New Telegraph

February 25, 2024

Most Yoruba movies are on very ridiculous budget –Etiwe

Ace producer, theatre practitioner and TV contents manager, Sulayman Deji-Etiwe, shares his thoughts on Nigerian movie industry. The Managing Director, Albasit Communications, also recalls his journey to the world of film production and theatre practice in this interview with TONY OKUYEME

You seem to have taken a break in film production. What’s been happening?

Break? No. I have just finished a job with a production house, Gold mind Concept, doing what I know best – production management.

For obvious reasons, the year 2020 has been a very difficult one for a lot of people. How was it for you as an artist?

We give glory to God for life. No doubt, 2020 is a lost year to many, lives lost, properties lost. From the pandemic to EndSars wahala, but all glory be to God we survived the hurdles. As an artiste or should I say entertainment industry generally, there was a lot of set back during this period. With the total Lockdown, no movement, little could be achieved during this period. It was a big loss; shows were cancelled thereby losing revenues, location recordings cancelled because of ‘social distance’ rules of Covid-19.

For those who do not know, who really is Deji Etiwe?

He is a seasoned producer, content provider and production manager of over 30 years of professional practice in the theatre, arts administration and communications. Some of his job include, ‘Spider’, ‘Dear Mother’, ‘Gbajumo Osere’ for Apreel Ventures, ‘Just Like Jude’, ‘Yoruba Lasa’, ‘Afara Oyin’, ‘Ileke’, ‘Awerijaiye’, ‘Majata’ etc.

Did you really set out to become an actor or a filmmaker?

Yes, but my parents disagreed. They wanted me to study Accounting, which I did but I never used the certificate till date. I satisfied them but chose my path of entertainment.

What was growing up like?

The road was rough just like I mentioned earlier. After certification as an Accountant then a journey into Communications since I need to finance myself on education and theatre arts, there was only full-time course, and I opted for Mass Communications which relates to Theatre Studies, both at the University of Jos and Lagos State University (LASU), working and schooling at the same time. It’s not an easy task but thank God all is history today. Thank God for the success I have achieved from the journey.

You started your career about three decades ago, at a time when most parents were more or less averse to having their children become actors, dancers or visual artists. How was your experience? How were you able to convince them?

Yes, my parents were not easy to convince, so I satisfied their callings and I did my callings after without seeking their support. But none of them is alive to see the success before their demise. My mother died in 1992 while I was still in school, and my dad died three years later when I was still in the race of success.

Tell us your experience on your first performance on stage. Were you anxious, scared or frightened? Why?

Of course, yes. The three happened to me. It’s a natural thing for a young man like me with no experience to undergo such, but immediately I stepped on stage, all this disappeared and applause was given at the end of the show for a good performance. This was in 1982.

You have featured in so many big stage productions. Which of them would you consider as most challenging? Why?

I would say, Kole Omotosho’s ‘Sacrifice’. From a prose it was adapted to drama without losing the message and grip. This posed a little challenge, but with support of the Director, Bethel Fred, we were able to achieve something perfect that at the end of the show both actors and audience had satisfaction and value for it.

So, which of these would say is your favorite?

Ola Rotimi’s ‘The gods are not to blame’. For me, it’s a play full of suspense and beautiful interpretations from different directors and co-actors. Working with Late Funsho Alabi on the project at different stages was a beautiful experience, likewise Austin Awulonu, a fantastic personality.

You are also a theatre Manager. Tell us about the management aspect of you…

He is the general overseer of the theatre job from financial, marketing to production management. He plans the production and its budget and sees to the smooth running of the production. He is the middle man between the producer and the production personnel. He starts the job with the producer, planning the production from budgeting, to hiring, marketing, etc., and be the last on the production to give reports of the ups and down of the job.

What is your opinion about the Nigerian movie industry, especially the Yoruba language genre?

The Yoruba movie industry started as a travelling theatre but today it has delved into movie production as far back as in the 60s. These people, to me, are the first true Nigerian film makers with films like ‘Kongi’s Harvest’, ‘Ajani Ogun’ by Ola ‘Balogun’ with Ade Love, ‘Aiye’ by Hubert Ogunde, ‘Mosebolatan’ by Moses Olaiya Adejumo and a host of others. However the English Language film of Nigerian movie industry is a melting pot for other regional film makers in Nigeria as each regional movie like the Yorubas are seeking to portray the concern of a particular section and the ethnicity it represents. The short coming of the Yoruba movies is the subtitling and this is worrisome as the subtitles are giving out to dropped out, half educated people due to finance. Most of the Yoruba movies are on a very ridiculous budget and thereby cutting ways. Our people need to work on this and improve on their production.

Have you been embarrassed?

Yes, on the set of a friend who produced a Yoruba movie. I don’t want to mention his name or production now.

What happened?

I was invited to manage his production with the belief everything was intact. I was asked to help talk to some key actors, faces that can sell the production and that payment will be made to them on arrival. I got in touch with these actors – two of them based on our relationship -they agreed on all terms. They even started work without asking me for their pay. After the day’s work in the evening, the demand was made and it was story……… I paid 50% of agreed fees to these people in order to maintain my dignity and integrity and I told the producer that if money is not available to pay these actors the following morning work will not continue. And as at 12noon the following day it was one story to another. I pleaded with the actors engaged and the production was called off. I was highly embarrassed. What if I don’t have enough to pay the actors invited, how would I relate with them? Would I have the guts to call them next time and they honour me?

Would you encourage your child to be a thespian? Why?

It’s a matter of choice and interest. Though my boy takes after me, he is a film editor and he is doing well. His name is Deji-Etiwe Abdulbasit. Though he studied Computer Engineering at LASU but chose to practice film editing on his own after graduation.

What is your opinion about the fake lifestyle that has become common with a lot of celebrities?

I decline to comment on that. It’s their choice, but I know it won’t last, it’s for a period. You need help, and acting big man, who is losing?

Any regrets being an actor? Why?

No regret.

Where do you see live theatre in the next five years?

Live theatre too is going digital; it’s a gradual thing and soon we will get there.

What would you like to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered for my professionalism, dedication to work and humbleness. Why? It speaks for you and paves way for my disciples as people expect the same principle and discipline in me from my people

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