting for a mental database of talents rather than preparing audition sessions, being critical of himself and his aspirations for the future as we ended with a series of rapid-fire questions.
This conversation took place over skype on Saturday, 8th of May, 2021 and has been edited for length and clarity.
“Oftentimes, we have this big narrative about the leaders being bad, or another version of it: the whites men did this, and there is a bigger version— it is God that did this. We don’t like talking about personal responsibility, we really don’t like talking about what we do to ourselves individually.”
We are glad and honoured that a creative from our city, Ibadan, will be the blog’s first published interview.
Thank you very much.
With In Ibadan and All Na Vibes, I am elated about the new narrative you are trying to push, making the efforts to put Ibadan on the globe and telling stories on your own terms as an Indie filmmaker in Nollywood. One of the ‘unusual’ elements you employ is the open-ending of your films. I have spoken with some people whom I recommended your debut, In Ibadan, and they mostly criticised your choice of an open-ended ending which is something that repeats itself in All Na Vibes. This was sadder after watching All Na Vibes at NollywoodWeek, due to the state of the country. Since you are a filmmaker who is bent on leaving his film unresolved, how would you explain the reason to viewers who could do with some explanation?
Alright. Thank you very much for your question. Well, I think stories are usually fragments of real lives and of course with the leeway for a bit of imagination. Basically, people (filmmakers) do all kinds of stories. A lot of people do close-ended stories, some people do open-ended stories. But the type of cinema which I really have done most of my work is satire. With satire, you usually try to say a lot and you try to let people come to their own conclusions. You present a picture, you present your arguments, and you let people make up their mind. So that’s why a lot of times you have an outcome that looks like the story is open-ended. Sometimes, I wonder, is In Ibadan really open-ended? I don’t think it is-
I think the answers are there. If you want to be serious about it, it is not so open-ended. Even for All Na Vibes, the same thing. Yes, we have closed it but it doesn’t look like it is ending soon, it means that there is still a lot that is going to happen— not just to the characters in the story— but to the audience that is watching the story. You are taking something away to think about. And so, that is always a feature of satire. Especially, when you are doing realistic stuff— neo-realism or cinéma vérité. Anything realistic satire like that, you usually have to face some grim realities about how the story progresses and you let the audience come to their own conclusions. I think it is a way of making films and I wouldn’t say that is how I am going to make films forever. I was talking about Steven Soderbergh just yesterday. I really enjoy Soderbergh because he has a diverse filmography. He is able to move from genre to genre. And I think I like that. You have seen In Ibadan is stylistically different from All Na Vibes. So who knows, maybe next time I will do something very predictable from the start.
Still on the point of trying to process the end of All Na Vibes, you provided viewers with enough themes to make up their own conclusions. We could learn that while the rich find a way out, the poor are left to clean the mess. However, Nigerians still need more time to get to that period where they accept and enjoy such narratives without a definite full stop ending it. In comparison with In Ibadan, is it intentional or merely coincidental to always make viewers question the best friend’s motives. There is this question of “will he do it, will he not?” in both movies — people from the same class making things harder for themselves, which mirrors the reality in Nigeria, where it is a dog-eat-dog world, everyone trying to make it regardless of who they trample like a class betrayal. So is that merely coincidental or intentional from your side as a recurring theme?
The thing is I don’t deliberately do that or we didn’t deliberately do that because I have a writing partner, that is Isaac Ayodeji. I think as a creator or an artist, your politics will always reflect in your work if you have any, and so, there are certain things I believe about how we are set up as Africans and as how we are set up as individuals in Nigeria and our relationship with power. I don’t deliberately look to find those associations but maybe because I am in a phase where everything about my politics and how I believe things are just keep coming out. Like you said, even within the class, there are still internal class wars. These are people that should ideally help themselves. It is also a comment on our relationship with power in Africa, especially in Nigeria. Oftentimes, we have this big narrative about the leaders being bad, or another version of it: the whites men did this, and there is a bigger version— it is God that did this. We don’t like talking about personal responsibility, we really don’t like talking about what we do to ourselves individually. I don’t do that intentionally, anyway. But like i said, your arts will reflect your politics eventually.
