‘No better time to be in Nollywood than now’
“As a kid, I wanted to be an actor,” Biodun Stephen said. “I featured in a few projects: Spider and Emerald, both TV series, but it seemed my acting career was having a difficult time getting off. After a while I gave up. I went back to working nine-to-five as a copywriter with Insight Communication, an advertising agency. I also had a stint as a radio presenter at Rainbow FM and Star FM.”
For Biodun Stephen, an award-winning Nigerian filmmaker, life in the cine world has always been a lifelong dream, and she is living it to the full. With a philosophy degree from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, film production training at London Film Academy, she stated that she never had fulfillment while working a day job because of her desire to go into filmmaking.
“After a bout of depression, I decided that behind the camera was probably my place,” Stephen said. “Right after university, I went to work as an On-Air-Personality with Star FM for about two years. Then I was still trying to kick-start my acting career. I got bored and decided to try a 9-5 job.”
She added that she wrote some really nice advert copies that made it to radio, but she didn’t allow her love for film to die: “I became depressed and wondered why I was having such a difficult time. I decided to go to school and study filmmaking. Upon my return, my film The Visit was the first project I did, as a screenwriter and producer, powered by Koga TV. The nomination as Best Movie in West Africa, which was a producer’s credit, confirmed my place was behind the camera and not in front of it. My journey was a long one but it’s all worth it.”
Stephen has won awards and received nominations for outstanding works in the industry, which include AMVCA Best Movie in West Africa nomination for The Visit; Picture Perfect won Best Use of Food and Best Actor at BON Awards; Picture Perfect also got Best Film and Best Director nomination for Maya Awards. Other films she has produced include Ovy’s Voice, Glimpse, Tiwa’s Baggage and All Shades of Wrong.
“I draw inspiration from my experiences, my pains, my joys, sad moments in my life and in the lives of people around me,” she said of her sources of stories. “I believe we go through tough times and good times for a purpose to learn, to inspire and to enlighten someone. I guess it’s been my motto from my time on radio hosting my show ‘Whispers.’ I believe an experience shared can save the life of another and I have carried that motto in my storytelling. Perhaps, it’s why the stories seem to stand out. What makes a film interesting is a component of several things like the story, dialogue, casting, performance, direction, music and art. All of these are the ingredients that make the film soup sweet. One of the people that motivated me is Mary Njoku, who gave me the platform to express my creativity. She really inspires me. I love her drive and passion.”
Stephen also shared her views on Nollywood, arguing that the industry has grown, is still growing and would continue to do so, adding, “We are pushing boundaries, doing collaborations both locally and globally; we are telling new stories, retelling old stories even better. It’s a good time to be here; it’s a challenging time. We are moving from mediocrity, improving and there is no better time to be on Nollywood than now. The positive change I would like to see in the industry is equal opportunities for all as long as that person is qualified and skilled.
“I look forward to working with all talented actors and discovering new talents as well. On selection of cast for films, there is no special selection process because I write everything I produce. I kind of see the actor in my mind as I write. Sometimes, I go with instinct but it’s usually the person who can interpret the character best. If the actor fits, can the actor deliver, is the actor committed to the story. This I know from the energy the actor dispels.”
The filmmaker informed that her new film MFC: Music Friendship and Conflict, directed by Dimeji Ajibola, is going to cinemas soon, adding, “The film is about two girls from different parts of the world or life, who find their friendship through music. But something else they didn’t bargain for tears them apart. It is slated for release this month. I’m also involved in some other films, which include Toyin Abraham’s new movie, The Ghost and the Tout, where I was assistant director.
“I advise upcoming filmmakers to remain humble, undistracted, patient and have passion to thrive in this line of work. You need passion and truck load of it. And there is a truer statement: there is a time and place for everyone. Your time will come once you find your place!”
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