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



I have been friends with niyi for 8 years now

I have been friends with niyi for 8 years now

So my executive producer Niyi Akinmolayan has instructed me to do this post and talk about coordinating a team for film, defining job roles and the importance of multi-tasking. To truly do justice to this, one would need to do a series of posts, so I am just going to pick on a few production areas.

To start with, Oga Niyi is at the very top of the food chain as the executive (Ogbonge/oga-at-the-top-things/gbogbo big boi etc) producer! Which simply means that he is this nice guy with a vision for a project and has money to make it happen.

production meeting for room315

production meeting for room315

He then goes ahead to hire a Producer to deliver this project, ‘The Film’. Now, who is a producer? “A producer may do any or all of these: find the literary property (a novel, play or original script), shape the idea into a viable film, raise the money, hire the director, choose the cast, oversee production and postproduction, mastermind the marketing, negotiate the worldwide rights” –Wiki

Did you notice the part where it says, “Raise the money”? Well that’s because, ideally, this is the normal chain of events. A producer would run to an executive producer(s) to raise money for his/her film project, but things don’t usually line up this way. Sometimes, it’s the executive producer who sets the ball rolling, or as in most cases, the producer who is making the film with his/her own money borrowed from friends and family.

Moving on! The Producer having broken down the script (by this I mean, he/she has read the scripts and compartmentalized all the different elements and flagged potential bumps on the road to making the film) he or she then needs to assemble the right team to bring the production to life. The first challenge is finding the right director for the project. The idea that once you are a director, you can shoot anything or make any genre of film is NOT TRUE O! (Except for Niyi Akinmolayan, the guy can shoot anything). The producer has to find that one director with the skill and temperament to deliver the project. See, when a director makes a film, he or she doesn’t just visually interpret the writer’s vision; they also leave their mark on it, as in, the director imprints on it, his DNA. Amaka Igwe, bless that woman, said, “writers write scripts, but it is the director who writes the film”. Don’t go and carry action film script to a director who is great with slapstick movie!! But that is not to say some directors, like some actors, are not versatile.

Producers make some of the toughest decisions on set

Once the decision of the director has been made and terms of engagement agreed, he/she will in turn put together his own band of merry men; DP (Director of photography), First AD, Second AD, Sound man, gaffer, Production designer etc. He has to do this in consultation with the producer because everything has to line up with the production budget. The producer’s wing person in every project is the production Manager, aka chief organizer. Think of the PM as that traffic offer at a road intersection. This person’s job is to make sure equipment and personnel needed on the project be where there have been pre-planned to be. He/she does this with the help of production assistants and runners; without these foot soldiers any production will be tough to pull together.

From the moment pre-production starts all through to the wrap of the project, the PM is the one who makes sure the various units get what they need to deliver on the project and reports directly to the producer. He/she is the first line of defense and has to be at least two steps ahead of everyone on the project. That said, it is expected that the Producer and director have hired the right mix of professionals to deliver the production. The most important attribute for a crewmember to have is discipline; understanding that you are a part of a team is key. Imagine a film production set up as a line in a factory. Everyone has a specialized role to play, if one person drops the ball at any one point, it impacts the synergy of the entire production. Work stops, Producer begins to lose money with every passing hour, executive producer’s eye is turning red, all because one person refused to follow the PM’s instructions.

Hire an efficient PM like Patience Lawal

Hire an efficient PM like Patience Lawal

Let’s now talk about the person called the production designer, which by the way really isn’t a very popular office on this side of the globe for reasons I will not get into right now. The production designer works closely with the DP and the director to nail the look and feel of a film. The art director is the guy who has the singular job of interpreting this pre-designed look. However, this is not taking anything way from the editor who is at the end of the line and will still need to work his magic on the final clips.

