How to Film in Nigeria and still be human by Niyi Akinmolayan

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DIRECTING STARS AND VETERANS: A NEW/YOUNG DIRECTOR’S NIGHTMARE

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In one of my early films, I had a small scene to shoot. A music star was involved. The producer needed her to sell the film. I thought it was a big deal too. I was looking forward to the shoot. I even bought her CD so I can learn all the lyrics of her song and become her big fan hoping that would help make things flow smoothly. I had never directed a music star before.

She came late but it was ok. I mean, she’s a star. Then there was the problem with the make-up artist…in fact she eventually asked her own make-up artist to come. We waited. She’s the star. Then there was the issue of her fried eggs been too brown. We ordered for new fried eggs. Stars don’t like their eggs burnt. The star sparkle was so blinding, I couldn’t see clearly to even introduce myself to her. The producer also forgot to do that. So we started the shoot and I assumed things would be smooth. I could always sing one of her songs later until…

NEPA take light!!. The producer didn’t make provision for a generator. The generator in the location we were refused to start. I assumed stars would be used to this so I carried my two left legs to her side and tried to be funny. She jumped up like grizzly bear and started shouting about how unprofessional we all were. She couldn’t talk to the producer for obvious reasons so she descended on me. The Ondo man in me wanted to talk back but I figured the movie meant a lot to me and the producer had sacrificed so much. She won. We begged and begged until we figured it out. I also won. The movie came out and made me very very popular. I was happy I didn’t fight back. I did throw away her CD though and drove over it…like a very bad guy!

VETERANS AND STARS

A veteran is someone who has had a lot of experience in a particular field. Even if they weren’t too successful in that field, their presence can add a feel of authenticity to a project. People can respect a project simply out of respect for the veteran. A star on the other hand is a little hard to define. Not all veterans are stars and not all stars are veterans (although dem no go gree). Sometimes we follow the growth of a star till its full sparkle….sometimes a star just pops from nowhere.

As a director, you will have to accept the reality that comes with working with these people. Now here are some key things you should respect.

THE POWER OF “PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS”

Walking into a film set is walking into a sea of preconceived notions. You can get drowned easily if you are not focused. A misogynist somewhere assumes an actress got a role because she had sex with the producer. An actor believes the star actor can’t act. The veteran thinks new nollywood is shit but that he’s just there for the money. The star actor believes a newbie can’t direct him/her. The make-up artist thinks an actress is crazy. The producer believes no one cares about his movie. The production manager believes minors are nothing but discardable extras. One crew member believes he’s being marginalized because he’s from a certain tribe. The caterer believes the people complaining about food are spoilt people and lack home training. Niyi believes the jollof rice is not on point etc. Most times as a new/young director, you will be handed over to an experienced cast/crew and they bring all their bad habits with them.

THE POWER OF CULTURAL INFLUENCES

This is mostly obvious on sets with a lot of tribal diversity. Yorubas will never understand why ibos don’t kneel or prostrate to greet their elders. Ibos will never understand why yorubas make up greetings for everything. I still don’t understand why I can’t hug a hausa chic with a hijab. Everyone brings their culture to the set and forget the hierarchy that the production establishes. While it’s easy to fix for younger crew and cast members, it’s not the same with veterans or big stars. And ignorance is not an excuse. If you mess up, they will remind you.

So what are the key things to do? Before we go there, remember, a movie is bigger than any single member making it including you the director. Think about the movie. It should be the biggest thing on your mind.

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Uncle Jide Kosoko, Always a delight to work with

CONDUCT A THOROUGH RESEARCH ON THE STAR OR VETERAN

We are all terrible at researching stuff…black people. It’s very wrong for you to be working with an elderly actor and you don’t know anything about him/her or have seen his/her work. You must know his tribe, his personality and his body of work. You can’t separate Nigerians from their tribal upbringings. Respect it. You should ask from people who have worked with him/her about their experience. They will tell you the truth most of the time. When I first met uncle Jide Kosoko on Out of Luck set. Of course the first thing I did was prostrate on the floor. Even as a Yoruba boy I don’t prostrate for my parents but I knew where he was coming from and that was a big deal. I didn’t know what a camera was when uncle Jide was already a star actor. I had also taken my time to watch a previous film he did, The Department. I liked some of the performances there so I reminded him. We had a lot of laughs about it and he promised he had some new tricks for me in the film we were about to shoot. I notice this works all the time. From Desmond Elliot, to Femi Branch, to Ini Edo to all the other big names I’ve worked with. I still haven’t worked with Genevieve Nnaji (what is life :-(). I always approach them with the most beautiful thing about their culture and share a moment from some of their best works. An ego boost is good. We can never pay a good and experienced actor well enough for what they bring. At the end of the day, your name will be there as the director. Your role there is to merge everyone’s separate visions of the films into one coherent one. Be involved right from the start. Know your actors…and for stars/veterans, Know them very well.

