Kemi Lala and Chioma Omeruah: Workings Behind The Scenes Of Eyimofe
Often, when excellent films are produced, we forget about the efforts put behind the scene. These efforts serve as the bedrock of the success of the films. These are the things Kemi Lala simply called Lala and Chioma Omeruah, better known as Chigul opened up to the Guardian Life team about in the making of Eyimofe.
The viewer might not be aware, but the actors reveal during this interview that even the simplest of roles in a film requires effort.
The Making Of The Cast
Lala, through silence, and body language expressively put on screen, a didactic message that reflects the realities of Nigerians. These realities are evidently present in how the people are being pushed to the extreme by the government’s perceived silence, and the resultant outburst by citizens (as seen in the most recent protest against police brutality).
On one hand is Lala’s character, Madam, a reflection of a corrupt government that is self-serving with little regard for the wellbeing of its citizens. On the other hand is Chigul’s character, Madam Esther, a sex trafficker. Their characters serve as a pointer to some problems that have proven difficult to eradicate. Both actors’ interpretations of their characters drive home the messages intended in the film, Eyimofe. With each character’s delivery, the message of the film is passed brilliantly.
Interestingly, aside from her character as Madam, Lala doubles as the cast director and she takes the Guardian Life team through the selection journey. She says that the audition styles were different, but it was worth it.
“I must start by giving the credit to Melissa Adeyemo, she was the producer of this film. I had my first meeting with Chuko. He was very particular about the talent that he wanted on the film, and he wanted us to dig and find. I can say that Eyimofe is very demanding for me, which is a good thing because the directors and the producers would not settle for less, so even if I say ‘this would be good’, they will say ‘let us dig further’ “.
While some put personal interests before work, this was not the case with Lala. Even though she had a demanding personal engagement, she was focused on the job of creating the perfect Eyimofe.
“The night before my wedding I was still casting, and the night of my wedding I was still communicating because I do not like mixing personal business with work and I do not like giving excuses.”
From Commercial To Indie
Prior to Eyimofe, Lala and Chigul have several films to their acting credits, however, Eyimofe differs from other films on-screen. It is an Indie film and this raises the question “why”, to which Lala replies:
“As an actor, you want to make money but there is always a place for Indie films, to tell stories that are not influenced by ‘box office’ returns, to be true to art and whatever expression the story requires. For me as an actor, working on films like this gives me a challenge, and Chuko and Arie were very hands on.”
She further expresses that with Indie films, you can fully sink yourself into the art and push yourself beyond the usual. The passion for Indie does not stem from a love of money but a desire to be better. She adds:
“I’ve pushed myself, I have done better than my last project.”
Deviation from stereotype also comes into play for Chigul who saw the film as an opportunity to get bigger in her career. In Eyimofe, viewers would see a different Chigul on-screen. Also, for her, the message in the film ‘Eyimofe’ is one she does not want to miss passing across.
“First of all, the message is definitely profound. I want this to be passed. I feel like I’m still very much a beginner when it comes to Nollywood and acting. I think for me, it was almost like just getting another opportunity to get my feet wet and just play other characters, and it wasn’t comedic, so that was great. So I jumped at a chance to play once I heard it was not a Chigul type of character. And I’m glad I did it because it helped me to reach into those parts of myself that I normally would not because it’s easy to tap into Chigul.”
Indie Films, Eyimofe And Nigerians
The constant knowledge Lala and Chigul have garnered as actors make them the perfect people to ask about how Nigerians disposition would be to a film like Eyimofe, taking into consideration that the Nigerian film scene is filled with so many entertaining themes and though there are lessons to be learnt, they are often polished with so many comic and fully entertaining scenes.
However, Eyimofe is highly didactic, filled with lessons directed at addressing corruption, poor leadership and sex trafficking in pursuance of greener pasture.
When they were questioned about the likely attitude of Nigerians to this film, and its commercial viability, Lala and Chigul believe there are always targeted audiences for any film made and Eyimofe as an indie film would have people who are interested in this kind of genre. Lala says:
“So I think that there is a space for everything. What the challenge is that, are people aware that those things are available? Now, the people presenting it to them as well, are they also presenting it in the language that people understand? These are the things that we have to consider on both levels. Eyimofe has done well internationally, and this has made so many people interested to see it, especially art lovers.”
Apart from these, Chigul says there are always people going through things we do not know and an Indie film targets this part for some Nigerians. These realities portrayed would make many Nigerians look forward to seeing Eyimofe.
“A lot of times we sit in our little cocoons and forget that life is going on around us and that somebody’s life is not your life. It really tells a riveting story of life which has happened and is happening. What happened in the field is happening every single day of our lives as we move on with our own sort of simple existence. That’s happening to somebody else. That’s somebody’s reality.”
Speaking about its economic viability, Lala suggests Indie films create a distinct circulation method different from ‘mainstream’.
“Indie films need to create their own path of making money, so you can’t use the commercial model still an indie film, because they are different. So you have to create a path. Reach out to people who are willing to see and pay for it. Also, consider the distribution method beyond box-office. You need to create a path for Indie film to make money and not the commercial film.”
One of the aims of this film is to reach the target audience, and this includes our leaders. Lala suggests making more Indie films and also trying to make those in governance have a private screening of films like Eyimofe.
“Maybe we can use film to help the next generation. And we can speak to them through film”
Rehearsals, Roll, Action!
It was not all about the cameras and action during the making of the one-hour plus film which premieres today, April 18, 2021. A lot of rehearsals and dedications went into the film.
Chigul affirms what Lala had previously said, “Eyimofe differs from the usual Nollywood films, as it demands repeated rehearsals. The directors took into consideration every detail and movements.”Speaking further on the devotion it took to produce Eyimofe to make it one of the memorable films, Lala adds:
“Acting is very hard, acting is technical, and acting should be taken seriously. So every role I have to play, even if it’s two seconds of screen time, is a challenge- Because I have to be like, how am I going to be memorable on screen? And that was what I came to this project with…I always say nothing but pencil in the hands of my director. Being in a safe space as an actor is very important, a place where you feel very comfortable to let go, and commit to that motion.”
Lala’s brief appearance in the film had a powerful impact on Eyimofe. This effect took a while to achieve, and she passionately explains how she effectively achieved this aim. Shining light on this matter, she says:
“The kind of effect that they wanted my character to have on Jude Akuwudike [the lead character who plays Eyimofe] was to really get to him, and he was fighting back without really fighting back, you know. For me as an actor, I don’t want to leave a scene knowing that I haven’t given my best. I am not an actor who believes in one take. What I believe is that sometimes you don’t give your best the first time, so you keep at it, you keep growing and, as we grow, we grow in performance, the second one is probably going to be better than the first, the third one is going to be better than the second. As an actor, I don’t mind doing 100 takes.”
If they had to do a 100 takes, it was definitely a job well done as the final cut has received applaudable feedback. Presently, Eyimofe has been shown in at least 20 international film festivals and has also won a few awards, including the Distribution Support Award at the 35th Belfort Film Festival in France, Best Fiction and Best New Filmmakers awards at the São Paulo International Film Festival, and the Achilles Valdosta Award at the Torino Film Festival in Italy.