Rogers Ofime… Ardour For Redefining Nollywood
Not many may know the name behind hit television series, Tinsel, Hotel Majestic, The Johnsons and the new campus comedy series Zone 222. This is because the man behind the scenes, Rogers Ofime is more concerned with ensuring the team as a whole is duly appreciated for their effort. In all of Rogers Ofime’s works, he has proven that his creativity, hard work and passion for the arts is key. In his own words,
“I always wanted my work to speak for me. I believe that the hard work you see on your screens are efforts of a lot of actors and crew and I am just one of them. The fact that I am the Creative Producer and the CEO of Native Media Ltd does not mean I will parade myself as the star of the team and the face of all projects. I have always believed that the ‘star’ of a team is ‘the team’.
Rogers goes on to explain how important teamwork is where his productions are concerned.
“We have lots of fans who watch our productions and I am excited when they appreciate the actors, the makeup artiste, the cinematographer, the lighting, it’s more fulfilling for me that way. I am just a crewmember in the team- I am just an Executive Producer and/or a Producer who has played his part in the overall production. I am not against the producers who throw their names out there to get the glory for a team effort. I always tell my team that we should promote and celebrate the team – one man can never be the team. I am happy when the actors, makeup artiste or art-director win awards. I am who I am today because the team played its part; it worked tirelessly to ensure each project maintains the quality we desire,”. From the way Rogers speaks about his team and their effort, it’s easy to tell he has the utmost respect and appreciation for them.
‘Tinsel’, the drama series that swept the nation when it first aired in 2008, was a great step for Nigeria in the TV production industry. It not only changed the way Nigerians felt about original productions, but changed the way other nations looked at us as well. Rogers worked on the project for seven seasons before handing over to another producer noted,
“I am the first Nigerian Producer to produce a multi-cam, studio-based, daily drama-series in Nigeria. Apart from South Africa where the culture already exists, Nigeria was the first place in West, North and East Africa to pick up the multi-cam, studio-based daily drama series. It was quite an experience and I like to tell the story because it was the production that brought the shift in quality production that we see in Nigeria today.”
Listen to Rogers talk about Tinsel, I can feel a portion of the passion he poured into the series. It’s the same way one would boast proudly of a first-born child who made him proud.
“I am proud to say that it took a lot of pain for the project to kick off. I will always salute the effort of Femi Odugbemi who stood by the crew when it seemed like the project was going to fail. We stayed on the project, we kept the team together, we were not sure which direction to go but as God would have it, we were able to start filming.”
Rogers Ofime was also part of the team that created the Africa Magic Original Films (AMOF). He was the Executive Producer of over 200 films made for television in three years. This, definitely, is another huge achievement for him and for our country. Rogers explains that the idea behind this is purely to drive quality content for Africa Magic channels. According to him, “They are called telefilms- they are films made for television, not cinema quality, they are motion pictures intended primarily to be shown on television.”
Rogers didn’t stop at heading the team of Tinsel and producing 200 movies made for television. He went on to incorporate Native Media Ltd, whose first production was six episodes of ‘The Johnsons’. Rogers shares that MNet was not sure what the people’s reaction would be to the show, and it was amazing when ‘ The Johnsons’ was widely accepted. Today, the series is in its fifth season. After The Johnsons came a new telenovela initiative with Africa Magic – ‘Hotel Majestic’. The series, which was set in Benin but shot in Lagos, ran for one year. “Again it won the hearts of the viewers and we were happy to always give the viewers what they want.”, Rogers said.
This year, Rogers has embarked on another remarkable project commissioned by Africa Magic titled ‘Hush’. And there’s also his very first transnational feature film titled ‘Oloibiri’. Speaking on the project, Rogers said
“It was a huge project shot in Bayelsa and we had actors and crew from America, Canada and Nigeria. The story is very sensitive, but we had to tell it just to be able to find help for the Oloibiri community. We have been at it for two years now and it’s almost ready for release.”
Last year, Rogers started another initiative targeted at helping upcoming actors, producers and directors find their voices faster. “We decided to invest into low budget television series. The aim is for us to help actors and filmmakers’ rise without compromising quality. We started the initiative with a campus sitcom titled ‘Zone 222’ and ‘Till You’re 16’ which is a transnational series shot in Nigeria and Canada.”
It’s funny to think that Rogers’ career started when he was just a six-year old boy skipping after-school lessons to watch filmmakers/theatre practitioners rehearse at a guesthouse. Rogers recounts the story of the day his life really changed –
“One day I approached the director of the group: the kids all called him ‘Uncle Ralph’. I told him I would like to join in and he agreed, and my career into acting began. While at this, my parents often thought I would go to my lesson after school, little did they know that I was going to dance and act. We had a performance one day, an open event and loads of people came to watch, news got to my dad who also came to watch and two memorable things happened to me that day. The first one was that the performance was a career lift for me because the most popular actor and director then, Sam Loco Efe came to me and told me he wants to train me as an actor. The second thing was that when I got home, my dad gave me the beating of my life and made me promise I would neither go there again nor miss my after-school lesson for anything.”
Rogers then went on to get his first degree in Theatre Arts from Obafemi Awolowo University, and attend the University of Ibadan where he obtained his Masters in Arts of the theatre too. Presently, Rogers is running a program in business administration in Canada. According to him,
“My career journey is never complete if I don’t mention the names of Tade Ogidan who toughened me up and gave me the opportunity of under-studying him after I graduated, I can never forget Femi Odugbemi who stood behind me as the one who could handle Tinsel when no one was ready to take a chance, Erika Klopper who for nine years of my journey in Tinsel, opened several doors, made sure I was part of several workshops and seminars to help improve my skills.”
Rogers confides that his major challenge has always been not having enough time between projects, but he’s not one to complain.
“I enjoy the challenge. I am smart enough to always run to senior and junior colleagues for help – Obi Emelonye is my good friend in the industry, Tade Ogidan is forever my mentor, Erika Klopper is alway there for me. Femi Odugbemi will be blunt with me, Jimi Odumosu I like to spend time with whenever he is free. So I run to them to seek advise. I do not have too many industry friends especially because my generation of filmmakers think we are in some form of competition – often one finds unfair critiquing of other people’s works. I expect to be able to work with any one and expect anyone to be able to work with me. I believe we will get there soon.”
Rogers, who ensures he not only brings new faces in his productions but also brings back the old ones, noted that he finds the need to show gratitude to the veterans who gave their all to grow the arts in Nigeria,
“I believe the only way we can appreciate them is to invite them aboard our projects so they can feel the rewards of an industry they fought so hard to develop without governmental support. I remember years ago when I called Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett and suggested she return home to enjoy the industry she worked so hard to grow. She was excited and I am happy that today, she is enjoying it. I like to work with veterans and I seek to close the divide between the old and the young.”
“The evolution of Nollywood is tremendous. It has earned us the international respect we craved and our content consistently works towards globally acceptable standards. The new crop of filmmakers are out to change the notion that Nollywood is nothing to write home about. We are stepping up technically, and the quality of our projects are mind blowing. The actors are also taking the business a lot more seriously. You watch some shows and you will marvel at wonderful and quality acting; People want to grow. Our industry can be likened to soccer, a lot of money in there but you can only make the money if you give attention to your skills. Producers want to hire skills now.”
With a total of 13 awards so far, from his days as a producer at Tinsel, to winning an award for Oloibiri in Los Angeles and a few short film awards from the California Short Film Festival, he said,
“Because I have not been out there a lot, my awards have been limited.”. Rogers lives by two simple philosophies – “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,’, and ‘Constantly be aware and observing, always seek to improve yourself and the team”.