BE THE SMARTEST PERSON IN A ROOM FULL OF ACTORS

You know what they say about a dog’s ability to smell fear and capitalizing on it, big stars and veterans are worse. They will sniff out the mediocrity in you like a greyhound. You must know the script like the back of your hand. You must understand what a character is doing and why. You can’t just act smart, you have to be smart. Because you are young or new, they will already assume you don’t know what you are doing. Shock them with a thorough knowledge of the plot and the general story. They will make suggestions and sometimes want to enforce them by looking at the producers face. Outsmart them. You can do it. All it takes is a lot of digesting the script. If there are parts of it you don’t understand, discuss with the writer well before you film. Most of the stars I have been told were impossible to work with, after working with them, they would come meet me and tell stories about all the dumb directors they had worked with. An upcoming actor just wants to be in a film. A star or veteran cares about how the film turns out. In the early days of Hollywood, some of the superstars chose who they wanted to work with. It’s that serious.

BASK IN THEIR EXPERIENCE AND LET THEM SPILL

I noticed that if you give them a listening ear, veterans especially love to share experiences, from their favourite work to the fine girl they toasted in some remote village. On the set of meet-the-inlaws, one of my upcoming films, we made a lot of changes to the script because Amaechi Mounagor and Tina Mba had heard similar cases like the one in the movie happen to close relatives. When I heard the entire gist, I stole some ideas from them and made it mine. If they notice you give a listening ear to them all the time, they will help you when you get confused. And every one gets confused at one point or the other in the filming process. If they notice you don’t listen, they will watch you fail. They’ve collected their big money o. This also goes for stars. Stars can whine like kids. Give an ear to them. Just listen even if what they are saying makes no sense. Listen first….seriously…shut up and listen. You will be shocked how it solves problems

Crew to me is family

Crew to me is family

THE CREW IS YOUR BEST FRIEND…MAYBE YOUR ONLY TRUE FRIEND

One of the big mistakes I see a lot of young directors make is befriend cast members and ignore or disrespect crew. You are setting yourself up for failure. Most of the time, you are nothing but a means to an end for actors (na kelekele love most times). If you are nice to your crew, they will have your back all the time and you are going to need it. Don’t argue with your DOP or even a PA in front of big stars and veterans. They will see all of you as the same. Even when a star actor or veteran accuses one of your crew of something, don’t join them in condemning the crew member in the open. Always be the mature one. Trust me, stars can be like little children…yes I said it :-P.

WHAT TO DO WHEN A STAR/VETERAN IS IMPOSSIBLE TO WORK WITH

True, there are some people, if you like, kiss them and rub their backs, they will still cause trouble. Usually, it’s either they weren’t paid well for the job or marine spirit is worrying them. What I always advice is, don’t rise to the level of the madness. Make your point logically. They might try to counter with irrational stuff like, “what do you know” blah blah…stay on your logical lane…say things like “Ma, this make-up won’t work because of who the character is”. Push for that logic up until you can’t push further. Then report to your producer. A sensible producer knowing that you haven’t screamed back or insulted the actor, will do the talking for you. Most times the star actor or veteran will agree with the producer but do you know what…he will realize that the producer trusts your judgement and will pick his fights better next time. Now what happens when the producer is on the side of the actor……hmmmm…let it go. You are still young in the business. The producer might be in it for the money and he just wants to put a face out there. If you walk out on the project or insult everyone, the news will come out differently. You don’t need that. Trust me…this work is serious…but it’s not that serious. It’s a business after all…we will have to make compromises whenever money comes in.

A jobless director is not a director.

