‘I’m just a product of grace’
As a follow up to his earlier release, 30 Days In Atlanta, which is currently the highest grossing movie in this part of the world, award-winning Nigerian stand-up comedian, Ayo Makun, otherwise known as AY, recently premiered his latest movie, A Trip To Jamaica. A romantic comedy, the movie, which was shot in Lagos, Atlanta and Montego Bay in Jamaica, aims to bridge the gap between Nollywood, Gollywood, Hollywood and the Jamaican movie industry. The star-studded premiere at the Filmhouse IMAX Cinema, Lekki, was preceded by a novelty football match between Jamaica ex-footballers and ex-Super Eagles players at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, Lagos. In this interview with CHUKS NWANNE, AY spoke on his latest movie project and his exploits in the entertainment industry.
Your first movie 30 Days In Atlanta made it into the Guinness Book of World Records. Was that part of the reasosns you shot A Trip To Jamaica?
Well, before the Guinness Book Of World Records came, we were already done with A Trip To Jamaica. But let me take you back to 30 Days In Atlanta, I’m known around here as a standup comedian with AY Live, but I had this conversation with my wife about doing something different. She said to me, ‘you do a lot of skits that make your YouTube channel the most viewed in the country for three years, if you can put them together into a full movie, that could work.’ That was what gave birth to 30 Days In Atlanta. Because I was new in the business, the idea was just to put some budget together and go have fun; I didn’t know it was going to make the difference. Right now, I’m basking in that euphoria that the movie made it to the Guinness Book of World Records. I know the expectations are there right now; people want to know what I’m going to do next. Like I said, we had already finished A Trip To Jamaica before that happened; and that was myself having fun part two. So, let’s see what having fun part two is going to bring my way.
What informed the choice of Jamaica as destination for your new movie?
After doing 30 days in Atlanta, there was a need to do something different and then we came up with A Trip To Jamaica. All the while, we were thinking of what to do and how to do it well. So, I did a little research and discovered that Jamaicans love Nollywood movies; many of them, even at work in America, they usually buy our DVDs. I’m also aware that we love their culture, especially in the area of music. So, I decided that it would be nice to have that blend; that was why we went to Jamaica to shoot the movie. As part of making it work, we had a lot of collaborations; Tiwa Savage and Busy Signal just did collaboration, which is the official soundtrack for the movie.
The cast members for A Trip To Jamaica were selected from different countries, was that deliberate?
Personally, when it comes to casting, I love to cut across so that it will fill in well. When you pick up the movie, it’s not just about us; it’s about Africa and the rest of the world. From Ghana, we have Chris Attoh and from Hollywood, we have Dan Davies and Eric Roberts. Of course, you can’t go to Jamaica without having one of their very best in the movies. So, we have Paul Campbell, an iconic figure in Jamaica on the project; he’s well known in Hollywood as well. To also create that aesthetic balance, former Miss Jamaica, who is also winner of She’s Got Game show in America, Rebecca Silvera, was also part of the production.
It seems other comedians are toeing your footstep in terms of delving into filmmaking?
That’s how it’s supposed to be; if you look at some of the people we look up to before coming up with the things that we do, you will know that they are all doing almost the same thing. So, nobody will say because AY is doing movies now, every other comedian wants to do movies, no! For somebody like Bovi, I know he had that idea of making a movie for long; we went to school together, he’s a theatre artist like me. So, it’s about the right time. But then, if I have to take you to America, you will see the likes of Steve Harvey; you see him as a standup comedian, you see him run a radio station, you see him doing movies. From there, you move to Chris Rock, Kelvin Hart… that’s what everybody is doing. For me, standup paved the way for other things I’m doing today. With standup, I gained recognition and with the recognition, I decided to do new things. So, don’t be surprised to see AY pure water tomorrow; it’s a brand name now and how you use it matters. That’s why we work extra hard to protect the brand.
Your first attempt at filmmaking was a huge success, how does that make you feel?
A lot of people are attributing it to things I don’t understand; I set out to just go out there and have fun. Some people said, ‘maybe he’s using juju.’ I’ve heard all sorts, but I’m beginning to suspect myself in the sense that, in the series of things that I do, they always come out well. AY Live, my standup comedy show is one of the biggest in the country; my TV show is one of the best in the country and the movie is the highest grossing movie in Nollywood. Some people are asking, ‘what is this man doing? How can he just take a walk into an existing industry for the first time and breaking all the records?’ I’m just a product of grace. Not because I’m the best, not because I know how to do it more than the other person, I just have this shinning light on my direction. So, I keep on praying on a daily basis that the grace should be there, as long as I want it to go to the other person. Like I said, the Skye is wide enough, so, for now, let me enjoy my grace.
Your movie 30 Days In Atlanta suffered in the hands of pirates, how do you intend to handle A Trip To Jamaica?
Piracy is known worldwide, but in Nigeria, it’s that bad. Even before it gets to the cinema, they put it out there; that’s very heartbreaking. Good enough, they allowed me enjoy 30 Days In Atlanta. They waited for the movie to do well; we did our cinema runs before we started seeing the movie out there. It’s very, very heartbreaking, but we’ve come up with modalities to curb their excesses this time; we can’t take them out completely. There’s always somebody, who is going to sell out; it’s either someone that is working with you or a staff of the cinema. But we have a security measures in place, which we don’t want to make public now; that will be giving them the answer. I’m also going to beg the Federal Government to do something about piracy; the ‘change’ they are preaching about, I want that to be applied in the movies as well. I live in fears knowing that my movie is going to come out; I don’t know what’s going to happen next. But believing God and the security that we have in place, I think it’s something that we should curb this time.
From being just a standup comedian, it seems you quickly diversifying?
I love entertainment; I have the passion. I studied theatre arts and majored in directing. So, for me, that’s me doing my thing, though money coming on the side is also very, very important. My destination next is doing more films and try as much as possible to continue to put my name on the map of the world. It’s basically Just to do what I know how to do best and then learn on the job.