Paul Tavershima Apel, also known as Papel, is an Abuja-based film director/ producer, singer and mechanic. In this exclusive interview with, he speaks on his way of life and how he wishes to change the face of the Nigerian movie industry.

Your career
I’m an entertainer, film editor, an actor, musician and a movie producer; I’m a multitalented person because mechanically I can fix stuffs like car engines, bike engine and bicycles. I also draw pictures, and I do all kinds of painting. I also played basketball to the state level; I played football for my school way back. At a point I realised I could play the guitar very well and also sing with it, I play drums and keyboard. There was a time music took my friend and I to Lagos in search of greener pastures. Immediately we got to Lagos and I discovered that things were a bit rough for musicians there, I decided to change my course. That was how I went to NTA and started production work. It was from there that I met a lady called Iyeanachu, who asked me if I had ever acted before. I answered in the negative, but I told her that I had done something similar on stage way back in school and that if given a chance I could do well. So she tried me on Tales by Moon Light.

She was amazed how I performed on my continuity. I did about eighteen episode of Tales by Moon Light and also featured in many other stories. From there I would help them to carry their equipments, and with my technical background I helped to fix the cables. I also started taking the equipments for production and at the same learning how to use the camera on location.

At a point they gave me a role in Winds of Destiny, then I started as a production assistant, and also played the role of Mallam Garba. At a time, I was made the productions manager, and so I was liaising with the editor and the people on location. From there I developed interest in editing and Baba Fash, I don’t know where is he now, gave me an opportunity to edit on the NTA systems.

About your music
Way back, we had demo, we were a group of four comprising myself, as Raz Paul, Balvins, Codera and Juju, who is still into music. We had a group called Dark, unfortunately, we didn’t go far with it, but we went as far as doing something with Daddy Shokey and that was how it ended.

I am seriously considering going back to music; like some few days ago, I was telling my wife that my father personally taught me how to play the guitar as he had done in his own time. So, I told my wife that my father will be happy to hear me sing (I actually sang in the choir, but somehow I lost interest in it and went into videos). Like the movie that I shot, The Bond, I did the soundtrack and some of the programming. So, the music thing is one thing I would do and feel that I have fulfilled my father’s dream. If I do music, I think I should be happy that I did it, I just think, maybe, if he is somewhere watching me, he is going to say “yes that’s my boy.”

I will say God has been good to me. He’s been my vision in everything I do, because many people in my shoes sometimes tend to be very confused. My neighbours wonder the kind of person I am; sometimes they watch me dismantle my machine and fix it, they see me doing so many things. My friends should be playing basketball. So, I’ll say it’s God that has inspired me. I don’t know who to say I look up to in particular, but I admire creative people. And when I see them, I feel challenged to do something. So, the inspiration is from God, and I am one person who God has opened the way for.

My wife encourages me a lot; I would say she’s one person that changed my course. I married early at the age of 26, and from that time till now, I have done eight slots. She is one person that believes in me and we reason together. I talk to her a lot about the things I want to do. I sometimes hail myself in her presence about the things I want to be and she would just laugh about it. She’s been very encouraging and understanding, that’s why I use my position to counsel young people who want to get married, ‘find somebody who can share your dreams’.

For me, it wasn’t easy; I have had rough times in this town, at one time I had slept in an uncompleted building with my wife and my first child. In fact, it got to that level where I felt she could say look, we could go to her parents’ house just to chill out, but she would not go anywhere, she would always go with me. But now that things are smooth, we want it to be much smoother. I owe a lot to her for staying with me in my trying moments and hardships. I can really say she’s been my strength and I know that God uses people, so, she is been the tool that God has used to sustain me.

Work and family
I would say the good thing about my job is that I love it and my wife loves it too, and because she loves me, she’s ready to stand by me even if the job is taking too much of my time. And I am a father that is close to my kids; sometimes I’m hard on them, but the thing is that I have time for them and for my work. And I think, maybe, because my office is my home we can spend time with them. Though my job could be very tasking, it’s not like the banking job as you are not always there, because you go to work in the morning and come back late at night.

My wife
My wife is an entertainment person, but I think she just discovered herself in my recent movie. I had ever wished to marry somebody that was into entertainment, because I felt it was a job that I love and needed to have someone who understands the job or who is into the job, and God mercifully granted my wish. My wife never had any acting or entertainment background but over time she has featured in jingles and dramas and to crown it all she featured prominently in The Bond. And when we went to the Censors Board, she was rated the best actress and that gladdened my heart. Now I’m working on a new script and I already have a picture of her in my mind.

Before her venture into entertainment
What my wife loves to do is that right now she has a very big sewing outfit and what she does is to go out, get some nice designs and sew. I met my wife when she was 14, while I was 19 and what she loved then was fashion. So, she went and studied fashion Designing in Lagos and now doing what she really loves. She came into entertainment because of her love for me, and her performance has shown that she has it in her blood. Right now she is still doing what she loves and I am doing what I love, and in between I sometimes design for her and, of course, she participates in my production. In fact, she made a cloth that I designed, a shirt with one collar which I wore during a wedding and so many other clothes which I wear. She has made a couple of clothes for many other people.

Fashion sense
I’m not really crazy about fashion, but I feel if am going out for events and as a producer and an actor, I should come out a little bit different from the other people around. I am not doing that to show off or to sell myself, but just trying to be unique. But my wife is crazy about fashion, she wants everything to match, but for my daily engagements I go out in jeans trousers, shorts and T-shirts. But Sundays I might wear native attires but, I’m not so crazy about all that.