And it naturally takes shape once you start writing about what’s around you?
Talking about the themes, one would notice after watching a movie that they can recognise the subject matter from the recent past or things that happened already. But the thing with Nigeria is that these things can still be vividly seen up till today. Today as in yesterday, today as in a few days ago, today as in this week, today as in, probably tomorrow. What do you hope viewers pick from the movie since the themes are still very present till this moment?
I think that is the genre, really. We are doing an urbandrama that is focusing on issues. You are already working from the engine and the engine is: what is happening in my world? That is what is feeding your story engine. But All Na Vibes for the kind of film it is, is an engine that is already available in your environment. You are trying to say something about your environment, you want to say something to your environment. And so, it easily manifests itself. It is just out there, we can all experience it, we can all see it. You know, I am inspired by the works of Tunde Kelani, who through his films like Saworoide and Agogo Ewo, is able to tell us some things about our current political and socio-cultural existence in Nigeria and so, it is an approach that I am naturally drawn to. You see something going on in society, how do you as an artist contribute to it and still entertain too because it is one thing to see ‘situationships’, to use that word, it is another thing to be able to creatively put it together and then tell a story that people will want to watch and see and enjoy.
“But to me, I think as to craft you need to be careful. We have a situation where craft is often neglected for money.”
Aiding your themes is the usage of colours, right from the character posters. We could see the red colour for Sade who is quite wild and fierce, green for lamidi who is quite ‘snakey’ and unpredictable, and blue for Abiola who is calm and likely to fade into wherever he is placed. Also, at the beginning I noticed the heavy usage of handheld camera (creating instability) which showed that there was a chaos brewing. How much of your influence went into such details like the colours in production design and costuming, and camerawork?
I mean you do these things so you could tell your stories, the same story in different ways. I am happy when somebody can pick up stuff. In In Ibadan, I was the production designer and in All Na Vibes, we hired a production designer. But it is a key part of my process to create my own philosophy that drives the art direction of my films and even the cinematography because I operate from a central ideology that drives the film. We usually call it “director’s idea” and that influences my design. Since I am working from a central perspective, I find artists that can help me execute that which I have in my mind and of course they also bring their own artistry into it. But there is a central goal that we have already thought about. In this film, I created the mood boards and the storyboards myself. The colour palettes were decided by me a long time ago. The camera approach which is mostly handheld was designed by me so we can convey the story in an intentional manner. Although some people may disagree, but as a director, I think you need to be in control of your departments so you can tell a comprehensive story that has a singular vision. With this vision, All Na Vibes combined elements of neo-realism and a bit of teenage drama. So you are having a lot of colours at times but we also have shaky cam. Also, using lights to share emotion and denote character traits. But you are also using the camera to tell you the kind of world you are living in. That is something that is derived from our understanding of the world and how we want people to feel when they watch different scenes in the film.
And as you continue as a filmmaker, do you see yourself still wielding so much influence on your work? Talking about this hands-on approach or will you relax it a bit?
Yes, I think. I am looking forward to finding artists that will. It is a difficult question. If a studio comes now, maybe you say Marvel calls me and say drop everything, of course. But just to be frank, I really enjoy working this way because like I said, I am working from a central idea and I am not sure everybody is on the same footing with me. People tend to bring stuff in from different things they do. And that’s not always a bad thing, but to me, I think as to craft you need to be careful. We have a situation where craft is often neglected for money. So as a director, you really need to carefully watch and select the people you work with, or else, you just find yourself making somebody else’s film and you just don’t know how that happened. So, I am really hands-on and I think I want to be hands-on for most of my work.
“We all want to tell stories about rich people living on some island, talking about their own things.”
