Ruke Amata is a producer and director, whose name rings a bell in Nollywood and beyond. In this interview with TOPE OLUKOLE, he speaks on film production in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, Nollywood and his latest film. Excerpts:
You just came back into the country. Is it for a particular project?
This will elicit a funny answer. Next week, I’m burying my mum. I actually came for the burial of my mum. Basically, immediately after that, I need to rush back to London because we are having the premiere of my movie entitled: The Past Came Calling on 15 December.
After the London premiere, we’ll be showing it in The Gambia, that is the immediate thing, after this, in early February we are coming to Nigeria for the premiere and the cinema run of the movie
So, in essence, you are going to stay in the UK permanently?
It is not exactly permanently. Let’s say semi-permanently because I have lived all my life in Nigeria. At that point in time when I decided to move, I realised that there were no new challenges for me in Nigeria, it was just like I had achieved a level of comfort and though every other thing was okay but there was nothing new.
It was just to make more money and continue living in Nigeria for me, that is not what I wanted for my life, that is not even what I wanted for my children. So, when the opportunity and the challenge to travel to the UK came, I took it up, though it was quite a difficult thing for me to do then.
Let’s talk about your new film?
It is called The Past Came Calling. It is actually an offshoot of the talent hunt show that we did in the UK; the talent show was called, Class Act, which we embarked on to make some changes.
When I got to the UK, I realised that for most Africans there, they did not have the opportunity to express themselves artistically and whatever roles they were given was what we called waka pass, nothing solid.
So, we had a lot of talented people who were not expressing themselves like we have back home, when home video industry started. So, I got to London and found out that Africans were not given the kind of roles that they should be given.
And so I said okay, I felt if that is the case and we have so many people here just like when Nollywood started in Nigeria and because so many producers said that was what they wanted, I told them the only way to go about it is to take the bull by the horns, take a stand, though it might be difficult.
But I told them, do something and when they see you are doing quality production, they will come to you and at this point in time, you will not be the one going to them.
So, we went ahead and started class act, which was supposed to be a Nigerian production but we realised that there were so many non-Nigerians, who were more interested than the Nigerians themselves. We did it with different people from different countries and all that, we even had people from the Caribbean Islands.
From your experience, compare production in Nigeria and outside the shores of the country?
At the end of the day, production is production. You face the same basic problem. Okay, you might not have the problem of generator there and all others but production is production. It’s the same thing and you face basically the same challenges like somebody not showing up at the right time, this throws a spanner into the works. Okay, the slight difference there is that they are more organised; everything is more structured but the same problem there is the same problem here.
Luckily, I got a foreign crew to film my work. There is this young man from Spain, he has actually done a lot of work in the European countries, some African countries and the Caribbean too so, he was more amenable than some of the British boys I spoke with who were a bit too lazy. We clicked and we did a fantastic job.
Can you give an assessment of the Nigerian movie industry at present?
I have just come back and I have not really seen much of the production they have been doing but from the few that I know, I think that there has been a technological advancement in terms of technical equipment and they are easily accessible now. We have cameras that can do things that we could only dream of some years back.
To do that we needed to spend millions to hire or get this kind of camera but the cameras are easily accessible now so you can get fantastic high definition quality camera, have the best lenses and all of that for a fraction of what you would have spent then so that has helped the quality.
My issue is still with our story telling, our stories are not there yet, we should learn to do the kind of story that will appeal, we shouldn’t just do stories for doing sake. Look at your immediate constituency, look at your audience.
What do you think will appeal to them, if you are looking beyond that, you are looking at a foreign audience, what will the white man want to see about Africa? I don’t think he wants to see all these films we are doing.
That’s not it, do a film that will appeal internationally if you want to go international, do a film that will appeal to your local audience if you want to stay local. So I think for now, that is still the issue we are facing.