Elvon Jarret, actor and film director, in this interview with BLESSING EKUM and OYEYEMI OJELEYE, spoke about his sojourn in the entertainment insdustry, his vision and mission, among others. Excerpts:
Who is Elvon Jarett?
Who you see is just who I am. I’m just an easy going fellow, actor, director, events person, compere. I’m someone who uses his talents to affect his generation and glorify God. Being a source of change, a part of the vanguard that causes change to happen for the better, I don’t act for acting sake, I do it for positive change.
How long have you been acting?
I’ve been involved in acting right from secondary school, about 1985. I started professionally while in the University of Ibadan. I had training in Theatre and Communications. That’s how I was able to develop myself along that line.
Do we expect a celebration of your 25 years on the screen?
We’ll do something. It is good to give thanks to God for everything. Really, I don’t feel like I’ve done this for 25 years already. I feel like I’m just starting. There’s still much ground to cover. I don’t do entertainment just to make people happy, it has to pass a positive message across.
Tell us about your background?
I am from a family of four children. My childhood was interesting. I attended Government College, Ibadan and University of Ibadan. My dad is late though my mum is still alive.
As someone who was born and bred in Ibadan, your name doesn’t reflect that?
My full names are Elvon Babatunde Jarett.
Most people don’t know you as Babatunde?
The Elvon is more popular. The shorter your name, the better for you. My mother is a Sierra-Leonean while my dad is a Nigerian.
What are you into right now?
I run an organisation known as Friends of God Media. Our aim is to put entertainment on the platform that is godly. Recently, we organised a Children’s Film Academy workshop where we taught children the principles of film making, reorientating them about making film in a godly manner. We had “Acting for the Master” where we taught the basics of acting to adults. We’ve had several projects this year. We did a movie for the deaf in the society. The movie was done in sign language, entitled Death of the dream. The organisation has different arms, the events section, production, teaching and training. We combine everything to bring out something to bring glory to God.
You’ve been laying emphasis on your movies being godly, do you think Nollywood movies don’t teach morals?
Not that there is anything wrong with Nollywood. Like every sector of the Nigerian system, you have different types of people with different mindsets and different goals. Whatever you think is important to you, you do. I feel this is important to me, and it is very crucial and delicate.
There’s a rumour doing the round that you have separated from Mount Zion to start your own outfit. Can you shed more light?
Like you said, “rumour flying around.” That’s what it is. I’ve always been an associate with Mount Zion. Mount Zion started around 1984 and they started with a small crop of people who had been full-time ministry members. People like myself came on board as associates. We worked together, we still work together and will continue to work together. I will work with anybody whose goal is to glorify God in this profession.
There’s a Mount Zion movie coming out very soon, and I’m part of it. I run my outfit but I’m still part of them.
Is there a movie you are working on now?
Yes. I’m working with a friend, a young film maker. The movie is about people who go abroad and when they come back, they paint a wrong picture. They already have a wife abroad and then come back and lie about it. It’s also for positive change.
What inspires your movies?
Basically, it’s the Bible. I’m not the first to say it. Hollywood has said it too. I get inspiration from divine revelation and my environment too.
You seem very spiritual.
I’m a believer. Nobody can go through this world without believing in something.
There are some scandals associated with the movie industry, how do you manage that, considering your spiritual stand?
Every profession in Nigeria has its issues. But in my 25 years of acting, I’ve not had to lobby for anything. Some people say they have to lobby for things, but it’s not only in the movie industry. It only looks like that because they are frontline in terms of glamour.
You see them on billboards, TV and others. We in the movie industry don’t lobby as much as politicians. For me, it’s been God’s grace and mercy. For anyone who wants to be in this industry or any other one for that matter, it is crucial you have a relationship with God; you must know your onions. Know what you do and be good at it and one way or the other, people will look for you.
What challenges have you faced in this career?
There are various challenges, creative, financial, logistics challenges. Somehow, we are overcoming them. I see challenge as opportunities, a stepping stone. Like one of the movies we are still working on, The Centurion, which has to do with re-orientating the public and the police, we had a major challenge by shooting on university campuses carrying a truck load of armoured policemen. We were able to surmount that. Challenges come in disguise to enable promotion.
What are your successes?
Truth be told, we’ve had successes and quite a number of achievements. We’ve won awards but I want to count them all as dung so I can press forward to a higher calling. I see it as if we are just beginning.
How do you relax?
I relax with my family. My children are a good source of relaxation and my wife especially. We go out, although we’ve not had time to do that for a long time. But we try to take holidays.
Directors are sometimes said to be hot tempered and impatient, would you describe yourself that way?
Well, what makes directors behave that way is that they have a picture in mind they want to bring out and when people don’t get it, they get that way. I’m not totally like that but sometimes, when I start feeling that way, I try to keep my cool.
What is the highest point of your career?
There have been several points though I don’t allow it get to my head. When you start thinking of your high point, it makes you think you’ve arrived. But I’ve received commendations, reviews, awards and I see them as challenges to move forward. But my highest point is when someone tells me a production has changed their life. It’s higher than any award. It makes me want to do more.
How do you handle attention from your female fans?
I see the female fans as my sisters and the male as my brothers. I try and keep it platonic.
How does your wife feel about your career?
She is understanding and she knows my profession. She is also involved with media, although she is a medical doctor by profession. She is understanding and the only woman I should really have married.
How did you meet?
We met in church. That’s one of the best places to meet your wife.
Advice for upcoming artistes?
Whatever they do, they must put pride behind them. Pride does not make people move forward. It is a killer.