Back to the subject matters presented in the film, one of the most discussed is sex, in regards to Sade (Tolu Osaile) and her wild character for someone who is barely of legal age. This is like the first time I’ll hear the word sex said out loud in teen conversations in a Nollywood movie. The sex talk thrown around took me by surprise even though I knew how realistic those conversations were. Sex is a common subject among young people as much as our parents or media try to avoid the talk for as long as they can. Was there a way you aimed to approach this topic, most especially seeing that the discourse is actually needed in our society, since we are all like hypocrites in some way?
Not blaming anybody, but it doesn’t look like Nollywood tells a lot of stories about young people. Kasala! was a nice inspiration and some other very fairly unknown films tried to touch the subject. There are a lot of things happening to our young ones and nobody wants to tell the story. We all want to tell stories about rich people living on some island, talking about their own things. So, because it is centered around the youth experience, it’s inevitable to wanna talk about sex, drugs, alcohol, or any of those things that young people are interested in. It’s quite difficult no one wants to talk about it, so that’s just how it simply happened.
Thanks for bringing up Kasala! as an inspiration. Which other films were on your mood board and served as inspiration during the development of All Na Vibes?
I really loved La Haine from Mathieu Kassovitz, a French filmmaker. La Haine is a black and white French film, and you know there are a lot of things that really interested me that I tried to borrow, which I don’t know if it’s obvious. Also, Juice from Ernest Dickerson is also a film that really inspired me. And I think a bit of watching Waves. Waves was made by Trey Edward Shults. So, I think I watched Waves and I was interested in some themes. Not like we copied them or tried to do what they did, but you just discover more about your own story when you have those references. Those kinds of references were really key to how we developed the story.
“When you like this girl, but she is not even looking at you, she is looking at older guys and you are like what is a brother going to do to get this girl to even look at us, and she is looking at this older guy, but usually when we got to university, we discovered that the guys they were with were often perverts.”
From your own other works, I would guess that your 2019 project, Young Geezy, was also an inspiration. It starred Martin Chukwu in a three-part comedy series which is a satire for and about young people. How much inspiration did you draw from this for All Na Vibes since the youthful vibes intersect?
Well, like you have heard me say, satire is just something that naturally just comes to me. It wasn’t like I was inspired by Young Geezy. Somebody said the first films a filmmaker makes are usually the same and I kind of think that is true because you will notice a lot of things similar in In Ibadan and All Na Vibes, and Young Geezy also tries to talk about some of the same themes we are looking at on the macro level. So, like I said earlier, your politics just always comes out. Young Geezy was just us looking irreverently at some serious matters.
Looking at the personal efforts that went into All Na Vibes as a co-writer and an hands-on director, is there any particular experience that you can share that was portrayed as it happened in the movie, since All Na Vibes is reportedly “inspired by real-life incidents”?
Firstly, real life incidents from other people. In Toyin Falola’s book, “A Mouth Sweeter Than Salt”— I don’t know if you know Toyin Falola. He is a great Yoruba writer and academic in America. His book is a memoir that narrates different tales of mischievous young boys and what they did for love. But to go straight to personal experiences, I mean everything there is almost relatable. So I’m just trying to look for a particular scene that stands out. For example, some of us when we were in secondary school, there were girls we liked in school and when you like this girl, but she is not even looking at you, she is looking at older guys and you are like what is a brother going to do to get this girl to even look at us, and she is looking at this older guy, but usually when we got to university, we discovered that the guys they were with were often perverts. I have to say this because what is a 30-something year old guy doing with a 15/16-year old girl? Those girls usually often lose out in the end somehow, because they (uni perverts) are going to dump you and go to the next young person. So, that was one real experience. I mean we schooled in Ibadan, and we saw that happen every time. Also, I don’t want to put myself in trouble, but I know because I used to go to school with children of politicians and some of these things in the film do happen.
“The significance placed on the historical and geographical relevance of Ibadan is immense. I mean, Soyinka sharpened his mettle here, Chinua Achebe spent time here. It’s no coincidence that many great storytellers have some affinity to Ibadan.”
In your response, you brought up Ibadan a lot. Going by that, what is your response to people who say there are no storytelling opportunities in a setting like Ibadan.