Production design work on Room315

Production design work on Room315

That said, not every production has the luxury of a full complement of crew members and here is where multi-tasking or multiple roles situations play a huge part when you are trying to make a film. What if there is no budget line for 1st and 2nd AD? The director will have to step up and be all of this on set. Where a production cannot afford a production designer, the props and set guy steps up and becomes art director and must do the best he/she can within the budget or lack of it create a look and feel that works for the film. Where there are no runners or assistants, the PM is going to get one hell of a workout every single day. In the end, a tight ship with passionate crewmembers can still get the project across the line; it’s all about discipline and supporting the next man or woman on the production line.

With Room 315, we have is an amazing hybrid situation where we have some of the best hands volunteering to work on the project along side a select group of young people investing time, energy and resources to acquire hands-on production skills. My message to all of you is, ‘learn everything, ask questions and never stop asking’.

When I left the university, one of the first places I worked at was the BBC Media Action, back then it was BBC World Service Trust. I was a young trainee-producer, myself and my good friend Sola Mosuro, would stand watching the head producer work with actors, and ‘can’ scenes after scenes under the hot Northern sun. Then one day, suddenly, the head producer (Emeka) turned to me and said, “now it’s your turn”, and tossed his headphone towards me, strolling off to have a pepper soup break. Here it was, my opportunity and with everyone watching I swung into action.

7 years ago when i was involved in everything

7 years ago when i was involved in everything

How was I able to do it? I had watched, asked questions, made mistakes, and finally gotten it right. I would go on to write and produce radio spots in multiple languages, was part of the story telling team for “wetin dey” and till this day, still a part of the writing team of the hit radio series “Story-Story, Voices from the market. I have learnt to tell stories, write radio drafts, screenplays, been a PM, thought myself to edit sound, directed plays at the MUSON center all the way to the big stage at the Eko Hotel, and have also been a dancer for ten years. Now, I am the owner of the Production Company that made the global award winning MTVShuga season four, but learning never stops. I learn from everyone I meet and has been an incredible resource for me.

Learn to multitask

Learn to multitask

The core of this post is to let you know that you can pick up different skills along your way to becoming a film maker till you decide on that one thing you want to be good at because you never know when you will be called on to pick up the ball when your teammate needs you to be there.

Thank you for reading.

Emmanuel Kalu Uduma

Categories:   Uncategorized


  • Posted: October 17, 2016 19:59


    wow... thanks for d post...
    • Posted: October 18, 2016 05:44

      Emmanuel Kalu Uduma

      Happy you found it useful
  • Posted: October 17, 2016 20:15

    Victory Mba

    I needed to see this badly... OSHE Egbons!
    • Posted: October 18, 2016 05:47

      Emmanuel Kalu Uduma

      Thank you
  • Posted: October 17, 2016 20:22

    Tunde Raphael

    Wow... Detailed explanation. Thank you for this.
  • Posted: October 17, 2016 20:28


    Wooooow! amazing post. Thank you so much for this breakdown of the whole film making chain. Can't wait for Saturday to watch the whole process and ask question. Thanks Uncle Niyi. You rock big timr
    • Posted: October 18, 2016 05:46

      Emmanuel Kalu Uduma

      There is plenty more to learn and answers are waiting for you.
  • Posted: October 17, 2016 20:45


    Great post
  • Posted: October 17, 2016 21:00


    9ice Chief.
  • Posted: October 17, 2016 21:07

    Okonkwo Johnson Stephen

    Much needed advice. Thanks a lot.
  • Posted: October 17, 2016 21:16

    kelvin ukhurebor

    wetin dey was a classic...till now nobody can touch it... I found your post very insightful. Thank you. I have to comment on every blog post Oga Niyi puts up so that when he's shooting his next project, I might get an IV....wetin man go do nau.
    • Posted: October 18, 2016 05:48

      Emmanuel Kalu Uduma

      Hahaha! All join my brother!
  • Posted: October 17, 2016 21:31

    Michael Osheku

    Well understood, thank you for sharing.
  • Posted: October 17, 2016 21:37

    Barnabas Emordi

    Uncle Emma, Thank You Boss. You and Mr Niyi are a Blessing to this generation. We really appreciate all the knowledge you have been imparting for free. We are proud students of Niyi Akinmolayan Film School
  • Posted: October 17, 2016 21:47

