For her, writing scripts and producing movies is the core of film production. She has been doing these for over a decade, with recognitions from both home and abroad. She equally made some Nollywood stars that have become part of the most sought after in the industry today. SEGUN ADEBAYO, in this piece, takes a look at the rise to stardom of Emem Isong, who dumped Banking for movie production.
NOT many female producers and scriptwriters in the movie industry come close to Emem when it comes to movie production. She has used her beauty and poise to endear herself into the hearts of many film lovers. She is no doubt, a film maker with a distinct. To her, the passion she had when she was in school studying Theatre Arts was influential to the height she has attained so far as a movie producer cum script writer.
Since she broke into the industry in 1994, Emem has written and produced over 25 movies, some of which have left praises on the lips of her ever increasing fans, both home and abroad. Emem’s movies have brought her to an enviable position among her contemporaries. Her movies have, for many years, won her awards both nationally and internationally. She has written scripts that got many scampering for her productions.
Few weeks ago, Emem marked her 15th year anniversary celebration, an event that had the big wigs in the movie industry in attendance. They came in large numbers to shower encomiums on her for her continued role in taking the industry to another level.
Monalisa Chinda described Emem as a woman of substance who is ready to do everything to get her to a meaningful level. “Emem Isong is a producer that every artists would want to work with, she is a wonderful woman who has given a lot to this industry. The little we are doing today is just to show our appreciation to a woman of vision, we are proud of her that is why we are throwing our weight behind her”.
Aside turning an outstanding movie producer, Emem equally writes scripts.“I am a very determined person, I will never take no for an answer, no matter how hard the situation may present itself. When you challenge me by telling me this is not feasible or I can’t do it that is when I begin to tick”, she said.
With awards and recognition trickling in, Emem said she was not losing sleep over all these and averred that “It tells me that I have to keep on working hard because it pays. I have to keep at it so that I will remain on top of my game”.
Emem had always been fascinated by the movie making business for a long time. She studied Theartre Arts at the University of Calabar.
Even when many of her contemporaries in the industry had left, owing to challenges and circumstances which they described as unbecoming, Emem Isong has worked greatly and paid her dues when the industry was not booming like it is now. She recalls that “film making is a new industry in Nigeria and people did not take it seriously then, but now they are beginning to see that the industry is becoming bigger and booming.
“You can see what all these corporate organisastions are doing to encourage us. In fact, evidence is President Goodluck Jonathan’s largesse towards enriching and appreciating what we are doing”.
Speaking on her turbulent moments, Emem described the period as being difficult, she reminisced that she would never forget how she pounded the streets looking for sponsors.
“I had no car then. One day, exhausted, broke and disappointed by a prospective sponsor, I went to see a cousin of mine who was living in Ikoyi.
I wanted to collect some money from him for transport fare and other things. When I got there, I found out he had traveled. It was at this point that I sat on his doorstep and began to wail.
“Its funny now, but it was no laughing matter then. I managed somehow to get back to my house and crawled under the bedcovers where I started weeping again. I was so tired, depressed and fed-up.It was then that my kid sister, Uduak Isong-Oguamanam, who was on holidays from in University, suggested that I ask my parents for the money. I didn’t think that was a good idea as they were retired civil servants and didn’t think they could sponsor the film. She insisted that I called them. I did, weeping and recounting my tales of woe. To my surprise, my parents said they would give me N60,000 as contribution towards the shooting of my film”.
She denied rumours making rounds about her closeness with Desmond Eliot. The actor has co-produced a number of films with Emem, some of which have won many awards. A development that has got many talking. “He’s always in most of my films because he is an actor I respect very much. We have been friends for a long time, so what is wrong if we do movies together? “ As a matter of fact I don’t like responding to unnecessary gossip,” she stated.
Emem who combines the rich cultural roots of the Ibibio people and her degree in Theater arts to churn out good scripts describes herself as ‘’ a dramatic. I love dramatic events and I don’t want a situation where you predict what will happen next.’’
‘’I also love dialogue and I pay a lot of attention to detail, I expect viewers to be thrilled,’’ she says, continuing: `If you watch all my movies, you will see what I am saying.
Describing her success, Emem says it was ‘’Hit and Run” that made people notice what I could do. But the one that made me happiest was “Emotional Crack”, which took me to festivals outside the country, particularly the African Film Festival in New York. I was invited and there, I met a lot of film-makers. That is the one that gave me the break that I needed.’’
On how she selects artists out of the increasing numbers flooding the industry on a daily basis, she admits that poor economic growth is no doubt taking its toll on the industry, but they have a body looking at that. “That is one of the reasons youths in the country see showbiz as a quick means to become famous and rich, but we are trying to contain them. You can’t blame these people, they want to survive and make ends meet.
Even the government has noticed this expansion and they are doing everything to ensure that things get better.
On her storylines that have made her famous she said, “When I first started, I did my movies myself. I guess it’s a gift from God. I also worked with other people. I may think up a story and someone else does the scripting and vice-versa.”
On why she dumped banking for movie, Emem revealed that: “After ‘Living in Bondage’ was produced, I caught the bug and resigned my job in the bank after which I wrote my first script titled ‘Jezebel’. Then, Nigerian films were shot in Ibo and this was no exception. I teamed up with late Francis Agu and he produced it for me. It did well in the market so I wrote my second script, titled ‘Inheritance”.
With the year already starting on a good note for Emem, she promised to produce movies that will promote the culture and heritage of Africa in a positive manner. ‘’I will do new movies that will touch the lives of an average Nigerian on the street and that would also reflect the travails of an ordinary man.