Well, I would say they are victims of a narrative that’s popular but actually very false. Ibadan is a cradle of storytellers. We have historical and academic perspectives to back this claim. The significance placed on the historical and geographical relevance of Ibadan is immense. I mean, Soyinka sharpened his mettle here, Chinua Achebe spent time here. It’s no coincidence that many great storytellers have some affinity to Ibadan. I really don’t get that assumption. I agree there are lots of narratives about Ibadan. Some true, others not so much. But that’s the same with everywhere on the surface of the earth. It’s up to the interested to look honestly and seriously into such places and mine the very many stories embedded in them.
(grins) Thank you. Still going deeper about the real life experiences attached to the movie, because we can’t separate it from the work since it is grounded in these real life incidents and you captured that in the manner of the dialogues between young people, most especially the basketball scene which was probably more logistically and aesthetically more reasonable than football which is a more popular sport in Nigeria. So, was there ever a stage in development when the team wanted to go for a larger group of friends beyond Abiola and Lamidi as the main characters? Have you seen Abba Makama’s 2016 film, Green White Green (And All The Beautiful Colors in My Mosaic of Madness)? It is a really beautiful film about young people also.
Definitely, I know the film.
In my opinion, the two films can stand in for each other by swapping titles and it would still fit and make sense because in Makama’s movie also, everything is “all vibes” and your own film is like critiquing Nigeria and the mosaic of madness that we find ourselves in. However, in Makama’s, he opted for a larger group of friends, who were about 3 or 4. So, did you ever think of taking such a route with All Na Vibes?
For our story, it was always going to be three friends from the point we started developing the story because that relationship with the three friends is what drives the story. There was a time we considered making the bad guy their age mate too, but that was just something we were thinking about in development early on that, would it be fun to also make this guy that is the bad guy like an age mate who’s also a victim of some sort, without spoiling the story. But we didn’t go along that way in development. We were just fine with the three we chose from the beginning.
“People kind of be like you people can’t make fun films, you people can’t tell a story that we will enjoy, all you people do is depressing stories or all these artistic things that are not accessible and all those kinds of things.”
And I must say the actors did quite the job with their characters.
The moment a filmmaker releases their sophomore movie, I believe it is the time for stern judgement because this is when comparison can come in and critics show less mercy. To be critical of yourself, what were you looking to do coming into your second film that was meant to be a change or improvement from the first. Also, which knowledge/experience did you bring along coming into your second feature film?
Well, will I call it a change? To clarify something, when i made In Ibadan, a lot of people saw it and for quite a number of people they said they couldn’t really enjoy it because it was slow burning kind of and did not necessarily have the melodramatic, well maybe it was melodramatic at some point, but it didn’t really have the kind of life that you people are used to in movies— loud music, people jumping, people clapping, you know it didn’t have those things they are traditionally expected to see in Nollywood films. So, people kind of be like you people can’t make fun films, you people can’t tell a story that we will enjoy, all you people do is depressing stories or all these artistic things that are not accessible and all those kinds of things. And to me, I was like okay, who says we can’t tell stories in any kind of medium we want to tell the stories. One of the things on my mind when I was making All Na Vibes was okay, we are actually going to make a film that’s very entertaining in the way they think, or in the way a lot of people think a film should be entertaining at least in the Nigerian cinematic understanding and still tell our story. I enjoy someone like Steven Soderbergh a lot. I respect him. Steven Soderbergh has such a diverse filmography and you know he’s able to go through different genres and do his work, go through different approaches, and different stylistic focuses. So, that was on my mind too, that I don’t want to be the kind of filmmaker that will only be able to make a film only in a single way and in a single language of filmmaking. So All Na Vibes was an opportunity for me to approach the film, my career, the way I tell stories, in a different way than people saw in In Ibadan and I think it was also effective for the story we are telling in All Na Vibes. Ultimately, it was important for us to change the language a little bit more than what we did in In Ibadan.