    Frankie Ogar

    Well, that maybe the case with Nollywood but not exactly true in Hollywood. I would suggest you look for and watch project Greenlight by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck for HBO. It will help you a lot in understanding how the industry truly works. Primarily for the studios the producer does not hire the director but studio executives do and the producer's job is to see to it that the director gets what he or she needs to achieve his or her dream. The reason why every movie is tagged 'A.... (director)' s film. The directors are paid twice more than the producers with the A list actors earning highest of all. That should give you an idea of the food chain in Hollywood. The director determines the Cinematographer etc to work with and has a higher say on the cast etc. However in small indie companies where a Producer strikes out on his or her own then the burden lies on such a person to make all the mentioned decisions as it is their baby. Most times the roles of the producer and director are held by the same individual in small or indie productions. I would also like to point out another misconception in Nollywood 'every cameraman in a production is referred to as the Director of Photography. That's is wrong as the D. O. P. may not have to physically shoot the camera. His/her job is to design the look, feel etc of the film. This person is the head of the camera department.
    • Posted: October 18, 2016 05:51

      Emmanuel Kalu Uduma

      Valid points. Thanks for the contribution. Really appreciate it Frank.
    • Posted: October 18, 2016 07:02

      Kehinde Joseph

      Affleck and Damon's Project Greenlight is one of my favourite shows, and one day, should the stars align for me and I get that sweet spot in Hollywood, I know what to do based on what that show has taught. BUT WE ARE IN NOLLYWOOD! This blog is about and for people working here. After voraciously reading screenplays and books by screenplay gurus and doing a course in England, I came home to 'do it as it's internationally done' but the Nollywood reality is a departure from what obtains in Hollywood. And that's what me must know and practice. While it's important to be aware of global best practices, what use is it if you can't practice it in your local terrain?
      • Posted: October 18, 2016 09:39

        Emmanuel Kalu Uduma

        Exactly Kenny! Particularly because this is what Niyi's blog is about. We know what international best practices are. Where and when we can, we deploy. But when we can't, we adapt and get the job done. I made the fourth Season of MTVshuga for Viacom with what I can call an international budget (not the measure of Nollywood by any stretch of the imagination) I had the full complement of a standard international setup. Name it, I had it. (but this is story for another day). Who says we cannot create our own process and make it work for this market?
  • Posted: October 17, 2016 21:55

    olabanji olufunminyi olasusi

    good one bro pls when is the end of a production or beter put when is PM job finishes?
    • Posted: October 18, 2016 05:57

      Emmanuel Kalu Uduma

      When does the work of the PM stop on a production? Ideally his or her job ends when the production wraps. That said, there is a small window right after principal photography ends that. It is during this period that we clean up after ourselves. Sets are taken down, suppliers paid etc. Then the PM is done... Unless he or she is also the editor ?
  • Posted: October 17, 2016 22:08

    AkinTunde Akin

    Believe me... Sir Niyi is fast becoming my best friend ooo. Thanks Sir Kalu and pls allow me to draw from ur wealth of experience... What would you look out for if you are seeing an "Epic movie on Slavery n rulership in the old Oyo Kingdom?"
    • Posted: October 18, 2016 06:04

      Emmanuel Kalu Uduma

      OK, are you talking about an existing film? Don't quite understand what you mean by "look out for". In terms of the creative logistics of making a film of the scale you are referencing I would imagine that the production designer would be about the most important person seeing that it's a period film (not taking anything away from all other professional), next the 1st AD, the director would rely heavily on him or her. Which then means 2nd and 3rd coordinating extras and second unit crews. Hope this helps? If not I am willing to still clarify. Thanks
      • Posted: October 18, 2016 11:09

        AkinTunde Akin

        Thanks sir. Am working on a story and what I meant is that: both from a viewer and professional (your history with writing, production and directing) perspective, what do you want to see in a story (script material) like that? Thanks again.
        • Posted: October 20, 2016 15:20

