Tokunbo Falope, TK as he is fondly called, is a writer, director and producer. He runs BRV, a Nigerian production company owned by his brother Deji Falope, who handles the TV aspect while he does the filming.
TK grew up in Festac Town, Lagos, had his secondary education at Kings College and was still an undergraduate of the Ogun State University when he decided to leave Nigeria for the US. He settled in Los Angeles and was working in a hospital supposedly to become a doctor like his father when he decided to give film school a try. Two and a half years at the New York Film Academy (NYFA), majoring in filmmaking exposed him to production, directing, screen writing and cinematography. It also prepared him for work as Second Assistant Director for the Los Angeles unit on the movie “Transformers” and as Assistant Director for Spike Lee’s “Santa Anna”.
However, TK took a look at Los Angeles, decided competition was too stiff for a black foreigner just starting out and opted for Nollywood. He returned to Nigeria and directed his first movie, ‘Silent Scandal’, gratis because he was more interested in “changing the game and putting his creative talent to play,” he explains.
He feels that in Nigerian movies, drama is shot like comedy, comedy like action and action like drama. The uniqueness of his work stems from his camera shots, movements, pacing and the whole nine yards.
Most challenging time on set
This was when he worked with Spike Lee as assistant director. “His name is Spike for a reason; he has a very short temper and fuse so if he wants his actors on set in one minute and you spend an extra minute, he is up and yelling at you.”
Taking business risks
‘Silent Scandal’ was a risk. Contrary to his thinking, his talent could not compensate for organisational lapses. Pre-production was done in a couple of days. Audition and shooting were simultaneous. Location was not known before hand. His efforts at ensuring proper lighting were regarded as a waste of time and money. He learnt his lessons though and has decided to personally produce his next movie.
TK believes he is a selfless, open-minded perfectionist who is very strict when it comes to his work. He says “Actors feel that the whole over-the-top exaggeration and shouting is acting but I do not believe in acting, I believe in reacting. I want an actor that can listen and react rather than act because that is the way it should be. When it comes to production, people still need some kind of schooling and training not just to refine their skills but to know the set hierarchy and how a set is run.” He desires the best for people who work with him and he leads by example hoping that others will follow.
Apart from filmmaking, he produces music videos and TV commercials. He did a TV commercial for Darbur toothpaste last year in Nigeria (yet to be released) and also shot a Nike commercial in New York. “I just finished two music videos for two artists, Zeal and Niyola. I also have about three Nigerian story scripts that are ready to be produced. I have working tittles which might change. One is called ‘Paradise: Under Construction’. The main character in the story is Lagos State, I made Lagos look very good especially for people living abroad who want to come back but have negative feelings. I kind of balanced it though. Attached to this script are international faces like Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje and Hakeem Kae Kazim both of whom acted in ‘Hotel Rwanda’ and Akon.
Growing up in Lagos was interesting. One comes out and sees the bus conductor shouting, people on the road saying stuff, graffiti on the buses and different clichés like “binti laye”, “no condition is permanent” etc.
All those things fascinate me. Nigerians know how to express themselves and despite the difficulties they always have hope. Telling the stories of these people is what motivates me.
TK would like to make a Nigerian movie that will earn him an Oscar. He will also like to attract foreign filmmakers into Nigeria, as this would enhance income and exposure for the industry.
In life, he looks up to Barack Obama because despite all odds, he achieved something that seemed impossible.
In production, he looks up to Spike Lee, Mel Gibson and Martis Cogeskey. In other aspects of the industry, he looks up to Will Smith.
TK expresses himself by writing and loves to do a variety of other things. He had given playing basketball at the NBA some thought until he got to America and saw African-Americans playing, he opted for football instead.
He loves taking pictures and could go for a drive taking pictures of the scenery. He also loves listening to music. His favourite artist in Nigeria is 2face while abroad, its Adel. He likes Akon because he is doing well for Africa.
The workaholic has not had a vacation in years. “I can decide to relax for a week but because I cannot control my creativity, my brain keeps working. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and write a script I dreamt about.”
Though based in Los Angeles, he says, “I am a rolling stone. I do not think any filmmaker should settle down in one place. I learn everywhere I go. I cannot settle down in LA, Nigeria or anywhere. Wherever my project and films take me, I am there.”