Emem Isong is one producer whose name precedes her. Ever since she came into Nollywood, she has remained behind the cameras leaving her works to speak for her. Although shy and somehow a loner, this multi-talented chic is an icon to reckon with when it comes to script writing and movie producing.
I have always wanted to be in the entertainment industry. I knew right it when I was a kid because I was hooked on TV and that made me want to read Theatre Arts at the university, which was closest to what entertainment was at that time. At the time I went into the university, there was nothing like Nollywood anyway but that was my passion.
And when I graduated, I worked in a bank briefly but when I saw the first movie, Living In Bondage, that gave me courage. So, I quit my job and decided to join the industry, but not as an actress.
I have never really been interested in acting. I only acted in school to fulfill some of my course work. I like being behind the scene. I like creating things.
When I started officially, things were not rosy because of finance but we learnt to work with what we had. I did my first personal movie, Breaking Point in 1996, although it didn’t really make a hit but it registered my name in the subconscious mind of the people. But the particular one that brought me to limelight was Emotional Crack. Then I was with Remmy. I later worked with him for few more years and we produced other hit movies such as ,” She Devil, A Minute To Midnight, Master Stroke, Play Boy, Rumours, Shattered Illusion, Promise Me Forever, Emotional Crack, etc.
After a while, I had to break out to do my stuff. Since then, it has been from glory to glory. I have also been partnering the top Nollywood acts, like Desmond Eliot, Stephanie Okereke, Uche Jumbo and few others.
I have always liked to be on the managerial side of things. For some reasons, I like to create. Because I am a writer first and foremost before being a producer, I like to manage people who have the talent and the flair to act in them.
I have realized that as a producer, you are in control, to a certain extent, of what comes out of your work. So, I am very passionate about my writing. And that’s why I decided to make a career in producing. By that way, I could be in control of what comes out of my productions. I am not an actress in the first place and I don’t think I possess the flair for acting.
But occasionally, I do play minor roles in my own movies. More importantly, I am good at discovering talents, possessing the ability to uncover every individual’s potential when it comes to the world of make-believe. I derive more joy and fulfillment in discovering those who would give me the best in acting and ensure that Nigerian entertainment industry did not collapse.
Sometimes, I feel hardly satisfied with some of the films that I have made, it’s not to say that I don’t appreciate my works, but I silently wish I could have done much better.
You must have discovered that most of my scripts are love and romantic stories; that is my style. Every writer has his or her own style of writing. Although I could say that to an extent I am romantic, that alone is not the major reason I find myself with such love-bound scripts.
The major challenge I face in my field is funding and piracy. You find it difficult to get supports or loan to carry out a project and when you finally succeed in burning your resources and the movie is finally out, you begin to battle pirates. At the end of the day, you would be battling to recover your investments.
Life as a female producer
I have always said there is no male and no female, a producer is a producer. I never looked at the gender aspect of it and it has never occurred to me for one day. Whatever I do, I put my whole life into it. The beginning of anything is not always easy.
It was extremely difficult for me at the beginning and I was young. It was not easy for a 23-year-old to raise money or have the confidence
of somebody to get N2million to do a project. That’s how old I was. But I was determined and with whatever little money I could gather, I was able to make my first film.
I actually wanted my work to speak for me, and it is doing that. I am not one of those that will come out and start talking about myself when I have not really achieved anything. I wanted people like you to seek me out after watching what I have been able to do. I wanted to be judged by the merits of my work.
Again, I am really shy. I don’t like publicity much but at this point in time, because I am into a lot of things, I have to come out.
I am into marketing, I have a licensed distribution company. So, I market my films myself and I do premieres of my movies once in a while, so it’s inevitable that I have to do publicity.
My new work which is also an Efik production is currently gaining waves and acceptance in different homes. Not just for the Efik’s but for everybody because it is translated in English. A whole lot more are coming your way.
My happiest moment in the course of my work is the establishment of Royal Arts Academy. It was more like a dream come true because I had always wanted to own a place like this, where I could display my talent and also pass in unto the younger generations.
Then on my life in general, the birth of my son is one of the happiest moments in my life. I felt so fulfilled and blessed to have such a handsome boy.
I don’t usually like the term single mother. I just leave it at being a mother and it is not easy. You just have to learn to prioritize and for me, family comes first in whatever I do and I try my best to arrange my work schedule in such a way that family does not suffer. Thank God for the flexibility of our work. I can write at anytime I want or anywhere and it does not affect my duty towards my child and any of my family members.
The only snag there is when I have to travel for festivals, awards and other things but then again, sometimes if I have to, I take my child along. If I don’t, I make adequate arrangements.
Staying above scandals
First of all, I am not an actress. I am not in the limelight. Besides, I am more of a loner. I don’t go out much, and I am an introvert. Perhaps, because they have not seen me, that is why they have nothing to say about me. But really, in the business that we are in, you can’t avoid that but one really has to live above that.
Yes! To an extent I am romantic. That is the more reason I do romantic movies and scripts. It is part of life; it makes the world go round. I’m convinced that I am a romantic person.
My love is my private life and I wouldn’t wish to discuss it on the pages of a newspaper. I had a relationship that produced my four-year-old son and I am still having a cordial relationship with the father of my son. We are still in good terms.
Walking down the aisle?
I am a woman and the dream of every woman is to get married someday. That time of my life will soon surface, but for now, I have my son and my job to cater for before any other thing. When the wedding bell is about to ring, I promise you, you will be the first to know.
My ideal man? A God fearing man who is mature and understanding. Nobody is perfect but has to possess some important qualities. I wouldn’t say whether my ex is in short of those qualities but that is what I sought in my kind of man.
I have no regrets in life because I have learnt to take things as I see them. There is nothing that happens in this world that doesn’t have a reason. Whatever comes my way, I grab it and take it as I see it.
I have never for one day regretted my walking out of the banking industry; it was a bold step in the right direction. Even if I grow old, I’ll still be writing because aside this, what else would I be doing? I have practically built my world around the entertainment industry.
I like being simple. I just put on something that makes me comfortable. But I like jean trousers a lot because I feel so fit in them. I don’t wear so many accessories, just the right thing for the right occasion. Then I don’t like heavy make-ups. Generally, Emem Isong is a very simple person.
God first has been my inspiration; I put him first in all I do. Then the people and the happenings around me also inspire me lot. I would also admit my strength as a screenplay writer lies in my imitable ability to combine the rich cultural roots of the Akwa-Ibom people and my degree in Theatre Arts to churn out some of the best scripts that have come out of Nollywood.
I am from a family of five including our parents. I have a sister and a brother, and we are doing well in our different fields. I am also privileged to be the first child in the family.
My sister is also into showbiz, but just like me, we are both behind the camera. She runs the Royal Arts Academy, while I am the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The academy is a kind of talent discovery and nurturing school of arts. We train people in acting, script writing, directing, etc.
Then our only brother works with an oil company here in Nigeria.
I graduated from University of Calabar in 1998 with a degree in Theatre Arts. I did my youth service in 1999 before venturing into the banking sector.
Few years later, I discovered that I wasn’t fulfilled in that field of work, so I opted out and went into the entertainment sector. Then there was nothing like Nollywood, just normal home videos.