In a few weeks, the Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN) will witness the handing over of leadership baton to a new set of executive council members. For the past few months, the gist has been everywhere that matured minds and pioneers in the industry are showing interest in running for the position of president. On this note, actor and movie director, Fred Amata, chose Tuesday, August 16 as a day to declare his intention as a candidate for the presidential election. At Ojez Chinese Restaurant, Surulere, Lagos where the declaration event took place, the filmmaker, once again, showed the political side of him as he reeled through his plans and aspirations for the guild while making his declaration speech. He stated that as the nation is moving forward in every aspect while confidence is gradually returning to the face of the country’s economy to strengthen new businesses, new investments and ideas, members of DGN must begin to position to exploit this situation to reap benefits through innovative thinking. Amata affirmed that he has set genuine plans that will turn the guild around for the better but cannot carry out the plans alone as an individual. He therefore asked for the mandate of the able practitioners and stakeholders in the movie industry to support him with their votes in the upcoming elections to enable him transform the dreams and blue prints into reality. He recalled how he started in the industry. The days when offering theater arts in the university was like preparing yourself to be a pauper because there were little or no structure to explore knowledge acquired in the field. He explained that as a child, while many of his peers were going crazy with cowboy films, which were the trend back then, his father, John Efogale Amata, was his own god of the screen. And gradually what seemed to be a childhood fantasy turned into passion and from passion to a career he has come to love as life itself. He shared memories of challenges, which he faced while trying to grow in the industry; the statement his aunt made was the funniest. ‘My aunt said to me when I graduated from University of Jos, where I studied Theatre Arts, “Fred, you went to school to study Theatre Arts, you will soak garri till you are tired”. Amata, being the ever cheerful person he is, made a playful but kind gesture towards one of his foreign lecturers who misunderstood and told him he was too playful to be a good film maker. Amata did not also find it funny when his father’s connection was not able to secure him a position in Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation where he would have done his National Youth Service Corps primary assignment. Instead he was posted to Nigerian Television Authority were he was relegated to bury his handsome face in between books and videotapes in the library. But what seemed to be a nightmare to a fresh graduate with great ideas became a blessing in disguise. “In the NTA library where I was reporting for duty, I was annoyed but God had greater plans for me. On one of the few days that I found cause to smile in my then boring job, a gentle man, in an era when soap operas where just being introduced into the system. One man, defying all errors, had managed to make a pilot of a film, a soap opera. Zeb Ejiro, was that man and at that time, he was looking for a place to dub this tape. In NTA where I served, there was a gigantic equipment that only executive directors and directors of news were allowed to use. Another place where you could find the equipment was in the studios. Incidentally, one of such equipment was in the library where I worked. Zeb Ejiro, at that time, was going around with a tape, the first episode of Ripples. He came to me and told me he wanted to dub the tape and in less than two years, I was directing Ripples. I must have been the youngest first independent director, probably after Lola Fani-Kayode to be doing a national programme on national Television in those days where it was impossible. You have to be the biggest in NTA or in NTA headquarters before you can handle such a position in those days. “I was prepared even before Nollywood was born and when Nollywood was eventually born, I was there because apart from Living in Bondage, I think the next film that was shot in Nollywood was Unforgiven Sin before Taboo and I was a part of the production which transited into Nollywood,” he said. Amata explained that his running for the office of the president of the guild is a way of giving back to the industry, which feels more like home than a job location. “If I eventually win, in the next two years, I am dedicating myself to this as my job. I am saying that I will operate only under strict conditions of set targets and goals.” On why it took him time before running for president of the guild, he said, “I will say it is a matter of time. I have indeed come out for president before but at that time, certain challenges happened and Fidelis Duker emerged president of the guild at that time. I have watched since then and coming out now, I believe is the right time. It’s my time and I think its my turn.” Amata stated that there is a long list of plans waiting to be executed if he wins the election. Moving the motion for Movie Practitioners Council (MOPICON) by writing to government on the issue and developing a website for the guild came top of his list. Before the declaration speech, stakeholders and personalities in the industry observed one minute silent for Nollywood fallen legends, Ashley Nwosu, Christy Essien-Igbokwe, and Sam Loco Efe. Zack Orji who anchored the event also included a Cameroonian actress who is fondly known in Nollywood as Aunty Martina. According to Zack, Aunty Martina had great love and interest in Nollywood and she passed away two days before Sam Loco’s demise in Nigeria. Fred Amata was privileged to have directed a movie for the late Cameroonian movie pioneer. The centre was filled with friends and well-wishers in the industry who came to support him on the bold step which he has taken. Amongst the crowd that came to pledge their support for his campaign were current president of the guild, Bond Emeruwa, Keppy Ekpenyong, Frank Dallas, Chico Ejiro, Andy Boyo, Charles Novia, Frank Vaughn, Felix Duker, Zack Orji, Zik Zulu Okafor, Emma Oguguah and many others. On the surface, with all these personalities on ground to support Amata on his day of declaration, it seems he is coasting home to victory but one cannot conclude at this point since those backing other aspirants are not known.
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