Williams: Nollywood needs to make evergreen movies to outsmart pirates
And to live this passion to its fullest, he gained admission into Olabisi Onabanjo University to study dramatic literature.
When he left school, he lectured for some time before launching out into the big screen business.
Many would have expected this young scholar to establish himself in Nollywood, but he chose to chart a different course, using his movies for social change, to evangelise Jesus Christ and to highlight some obnoxious behaviour and how to tolerate or change them.
On why his movies are always on social change and Christian ethos, the multi-talented producer notes: “Every work of art must serve a utilitarian purpose. If there is nothing to the effect as change, then there may be no point writing or acting. The second truth is that once a man defines his purpose, his plans are clear. Only those who live their lives without purpose run other people’s manuals. So, once purpose sets in, vision is clear and direction is ascertained.”
Williams, who oversees the affairs of Oreofe Films, as president, has from his early beginning mapped out his course in life.
So, when some senior eggheads in the citadel could not comprehend his passion in fimmaking and were determined to make the place difficult for him, he quietly resigned his appointment and went into full time filmmaking.
“Lecturing was good, but it was gradually taking me off my primary purpose because I could not travel out of the country when I wanted or engage with my crew and cast as I used to do,” he states. “I enjoyed it, but I felt it was not supposed to be my primary purpose. Somehow, I was also able to see how lecturers are not appreciated even when some have carry out duties meant for three or four persons. I wanted to work and I worked. But one morning without telling anybody, I resigned; not even my fathers in the department knew of it. They were told at the admin.
“I took that decision when I discovered that the then vice chancellor did not want me to practice filmmaking or be an actor. He read my interviews on the pages of newspapers and went to the Senate to debate me. Knowing this, I resigned; I deliberately did not tell anybody because I didn’t want to be discouraged. I also did not want to abscond, which would amount to being irresponsible; so, I resigned. However, I still go there to see my teachers and recently, I was honoured as the youngest patron for the school’s Man-O-War. I have no regrets for my actions because I love what I am doing.”
With 20 movies to his credit and still counting, Williams believes he has not even started, noting that there are bigger visions ahead and more movies to produce.
According to him, films are utilitarian in nature, adding that his work, Orisa Mimo that speaks about bipolar disorder and provides solutions is very well received in the market.
He reveals that some filmmakers do not understand the business they are into, adding that his organization does not just shoot films to entertain, but also to inform and teach viewers.
As most of his films centre on Christianity and Christian ethos, many expect him to use only born-again Christians as characters in his films. But the filmmaker waves such notion off, saying he uses anybody, Christian or non-Christian alike, so long as the person is able to interpret the character expected of him or her very well.
He queries: “What is wrong in using non- Christian professional actors if they would interpret the characters very well? The much-acclaimed Mel Gibson’s Passion Of The Christ had unbelievers playing lead roles and yet Christians applauded it.
So, what is wrong with the non-Christians I use? Do you walk out of a class as a Christian if your professor is a Moslem?
“If Joshua had thought this way, Rehab would not have been useful. Jesus even came from her lineage. Don’t forget that all the disciples Christ were not Christians when he called them. I believe if Christ would come today, he would use people who are worse than those I am engaging. We should allow people to do things according to their convictions. I use both Christians and non-Christians. I have a mandate to do so.”
Apart from producing, directing and acting, Williams is the arrowhead of Film and Performance Village also known as The City of Talents. He is using the platform to mentor young people, most of who are university graduates. He empowers them with skills that enable them edit and make their own films.
“I encourage young ones to learn how to handle cameras and edit films, all for free,” he assures. “I have 18 years old mentee and even people younger than that editing films and handling cameras. In a nation where there are no jobs and with about 350,000 Youth Corpers mobilized yearly, we must do our best to help these young ones. I hope to extend the academy to include tailoring, textile-designs and other things. It is our way of empowering young people in our own way. I do this from the proceeds of my films, but I believe in years to come some people will key into the vision and begin to support us with fund to expand the project.”
While commending Nollywood for telling the African story, the filmmaker discloses that more work still needs to be done in the sector.
According to him, mature Nollywood movies are extremely rich in culture and very didactic, but calls for more training and coaching of some actors and directors, especially the young ones.
He says: “I don’t believe in an actor acting only in films without stage experiences. The American movie gurus we see from Gibson to Tyler Perry never undermined the stage. New talents need to be trained. Also, there are things I believe are not necessary in films. Nudity should be expunged. Raw kissing and ‘oceanic’ sexcapades should be taken off. The truth is, we cannot do it the way those we are emulating do it.
“There are fantastic actors in Nigeria and there are wonderful and passionate crew members too. I am sorry, we used to have good stories for the movies, but all that has changed, as many stories, especially the ones from my generation, talk about love and romance only. A few are deep in research and are good. Our pictures are improving, but we can still do more with the right equipment and funding.”
On how to improve moviemaking to earn due reward, the head of Film and Performance Village identify lack of well-defined marketing structure and poor storytelling technique as major aspects to look into.
He said: “I cannot rule out piracy, but the truth is that we do not have proper marketing structure to sell our films. There are over 150 million people in the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Piracy cannot cover everywhere. Some of my films, including The Gospel Of Judas, Awo Jesu and Orisa Mimo have been pirated. Awo Jesu was released in 2008 and to date, people are still demanding for it and I am still dubbing and selling it at the same price I sold it in 2008.
“Producers should learn to do evergreen works; they should come up with stories that people would watch for as many times as possible, no matter the age. I do not like piracy, but it cannot cover everywhere. There are films done in the 90s and early 2000 that people would patronise if released afresh today; our targets should be about doing evergreen films because when the pirate issues are gone, your work would attract patronage. With an evergreen and a strong marketing structure any filmmaker is made.”
Stressing the importance of research in storytelling, Williams urges everyone to interpret scripts or characters right from the writers to directors down to the actors and others to take research seriously.
According to him, “Research could help reduce proliferation. I do engage in it. For instance, a professor asked me to send to him a whole scene that discusses bipolar disorder, dementia praecox, schizophrenic psychosis from my film Orisa Mimo. It was a great honour for me for a professor to demand such from my film. According to him, the knowledge passed onto viewers through that means is enough to teach a classroom. So, for me research is sacrosanct.”
Williams discloses that many Christian filmmakers do not believe in the cinemas, which explains why their films do not make cinema rounds. He added that with him it is a different ball game as he hopes to put his movies in the cinemas, noting, “I believe in it and would take my movies there when I get enough resources.”
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