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As producer, I’m a problem solver –Judith Audu

Judith Audu is a multiple award-winning Nigerian filmmaker, actress, and presently one of the most sought-after producers in Nigeria. She’s the CEO of Judith Audu Productions. She is a High Profile Supporter for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, (UNHCR). In this interview with TONY OKUYEME, she talks about the journey so far, her experience in the Netflix first Nigerian Original Limited Series Blood Sisters and a Netflix film Elesin Oba, The Kings Horseman for EbonyLife Studios, and other issues

You started as an actor. Why was it so important to delve into directing and producing?

As an actor I wanted to be a key player in the industry that I really love so much, and I wanted to contribute my own quota into it. I wanted to be able to tell stories that resonate with the people I identify with my own way; entertain and educate people; and also be an employer of labour.

So, I started producing, and from there I learnt all the ropes and became a director. Like I said, I just wanted to remain a key player in this industry that I love so much, and I wanted to do all I could do to learn everything and become more. In doing that I learnt all of this, and it’s been great.

Besides a Certificate in Directing from the London Film Academy, you also have a Bachelor of Arts in French and a Masters in Public and International Affairs from the University of Lagos. How have all of these impacted your career as an artiste and a filmmaker?

Initially I was training to be a diplomat when I was in school. So, first I did French; and then I went on to study Public and International Affairs. I wanted to also register at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs. So, I actually wanted to be a diplomat, an ambassador. And I was training towards that and then the film industry grabbed me, and here I am. I am still an ambassador; it’s just that it is in a different light, because whenever I step out I am representing my country. So, all of this probably helped to shape me up in having a diplomatic approach to life and also be-ing able to communicate well to people and being a people’s person in carrying people along, which is a very important skill as a filmmaker to be able to be diplomatic and be able to communicate in a way whereby it is not offensive. And figuring out how to remain calm no matter how crazy things get. These are very strong diplomatic traits, and most of these things I learnt while studying in school. And going to study at the London Film Academy I got to learn a lot of things about how filmmaking is done from the other side of the world. Bringing that and adding to my work here was also a plus. So, all these put together have helped me. As it is always said, ‘no knowledge is lost.’ There is always a way whereby something you have learnt will always come to play in everything you do. And filmmaking is that kind of community where every single thing you do, no matter what, even if you are a science student, you will need to apply these things you have learnt somehow on set when working.

How has the journey been so far?

I would say, rough and smooth. Just the way life is; sometimes you have everything you have everything looking rosy, and then sometimes you have everything looking rough. You know how filmmaking is. It is like always applying for a job every time. That job security is not really assured, so to speak. So, today you may be high, and then tomorrow you’re low; and then the day after tomorrow you’re almost nowhere. And then the day after, you are back high. So, it is one of those professions where you always have to have a level-head else you wallow in self-pity and then get depressed. It is the reason why a lot of entertainers always either die of depression; because it is a lonely road and one where you always doubt and question your value and talent always. So it gets really tough sometimes but I am grateful to God. Judith Audu and Judith Audu Productions, we really have been blessed to have done a lot of amazing productions and also been part of a lot of great productions that have gone on to not just do really goof in Nigeria but also globally. So, I’ll say so far the journey has been humbling. God has been faithful, and we keep hoping for more ground breaking opportunities and collaborations.

You have featured in several acclaimed movies, including your most recent ac-complishment as the senior producer of the Netflix first Nigerian Original Limited Series Blood Sisters and a Netflix film Elesin Oba, The Kings Horseman for EbonyLife Studios.

Tell us your experiences working producing these movies…

Yes, it’s been an amazing couple of years. I would say that I have been fortunate to have worked and has been a part of some groundbreaking projects like Nigeria’s first Netflix Original Limited Series ‘Blood Sisters’ and the Netflix film Elesin Oba, The Kings Horseman. Both were produced for EbonyLife Studios. I actually don’t have the words to use to describe how working with the one I call a ‘wonder woman’, Mo Abudu really was, it was a very phenomenal experience for me especially seeing how the series and the film came out and did really well, breaking records worldwide.

That has been great. It was a great experience working with the team. I would say one of the great things about them and was that we had the best team to bring those projects to life. I am really grateful to have been a part of history, making these films. So, working with EbonyLife on those two productions was like the highlight for me that year. And they both came out last year doing so well.

‘Elesin Oba, The Kings Horseman’ going to Toronto International Film Festival as the 1st Yoruba film to premiere there, and was received so well; ‘Blood Sisters’ breaking all the records, and all the actors, every single person on that project have gone on to do great things. When you are part of a successful project like that it just reassures you of the reason why you are here and prove you are on the right track. And for me that is great, because you can start being likened to having the Midas touch with every single project you are part of succeeding. That is something we all want; and I am really grateful about that. I also got to do ‘Shanty Town’ for Chichi Nworah and Ini Edo; and that was another fantastic experience for me. It was released early this year on Netflix and that got everyone talking and it was trending worldwide. That was another amazing project. The most recent is MTV Naija Season 5, I was the series producer for two amazing Showrunnersa; Isioma Osaje and Temidayo Makanjuola. It’s another awesome one that will start airing soon.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years I see myself doing better than today. I see Judith Audu and Judith Audu Productions already being a global force, a force people would want to identify with; a name people would want to identify with. I see us having mentored a lot of young filmmakers to be doing really great things in the industry.

Tell me about a time when you experienced conflict and how you resolved it.

When you are a producer, your number one job is being a problem solver. So, as a producer every single day on set, there are conflicts that are to be resolved. It is like every second you’re resolving a conflict. As a producer, my key role is being a problem solver. So, I can’t tell you a single time when there was a particular conflict and how it was resolved because there are always conflicts. And my responsibility is to make sure that it is resolved and it doesn’t affect or jeopardise shooting in any way. Producers are problem solvers.

Any regrets? Why?

I usually say I don’t have regrets; I learn. So, whenever something happens, I just learn from it and move on, and make sure I don’t make such mistakes again. So, I won’t say I regret them; I just say I have learnt from them.

Do you have any upcoming projects that we should be on the lookout for?

Last year we shot a film. Judith Audu Productions made a movie called L.I.F.E., written and directed by the amazing Uyoyou Adia, and it starred Omowunmi Dada, Efe Irele, Paul Ephraim ‘Jaypaul’, Adebowale “Debo” Adedayo (popularly known by his stage name Mr Macaroni), Tope Olowoniyan, Eso Dike, Olarotimi Fakunle, Kate Adepegba and Mena Sodje. It is a film that talks about life. How we always wish to be someone else, how we always want to have someone else’s life without realising what that person is going through and how much that person may have put in to get that life that they are living.

L.I.F.E is a film that I believe a lot of people will be able to identify with. I believe it will touch a lot of lives and make people start appreciating the life that they have and work hard to get the life that they want more. We also have our film ‘The Sessions’ which was written by Uyoyou Adia and directed by my humble self, Judith Audu. Hopefully, it would be on the streaming platform soon so that everybody can also see that. It is a film that shows how growing up in a dysfunctional home usually have a lifelong effects on children, and the life they get on to live.

Whatever it is that our parents do, we always project it on our future partners. Also presently, we are working on a biopic about Misan Udogie. It is titled ‘My Mame Is Misan’. It’s her true life story of how she was able to overcome the trauma that she went through in her life, how she was able to overcome the depression that life threw at her, to become a success that she is today.

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