Categories:   Director and Crew, Smart Stuff, Uncategorized

Comments

  • Posted: July 25, 2016 21:22

    Michael

    Lovely article
  • Posted: July 25, 2016 21:33

    Bobby RAK

    very useful... i wonder how you handle it when the actor or veteran does not like jollof rice... lol
    • Posted: August 17, 2016 09:49

      Afolayan Dammy

      lmao
  • Posted: July 25, 2016 21:52

    Jessica

    Very Inciteful and helpful, God bless you boss!
  • Posted: July 25, 2016 22:19

    Tina Mba

    Niyi! Hmmmm...I laughed some. Very good filming manual for all, nice piece...I hope we are all listening!!!
    • Posted: July 25, 2016 22:31

      admin

      Wow...you actually do read the blog. I'm honoured ma
    • Posted: June 13, 2017 15:10

      bara

      We are. But some of the actors are so unprofessional.
  • Posted: July 25, 2016 22:57

    Barnabas Emordi

    Very Insightful sir. Your crew is definitely your best friend on set.I believe if you develop that relationship with them, they will work so hard to achieve the goal of the entire production. They will always work happily (with lots of jollof rice..lol). I believe that a crew that is united will have less misunderstanding and they will definitely always have your back on set. Thank you for this piece sir!
  • Posted: July 25, 2016 23:25

    Tunde Raphael

    Again I read this... What a wonderful piece! I understand every bit and I shall apply them when working with a star or veteran. Thanks Sir Niyi.
  • Posted: July 25, 2016 23:43

    Akin-Tijani Balogun

    Hahahahahaha! Very hilarious and informative.... You hammered it well. Veterans are easy to work with once you RESPECT them.... And I think it is just simple logic. That you are the Director does not mean you should throw away other people's experience (and age, especially for Yoruba people). Madam Lanre Hassan aka Iya Awero was on my set a few weeks ago, and I enjoyed working with her. I grew up watching her on black and white TV in 70s into the 80s. When some TV crew did behind the scene interview and she said she had been acting since 1965, "afraid cash me", I was not born then! But this woman was the best behaved cast on the set! Respect begets respect.
    • Posted: July 26, 2016 06:18

      admin

      Veterans can be a delight. We should always have them in our films
  • Posted: July 25, 2016 23:50

    bolanle

    Hahahahaha. Funny piece, I Learnt.
  • Posted: July 25, 2016 23:55

    Seun Afolabi

    Thank you for sharing
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 00:24

    Kolade

    Boss!!! Everybody reads your blog ooo! Kai! Funny, interesting, educative, profound....and in one sentence, "a jobless Director is not a Director" Gbam!!!
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 00:54

    Elijah

    Very insightful. You really nailed it. Kudos to you.
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 01:06

    Tola Fabiyi

    Niyi this is really beautiful and nicely written. Well done bro. I see your blog going places very shortly! I look forward to working with you very soon!
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 01:36

    Danny Nwauzorma

    Hehehehehe... funny but very witty article. I don learn another one
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 07:57

    Oluwole Lanre

    It an eye opener,very funny yet deep. Thank you.
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 08:05

    Uncle FRED

    Great lecture, thank you so much for impacting such wisdom. Hope to get more insights for young/new producers. Especially on how to get funding or investors for their film and the different types of distribution rights...
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 08:24

    famodun olaniyi

    God bless you real good,i m a Filmmaker, work as director at times,as DOP, men!!! I have learnt a lot from this. God bless you again and again
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 08:45

    Omoniyi

    God bless u sir for this nuggets of wisdom that can't be taught in class room... Wisdom is priceless
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 09:21

    Uddy

    Aaah! Niyi. Thank you.
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 10:05

    Gideon Oluwamonure

    That was absolutely true. Every director have to be a very good human manager with a very good level of temperament. Well done bros. You have said it all
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 11:38

    Olajide victor

    hmmmmm heart pounding I believe I can cope
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 13:03

    Muyiwa

    So on point!
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 13:04

    Isaac "Anyi" Usoro

    It sure takes lots of wisdom to be a good director. Thank you for the insight, sir.
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 13:11

    Uduak-Obong Patrick

    Another point nailed right on the head. Thank you Niyi
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 14:15

    Waliu

    Uncle Niyi,I doff my hat.Your sense of humour is beyond this planet....and just like;you are very clever with words. Your site is gradually becoming my favorite movie blog after Nollywoodpalaver.blogspot.com and TNS.NG.
    • Posted: July 26, 2016 14:55

      admin

      Thanks bro. i dey feel u
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 15:01

    a.b.y

    Thanks sir, this knowledge is very insightful.
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 15:24

    Salako Sunkanmi Solomon

    Bros, this is beyond what some pay to get. I am beginning to see reasons to pray for you. God bls u sir.
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 15:29