          Emmanuel Kalu Uduma

          Two words 'contextually authentic'
  • Posted: October 17, 2016 23:38

    Tobi Obishakin

    Cool talk! Bros
  • Posted: October 17, 2016 23:38

    pete osemeke

    Thanks so much Shuga daddy for this piece...
    • Posted: October 18, 2016 06:05

      Emmanuel Kalu Uduma

      Thanks for reading it!
  • Posted: October 17, 2016 23:41

    dipe funmilola

    Well spoken. True talk. ......permit me to say that multitasking also enable you to "keep" getting jobs this side of the universe
    • Posted: October 18, 2016 06:05

      Emmanuel Kalu Uduma

      Yes o!
  • Posted: October 18, 2016 05:58

    Abosi Ogba

    Boss, how exactly does one get an opportunity to be a trainee and learn from experienced producers, on the job, like you did with BBC? Writer a cv? Get a producer boyfriend? Stalk till you drop?
    • Posted: October 18, 2016 06:06

      Emmanuel Kalu Uduma

      All of the above!
      • Posted: October 18, 2016 06:32

        Abosi Ogba

        I'm stalking you sir. Officially now though.
  • Posted: October 18, 2016 06:30


    Wow!!! I would pay to hear you give more lectures. Thanks Mr Emmanuel for this very detailed, informative and educative piece.
  • Posted: October 18, 2016 06:43


    Great lesson
  • Posted: October 18, 2016 08:04

    Onikio Belema

    no need to talk much ooo.... just with this post I have learnt something very useful.... thank you very much... Oga Niyi Na you biko
  • Posted: October 18, 2016 10:47


    I love write ups like this that bare all about this unique industry called Nollywood. It is where we exist, it is where we practice and it's the atmosphere we must understand deeply. Thank you for this
  • Posted: October 18, 2016 14:14

    Jesurobo-owie Gift Imafidon

    I remember how resourceful and impacting your session was at story story masterclass last year with Chris.Nice write up! We learn everyday.Thanks for sharing and Thanks Niyi though I dey vex as you nor pick me.I have been among the earlier subscribers and followers of your blog.
  • Posted: October 18, 2016 18:41

    kelvin ukhurebor

    @Abosi..if you like don't capitalise on the exposure ROOM315 have granted you oo..I'm pretty sure Niyi has given you free access during the production ... if I were you I will start taking notes...asking questions and if they let you record the whole enchiladas...I've been writing screenplays for well over 6yrs and even tho I've succeeded in selling a few, I feel like I've got so much to learn and accomplish... I would give an arm, leg and my left nut to be where u are right now...don't waste it!
  • Posted: October 19, 2016 13:09


    this is really helpful, i'm about starting my short movie project and this is really insightful. thank you sir.
  • Posted: October 20, 2016 13:04


    Thank u sir for sharing ur knowledge.What really is the duty of the first Ad?...Some people mistake the job of the first AD for the PM.
    • Posted: October 20, 2016 19:00

      Emmanuel Kalu Uduma

      You are correct, people do make that mistake but it's also because they work closely together. The 1st runs and owns the floor! "The role of an assistant director on a film includes tracking daily progress against the filming production schedule, arranging logistics, preparing daily call sheets, checking cast and crew, and maintaining order on the set "- Wiki
  • Posted: October 21, 2016 11:36

    Toyin Olunloyo

    Thanks for this great piece, am well informed and my question is this; to what extent should a PM be hard or soft? because I have seen cases where the PM was just chasing girls and unserious on set which dragged the job and I have also seen crew and cast members complain that the PM was too strict,so at what point should I caution my PM on set as a producer?
  • Posted: October 25, 2016 05:00

    Ogunnowo khadijah

    In all this is great.But as I am new to this ,what how can one find an avenue to begin with as to multi tasking
  • Posted: November 1, 2016 22:47


    well detailed lecture , where is your base?
  • Posted: November 1, 2016 23:01