The Nigerian motion picture industry is on trial and with some of the scenes witnessed in the race of who heads some guilds in Nollywood has brought the morality and integrity of some of the practitioners to question. TECO BENSON, prolific film maker and producer in this chat with AMARA OSAJIUBA talks about his works and some of the problems facing the industry.

My style
Am happy, I may not have observed, all I know is that I have a style, every director has a style. When I came to the industry in 1994, my vision was to use the movie to change the society. As I know, naturally I am a born leader and a change agent. I don’t have a political power and an access to the pulpit then I saw the media as an avenue to make change. I try to be professional, I take all I do seriously, and my concept and idea about film is different from others. Film is all about telling a story, but how you tell the story is what matters and stimulates the audience. I like to tell my story in such a way to put you at the edge of your seat, make your heart beat, use your brain, get you involved and at the end of the day, achieve my desired aim. The sum total of your exposure, experience, IQ, and creative ability contribute to making a director whom he is.

Entrance into Nollywood.
I joined Nollywood in 1994, that’s 16yrs now and I came in as an actor, but my vision was to use the media and make changes. As an actor, I don’t have control on the content, and the message lies on the content. There are vices I see around. There are many negative activities, I saw it and decided to use film that will change the heart to make the changes. Like I said, as an actor, your job is to take your script, read it, understand and act. We may be acting a story that may not conform to our vision, the motive of the writer may be of negative value and having realized my vision, I chose to go behind the camera so that my vision of affecting lives will be achieved and I have not regretted it because I get testimonies from people who see my movies.

Achieving Suspense in movies.
I can never do a film without suspense. Suspense is the major ingredient. You cannot cook soup without ingredients. I don’t imitate people, I like to be different and it has been my attitude. When I did ‘State of Emergency’ in year 2000, people where doing epic films. I don’t follow trends; I do things that can make impact and change. I want to get better every day. For two years I went for my masters, people almost suffocated me with mail, but now am back and doing a film.

You just said you are doing a film, what is the name and when is it likely to be out?
They are two of them: High blood pressure which will be out by June this year and Fake prophets which will also be out by August this year.

Where do you shoot you films?
With exception of Blood Diamond shot in Sierra Leone, others are shot in Nigeria.

Why Sierra Leone for Blood Diamonds?
The person that found the job is from Sierra Leone but resides here. He felt that what we are doing in Nigeria should also be extended to his country and it is the first film made in Sierra Leone and that was in 2003.

Most challenging movie produced.
All of them are challenging, I put all my life in every film I do. It is action, not sitting down and chatting. I have to stress myself in the kind of films I do.

Film duration.
Minimum of three months and that includes pre production, production and post production.

Criteria for choosing actors and actresses.
The film gives you the character; I don’t have where I keep the actors that I use. If I have where someone is killing, I will use an ugly person. Your look determines what you do, and I like to make my films look real.

Relationship with other directors
Very cordial, we have a guild (Directors Guild of Nigeria) and I am a member.

Nollywood then and now.
There is difference; it is growing everyday in terms of standard. There is decay also but people see the decay more than the growth. There are people who are still doing it right.

Politics in Nollywood.
Yes, every profession has an association to protect the interest of their members and Nollywood is not an exception. Recently a lot of people due to poverty and lack of job discovered that getting such office will yield money. Some of them will even direct the money contributed by its members for welfare to themselves. It’s affecting the industry and sending a wrong message to cooperate world and the world as a whole.

Effect of Piracy
They are pirating it till today and we are asking the government to help us. People hawk it freely and government keeps quiet. If you condemn the government, they will arrest you. It pains me but let’s leave everything to God.

Nollywood getting to Hollywood.
Time, technology and money simple. It has taken Hollywood 115 years to get to where they are today and it has taken Nollywood 18years to get to where they are. People who judge us seem to be in a hurry. I have never seen a child who does not crawl and started running, there are transition stages we have to pass through. Hollywood is mature but they passed through what we are passing through today.

Satisfaction from Nollywood.
It is a difficult question to answer, I wouldn’t know if it is lucrative. People seem to see people in the showbiz as the upper class but sometimes it is not as they think. Personally, it wasn’t the money that brought me, it is the passion. I think God has made me comfortable and I am ok with that. At least I can afford three meals a day.

Major challenges of Nollywood
They are many, but the major is piracy, it has eaten up the revenue and has affected production of films. Distribution has been a big problem also and without proper distribution, we can’t have a guarantee on the return of investment. We also lack technical man power which other countries have because it is a new field and people just started showing interest.