Nollywood stars
Initially, I didn’t consider them, but now I do, because we have done The Bond, which is a beautiful story. But the question is who do we put on the poster? Because you are new, the people out there are going to look at the poster and wonder who you are. They might not have the patience to say let me just try. You know, we don’t try new things often; if I had involved few stars in the movie, having treated the story and the production very well, the faces will make people pick it up and appreciate it. So, I have that problem and because of that we have decided to go into our second production and do a good job and then, of course, see how we can give viewers The Bond as a bonus.

Who among them?
I have in mind for now, Genevieve and Omotola, that’s for the ladies, while for the guys, I am already friends with Desmond Elliot. In fact, I spoke with him extensively about The Bond and he felt for me. So, he is going to support me in my next production. For now, I have him and any other known face in Nollywood industry.

I ride power-bikes, just blow the wind and burn the rubber, sometimes I go on a solo ride and sometimes with the club, because we have a club in Abuja called the All Night Rider. Sometimes, I take my family out, but for me, my wife sometimes encourages me to go out. I also play basketball to keep fit and I go out with my boys, visit parks and playgrounds for them to enjoy themselves. We also holiday and travel a lot.

The entertainment industry
The industry is growing, before now there were some of my friends that travelled out of the country to Europe and America. If they had not left here, by now, they would have been big, because they have something to offer. Our market is becoming much better now, and our people are beginning to accept our productions. You go to a party you hear music done by Nigerian musicians rocking the party. People now want to watch Nigerian movies even if it is in Yoruba, unlike in those days when people always wanted to watch foreign movies. So, people are beginning to be proud of what we make here, even the pidgin in our music now is normal. In fact, if you don’t put it in your music you will not be identifying with the people.

But we need to do more, that is why I’m coming out a bit different, because I realise that if I speak the Igbo language, an Igbo man would understand me, if I speak Tiv language, a Tiv man will understand me, if I speak Idoma language, the Idoma man will understand me and if I speak English, the right way an English man will understand me. Now, movie has its language, you have documentary film makers, sports film makers and then movie film makers, the way you tell the story in a movie is different from how it looks like in drama. I think we are doing dramas and branding them as home videos. If you watch the movies that were shot years back, you will still get the feel of what a film is, but if you look at what we have as home videos now, it’s simply drama, so that when you see a movie that is coming from South Africa that has that language like the Mandela apartheid movie, they have this languages spoken in the film. I spoke a bit of it in The Bond, but I can assure you that in my next production I will pronounce those words well, because I now understand the depth of the field, and the kind of shots that makes a film looks like a film other than just putting the camera in front of the characters.

The film maker is a make-belief kind of person, so if I expose myself, my shots and my set, I am going to make a mess of everything that is the language and I think that is what we are not doing enough. We shoot in four days, and there is no miracle, you cannot score in four days, or treat a story well in four days, as well as your characters. If you give time to production, you can tell a story that can go places and if it is the same language you are speaking, take it to Hollywood they will recognise that this is a movie.

You see, the Americans have effect equipment; you can’t tell your story without these equipment and still speak the same language. We,
too, can actually tell the story, because we have the cameras. It is just that we have to take time in doing our movies.

Nollywood rating
Will I say third best? Yes, but, I think we are the third largest. But if it is the best, what about the movies that come out from South Africa? And because of the touch by the foreign guys there, the production is far better and you might not know the difference between there’s and that of Hollywood. But, when you talk about dishing out movies, Nigerians do that more.

It’s a two-way thing, and sometimes I think the pirates are the guys doing the main thing, because if the movies are available, that is, if the marketers are able to mass-produce and his target is to sell 500, 000 copies and he succeeds in taking it round and the movie sells, then piracy is reduced. But when the demand is high and the product is less, then the pirates can sell. The second aspect is that, when Nigerians want to buy sometime cheap, they will go and make few copies of the original. If they are going for N500 or N1000, for instance, they are original, you could get the quality sound and you could equally get the cheap one which is N100 or N150. Nigerians will buy the cheap one after all, it’s the same movie. So, our mentality too matters. If the marketer mass-produces and spreads it round, there is no way the prices will not come down.

I will say that I have achieved a lot, because I was ‘a nobody’. I am from a family that is quite big, but my father died when I was only 19 years old, the same year I met my wife. I went to Lagos in an attachment bus; I slept on a balcony for months. We used to go to night clubs to sing so as to make money to survive. I later went to NTA to beg my way through to act. At one point, I left because I wanted to be on my own and later worked in the studio as an editor and I was paid on percentage. From there I started out with one fairly used system, table, chairs, camera and TV. Later, I got a job with Civic Studio in Abuja, and I later pulled out I started on my own with support from a friend.
So, for me, to be here with the staff strength of six, and with four modern systems that are up-to-date, including three cameras, two HDV cameras, a steady cam, two cars, three power bikes, a wife and two boys and being able to pay my house rent, I can say I have achieved a lot.

This is me, my life is very simple, and I’m just me. I don’t think I am all that important; I am just trying to make my way through the society and become a name that people can reckon with. I want to be a person whose personality can open a door for somebody. I want to touch lives and excite people’s emotions through movies and, of course, reach out to many as God will enable me through what He will bless me with. This is the reason my wife and I will want to be a couple that can touch many other kids positively. We don’t want to have so many problems so that if we are above ours we should be able to extend to them.

If not entertainment
I have this big dream that I will someday own a place called PAPEL PLACE. It would be a place where you have a massive studio, and around the complex, you have a school, eatery and many other businesses. It’d to be a place where people can come from different places within and outside the country to shoot their movies, because there is going to be a blue screen setup. And I will want to have it either in my state or in the centre of the country.