    Halima

    Lovely piece I must say. Learnt much more than my bargain at the sight of the post. My question is, what do you do if you are a writer (new) and it's not just about making money but you want every scene to meet the standard envisioned.... You know a writer always have the image of each scene he/she writes. Is it wise to bargain being on ground for shooting or just sell the script and look the other way?.. really need to know how to go about that
    • Posted: July 26, 2016 15:36

      admin

      Hmmm...If you are the writer/producer then you will have some influence. even at that, its better you trash your issues out by having several meetings with the director before shoot. A good director should be willing to listen because it was first the writers vision. If you were just paid to write however, then you really don't have to get too attached to the work. But if the director is open minded and willing to listen, then fine. but never interrupt him while at work. As an artist, your work is never really finished. sometimes, you just let go so you can do better, greater art next time.
      • Posted: July 27, 2016 09:46

        Halima

        Alright sir.... Noted. Thank you so much. I appreciate your help.
      • Posted: July 28, 2016 04:24

        Elijah

        Well said. Well said. ***will screenshot this**
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 17:03

    Chiazor Daniel

    This is so very informative. Especially the part talking about crew members and relationship with actors. Thanks Niyi Akinmolanya
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 20:30

    Ndy Godwin

    Thank you Sir, this piece is veeeeeeeerry helpful... Please Sir one question, When addressing an elderly person on your set, do you maintain eye contact??? Cos some people say it's disrespectful..
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 21:13

    O'Fresh

    Finally my post.. God bless bro... you're the best... Now I owe you jollof rice
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 22:07

    David Daudu

    Nice write up uncle Niyi...
  • Posted: July 26, 2016 22:23

    pete osemeke

    God bless you Sir for this piece..,
  • Posted: July 27, 2016 00:13

    Michael Lawrence

    You're such an inspiration to the upcoming folks in filmmaking, especially directors. Oga na u o #Gbam!
  • Posted: July 28, 2016 00:04

    yemi akintokun

    PHEW!!!
  • Posted: July 28, 2016 05:36

    S. King Bob

    Hmmmm. Educative, funny and an absolute truth. Thanks a billion times for teaching what most film schools won't teach
  • Posted: July 28, 2016 20:22

    Emmanuel ilemobayo

    As an Actor, am always on the move to learn. This is a witty nugget note. Informative and hilariously educative. Thanks for rescuing the black man with this information to breakthrough in their works. Sir Niyi, i hail you.
  • Posted: July 28, 2016 20:39

    M-tom Creative

    I duff my hat brother, highly educational piece. I am def bookmarking your site.
  • Posted: July 29, 2016 10:12

    Sandra ufuoma

    A Brilliant and Educative piece! Nice one sir!!!
  • Posted: July 29, 2016 17:01

    Bernie Wills

    Complete film manual on the go. Thanks for sharing. Many blessings
  • Posted: July 29, 2016 20:01

    ms_fun

    You know just how to keep your readers glued to your blog..love the way you deliver.
  • Posted: August 4, 2016 07:43

    ceecee

    Thanks bro Niyi exactly what I needed
  • Posted: August 6, 2016 08:32

    Xceptional

    do u believe you will think you know all of these clues and it will never occur to you to exercise them? this is helpful i must confess. i am going for film directing in the nearest future when am successful as a film producer and writer.
  • Posted: August 6, 2016 10:44

    Chinwe

    Chai....Uncle Niyi, you are too much!!! I love this piece! Too relevant!!!
  • Posted: August 18, 2016 16:56

    Chaz Cephaz

    You are one of a kind Niyi. Infact, I find you, not just your words, very insightful. Wish I had known you a long time ago. By now, I won't be where I am today. But it's all good. Am still coming up in my directing career. Hope to work under you and get some mentoring from you now, as it is. More grace to you bro. Cheers.
  • Posted: March 1, 2017 12:37

    Khadijah

    Simply astounding, from someone who knows his onions!
  • Posted: April 26, 2017 21:29

    Temitope

    Bros niyi..I'm a young director i have never direct or make any movie..and i love to direct and i feel with joy any time i hear about directing..bros niyi can you please organised directing workshop so that we that have not direct who knows what you are talking about practically
  • Posted: September 14, 2017 07:31

    savior villageWriter

    Niyi! _____thanks for lighting my dark path in this passionate business. I love you.