So if I got that correctly, All Na Vibes is in a way answering people’s criticism that In Ibadan isn’t entertaining. Also, All Na Vibes prepared a story that you could readily use to entertain.
That’s not it. Let me clarify. It is the fact that first of all, it is the story for me that determines the approach you tell a story with and so when people saw In Ibadan, people were like you guys can only tell this kind of story. Then, All Na Vibes was a third project on our slate last year. We wanted to do a sci-fi at first and I think we left it, then we wanted to do a Western, then we left it. Then, All Na Vibes was like the easiest project on the slate for us. Since we don’t have a lot of money and we wanted to create something last year, we took that project and the story called for the language we used, and the language I think is a bit more accessible and a bit more mainstream a little bit more than In Ibadan. So that’s the answer.
And instead of being trapped into one mode of storytelling, you would rather be heterogeneous like Steven Soderbergh.
Steven Soderbergh is a great inspiration. I respect people like Wes Anderson, who can make films with the same language. Also, Tunde kelani who makes films and you can tell it is his film. But I just find myself drawn to different languages in cinema.
“I think what is important to us is to stick to telling great stories and great stories happen in different ways. So I am not stuck to any demography or neither am I making film for an algorithm.”
As your career progresses, since you don’t want to be caged into a particular box, are you looking forward to telling stories about adulthood. Cos it’s been said that there are only six types of stories and we have seen it all. What do you intend to do to keep it fresh and original going forward?
I think what is important to us is to stick to telling great stories and great stories happen in different ways. So I am not stuck to any demography or neither am I making film for an algorithm. Now we are in the season and we feel this is a story to tell this season, we just tell that story and we try to do what we do with all of our stories, we extensively develop the stories. In fact, one of the stories that I have been thinking about for a long time is a film about an eighty-year old man. We don’t see a lot of that, maybe that’s what will be next, you know. We just want to tell good stories, basically.
Regarding originality, let’s talk about your casting. Several directors say that most of a director’s work is actually casting. Regardless of whether that is true, how did you go about casting All Na Vibes which features debutants as main characters who needed to be on top of their game to be believable? Was there a process?
Casting for me, because I do the casting in my projects, has always been more of a very naturalistic approach. So, maybe I met someone last month or two years ago, I have a mental library where I am storing their profile, thinking, this guy is going to be useful someday. For example, I don’t know if you remember that Abiola in the film who is Tega, was one of the musicians in In Ibadan.
Yeah, where they were making music under a tree—
…playing guitar. So that’s the way it is really. And, same thing for Tolu, she’s a model. The moment I saw her modelling, I didn’t even know she could act. I told her, some day I am going to come for you and you better know how to act. I believe in casting a lot of times to type. I am sure there will be a time in my career where we will have to do some different things. But for now, I think just cast to type. You see a guy that looks the role, he sounds like the role, he is probably right for the role. So, I don’t do auditions. I don’t think I believe in auditions. I don’t do any of those things. If I see you, we have a conversation and that’s it.
“Casting itself is a major part of filmmaking and you have got to be careful because you are trying to make a product and the product will call for how you will execute it, especially in casting, marketing, even in directing.”
Apart from these newcomers: Tolu Osalie, Tega Ethan, and Molawa Davis (who isn’t a newcomer exactly), All Na Vibes stars Tope Tedela, Jide Kosoko, Babatunde Aderinoye and Lamidi’s uncle whose name I can’t remember right now and I am annoyed and ashamed. Can you please help me with his name?
He is called Aderupoko but that’s not his real name, that’s his stage name he’s used over the years. His actual name is Kayode Olaiya.
I am not familiar with his birth name, it is Aderupoko I know. He is a Yoruba veteran. How were you able to convince this set of veterans on the project, since the themes are quite youthful. What sold them on All Na Vibes?
