Writer and film producer, Isang Ubong Awah, has carved an arts career for herself, though. Her new movie, ‘Bent Arrows’, starred high profile Nollywood performers like Olu Jacobs, Joke Silva, Enebeli Elebuwa and Omoni Oboli, to name a few. Awah took time out at the Abuja premiere of the multi-million naira movie to talk about the making of the film, and the challenges facing the Nollywood industry.
Can you tell us about your journey so far?
I have a first degree in Biochemistry and I am currently doing a Masters in Literature and Creative writing in Harvard University. Through the years, I have written different stories, songs, poems, etc. Two years ago, I went into writing scripts and I have ‘Bent Arrows’ as my first production. Though it is not the first script I wrote, it is the first to be produced.
How did you veer into the literary world?
I have always loved writing and I think as far back as I was seven years old, I knew I was going to be a writer. But way back then, I don’t think writing was really seen as a career in Nigeria, so, I was encouraged to pursue other interests. Even when I was studying Biochemistry, I kept writing. So writing has always been a part of me. Finally, I decided this is what I really want to do.
Any relationship between Biochemistry and your current career?
I think that no knowledge is ever wasted. In Biochemistry, just like in most science courses, you do a lot of calculations and definitely as a producer, that knowledge really comes in. So, I am of the opinion that no knowledge is ever wasted. So, I will say that somehow, it helps.
Coming to your first produced movie?
‘Bent Arrows’ is about three young girls, who went through different circumstances and how these affected them. One of them was a victim of the male child syndrome in the sense that her father kicked her mother and all the children out of the house because the mother had [only] female children. So, she grew up embittered and naturally, she became wayward because she cannot get ahead in life. The second girl was sexually abused by her uncle; she was from an indigent home and was sent to live with her uncle in Abuja. The third girl, her story is a bit different, but she was a victim of some of the societal ills we have in Nigeria; her parents were [too controlling].
The central themes?
There are many themes in the movie. Basically, ‘Bent Arrows’ illuminates the human consequences of sexual abuse, betrayal, undue parental control, misconception about male-female child syndrome... It really deals with a lot of issues.
Lagos is known as home of film production. What are the challenges you face as an Abuja-based producer?
I think, basically, why Lagos is known more for film production is that most of the practitioners - the actors, actresses, directors, cast crew, etc - are based in Lagos. So I think for anybody based in Abuja who wants to go into film production, what will make it more challenging is that you need a lot of money to bring in the artist, unless you decide to use the hands that are available here. And we do have a lot of good hands here, but you may have a particular character in mind, so if the person is not here, you may have to bring him down here. Therefore, I think the major challenge is finance.
What about awareness creation in Abuja?
We have the Actors’ Guild of Nigeria and we have the Producers Association here too; they are quite active. So if they are going into production, they usually announce and people are aware of it.
How much was spent on the ‘Bent Arrows’ and who are the artists involved?
I spent close to N20m. The actors and the actresses are Olu Jacobs, Joke Silva, Enebeli Elebuwa, Ngozi Ezeonu, Desmond Elliot, Stella Damasus, Sylvia Oluchy, Omoni Oboli, and so on. The movie was directed by Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen. Besides, we have the independent soundtrack album that was produced by renowned Cobhams Asuquo. The songs are all new songs written for specific scenes in the movie and the songs are performed by [various] singers like Styl Plus, Rooftop MCs, Nikki Laoye, Stella Damasus and Cobhams Asuquo.
Your advice to those intending to go into acting in Abuja?
I will encourage them to pursue it and put in their best, never to be discouraged. I really don’t think that location is an advantage because a lot of people are coming now to Abuja to shoot movies. Unlike Lagos where you have traffic jams and so on, in Abuja, you don’t have that. Also, there are lot of lovely and serene places here where you can shoot movies. So lots of productions are going on here in Abuja. Therefore, I will encourage them to put in their best, excel and sooner or later, they will be right there at the top.
What should government do to help the industry?
Government needs to come to our assistance because the quality of production depends on how much money you put into it. We do have a lot of good writers, good actors and actresses, directors but what we don’t have is production that have mega budget like we have abroad. I don’t know of any production in Nigeria that had used such a budget of about a million dollar, and that is a no budget abroad! So when people talk about comparison between Hollywood and Nollywood, I think the first thing we should look at is the budget of the movies that we have here. I think Nigerian artists who are in Nollywood, the practitioners, have been able to achieve so much and there is really no limit to how far we can go if we have the government backing it up with finances