Someone like Tope, I have written for Tope in the past before. He has read my script on a job he did some time ago when I used to write scripts. The moment we called him and said, bro we’ve got this role for you. He didn’t even read the script because he’s read our work in the past and he’s got the belief that we’ll do something great. Same thing for uncle Jide Kosoko. Jide kosoko is a big man in the industry, he’s also worked with some of our friends who have done great work and the moment we reached out to him and we were able to name drop colleagues who are mutuals. He was like, no problem. So we are really enjoying the benefit of having a good track record of doing good work in the past, even though, as little as writing scripts, we just had a good track record. And that’s the same thing also for Mr. Aderupoko too.
Why was it important to have them around? Since you went with newcomers for the main cast, was there any point during development that all of the roles could have gone to newcomers?
Well, I mean, it’s a valid thing. But, casting itself is a major part of filmmaking and you have got to be careful because you are trying to make a product. We want to mix the inexperience of the youth with the calm leadership of the experienced actors too at times and also help the audience to be able to see the faces they recognise.
And the father-daughter relationship between Tolu Osasile and Jide Kosoko worked quite well which is a testament to your directing.
Well, it is just great casting at times. And tolu is also a very talented performer and that role was written with her in mind already.
As she said during the Q&A, she’s also a daddy’s girl in real life.
Yeah, let me just tell you something. She probably won’t appreciate me saying it. We went through a process to get her released to work by her parents and we had to do a lot of convincing, a lot of letter writing, because she’s actually a daddy’s girl. So, it helped her to actually get into the role better.
“I mean we are doing so well, lots of big films coming out year in year out, but we have got a lot to do better on craft, you know. In the actual craft of storytelling, especially not just for a local audience, but for the global audience too. I think there’s a lot we can do better.”
People have been complaining about the lack of new faces in Nollywood. Well, we have had a few times but they are not introduced at regular intervals. This is one area that everyone can agree that mainstream Nollywood should improve on. Is there any other thing you think would make the film industry better?
There are a lot of things to do. The popular thing we usually say is we need more distribution, oh we need money, they should support us, and that’s all good and fine. I have this very strange idea that we as retailers need to improve our craft a whole lot. You know, I need to improve a lot. I mean, I watched All Na Vibes last night and I wasn’t too fussed about it. There are a lot of things I noticed that we could have done way better. And that’s also how I feel about the whole industry. I mean we are doing so well, lots of big films coming out year in year out, but we have got a lot to do better on craft. In the actual craft of storytelling, especially not just for a local audience, but for the global audience too. I think there’s a lot we can do better. And then when we are at a certain stage and the craft is alright, then I will be more confident to say, let’s go get a billion naira to make that big film, let’s try to do something no one has done yet. But for now, craft is all I am about.
In your opinion, there are things that could’ve been done way better which shows the number of decisions that come into play during filmmaking. What would you say was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of this film?
It’s always a battle when you make films in Nigeria, because there are already environmental things that go on and you need to be able to convert your weaknesses to strength. So, there are times when we didn’t want to shoot handheld, but something broke and we just went handheld. Then of course, we changed the main location a day to the shoot because it fell through for some strange reasons and then that affects you as a director. There are scenes where actors that could have been around were not around and we just had to work around the story and plot it differently to make it work. We just converted our weakness to strength basically. So I can’t really pinpoint anything. I think from the first minute to the last minute of the film, we had to make decisions at every time, we had to compromise every single scene to just get what we wanted to do.
“I want the audience to watch this film because it is in my opinion it’s fun , it’s gritty, and it has something to say and I would like us to really go out there, watch this film, have a nice time watching it and pick something from it.”
Since the craft is done and the project is done, and there is little you can do to go back in time, what should make viewers excited about the finished work you have now as we anticipate the commercial release?
I want the audience to watch this film because it is in my opinion it’s fun , it’s gritty, and it has something to say and I would like us to really go out there, watch this film, have a nice time watching it and pick something from it. It doesn’t have to be what I am trying to say, it could be what you see in it and I will be happy with that basically.
By helping to ease your burden, and offering advice based on their experience, were there other directors or filmmakers that influenced this film? Maybe access to special screening, or by going over the script during development, etc
Definitely. Like I said, we have got a community and we tend to interact a lot on stories. From the first draft to second draft, we already had friends like Debola Ogunsina who’s a director, we got my friends from In Ibadan— that’s Temi Fosudo, the lead actor in In Ibadan, who also saw the story, and there are also mentors that I have that I always share my options with, you know: Femi Odugbemi, Martin Chukwu, and Tolu Ajayi, whom I am always discussing with. Also, Tomi Walker, and he is not even a filmmaker. But I do have people I talk to that are very knowledgeable about these things. We are always iterating and benchmarking and iterating and benchmarking.
Since both of your works have been in Ibadan primarily, it seems like the city is here to stay in your movies. How would you sell Ibadan as a setting to a streaming service or an investor since they are only used to seeing Lagos. Although both of your works do well in promoting the city visually, if you had to do the talking in a few words how would you convince them?
I would say, are you not tired of Lagos?
(bursts into laughter)
That’s what I would say. I mean, are you not tired of Lagos? I think that captures everything about it.
Yes, rightly said.
Before I move into what would be like a set rapid fire questions, do you have any questions for me or anything you would like to add?
I just hope we made a good movie and I really want to make better works. I am happy to hear your review too. We are expecting your review at some point in time also.
We definitely are looking forward to the release.
Moving to the rapid fire questions. What three words would your frequent collaborator, Isaac Ayodeji, describe you with?
(a few secs of deep thought)
— harsh, expansive, critical.
Based on things you’ve also mentioned, I think that is also quite noticeable. And what’s the secret to your collaboration with Isaac, if any.
So, probably he wont like me saying it but i’m going to say it. I taught Isaac how to write. We have worked together since university days, where we met. I was doing stuff already at the time and he just wanted to get in. He’s such a talented writer. So, we have grown together so well. He’s someone I can tell to replace me somewhere because we just have the same story brain and he’s even better than me in some places and I am also better than him in a lot of places, and we complement each other a lot. A lot of what we do, we write together. So, it is more or less of having the same story brain, but some strength in some areas. So, Isaac writes very fast and he is great with strange ideas and writing lots of dialogue. I am great in destroying what people have done. You will write something so beautiful, and I am going to find the problems in it, the logical stuff. So, I deal more with structure, sorry I am getting too technical. But yeah, we have the same story brain, I have my own strengths and we try to complement each other. So I cover up for him, and he covers up for me.
To the next: what is your least favourite part of the filmmaking process.
—my least favourite part of the filmmaking process is the marketing process, and it’s sad that I have to. I need to learn it and I need to do it. I need to be a douchebag and talk about my film everyday for a month, I need to shout about it, I need to advertise, I need to talk, which I don’t like. I just want to make films and go to bed. I know it’s not realistic, since it is a valid part of filmmaking, and you must do it. It is the part that I least enjoy.
To the final one: If you could make one classic movie, which one would you go for?
Nigerian or anyone?
Anyone. Or let’s say one Nollywood and one non-nollywood.
Okay, I would like to remake Oleku by Tunde Kelani. I feel like I could do a modern riff on it. Then, for the other film, I think I would like to do Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock. I love the film so much and I think there’s a way I could tell that story in an interesting way for African audience.
And that brings me to another really interesting question that I just thought of. If you could make a Nollywood adaptation of an oscar-winning movie from the last two decades, which would you go for?
I mean that is difficult. Well, let me just go for the simple one, I would likely go for Parasite because it’s something I think we would be able to do. I mean, I love a film like Gladiator. Gladiator is one of the films I love the most, but eh, I will do Parasite again.
Well, it falls under your societal critiquing and themes that you say you like doing— Parasite, makes sense.
Yeah, definitely. Bong is also a great satirist and dramatist as well.
He has done quite a few in this genre.
Thank you for your time.
Alright. And I hope I answered your questions very well.
And if viewers feel some questions have been left unanswered, you can follow the director here on twitter where he drops filmmaking and life nuggets. Also, follow All Na Vibes official page on Instagram to get more details about the release.
You can also watch his debut, In Ibadan, for free on AfroLandTV.