‘Nollywood can be tool for effecting change’
In the Nigerian entertainment industry, Darlington Abuda is not a greenhorn; he has been around for years. From reporting the industry as a journalist to promoting movies and working behind the scene on major film projects, including AY’s 30 Days In Atlanta, the Theatre Arts graduate of Delta State University has indeed paid his dues. Just recently, he released his latest movie, The Accidental Spy, which is currently showing at the cinemas. Written and produced by Abuda, alongside Nicola Gregory, and directed by Roger Russel, the action comedy stars Rahama Sadau, Ramsey Nouah, Thenjiwe Moseley, Bryan Okwara, Michael Lumb, Christine Allado, Ayo Makun and Miguel A. Nunez. In this interview with CHUKS NWANNE, the former journalist spoke on his journey into the world of filmmaking and his experience on set.
You recently released your latest movie project The Accidental Spy, how do you feel right now, especially with the reception so far?
I feel both elated and humbled. I’m elated at the reception the movie has received within its first week in cinemas across Nigeria and humbled by the fact that Nigerians have taken their time to go see the movie. It was a difficult time producing this movie, but when true passion is blessed by God’s grace, only success can follow.
Could you tell us about the movie, what is The Accidental Spy all about?
The Accidental Spy is an action comedy that explores the story of an IT specialist Emmanuel Prince, who travels to London to heal from heartbreak caused his cheating girlfriend. In the meantime, Nigerian news outlets have been buzzing about a new experimental energy source invented by a Nigerian national studying abroad.
‘The Green Light Source’ promises to provide natural sources of electricity to Nigerian citizens for next to nothing! This prospect, however, does not sit well with the Nigerian Power Cartels, who are currently manipulating and abusing the energy system for their own personal gains. Unwilling to have their reign hampered by a meddling outsider, The Chairman, as he’s called, hires a professional hit man to kill the inventor before the unveiling. This is just to give you an idea of the storyline, but I’m sure that by the time you see it, it will understand better.
Who and who did you work with on this project?
This movie is directed by London based filmmaker, Roger Russell and written by my humble self, with additional writing and editing by Diane Diaz. I also worked with a talented producer in London called Nicola Gregory. It was an interesting experience for me; especially with the calibre of people we had on set. It was a seamless process. The crew in the various locations were all excited working with us and we had an enjoyable time on set sharing ideas and cultures.
Where exactly was the movie was shot?
We shot the movie in London, Amsterdam and Lagos. These locations were chosen by design based on the concept of the story.
How did you arrive at the cast? Was it deliberate that you opted for known faces in the industry?
Well, this one is super loaded with the crème of the industry. From Nigeria we have AY, Alibaba, Ramsey Nouah Jr, David Jones David, Bryan Okwara, Emma Oh Ma God, Rahama Sadau and Elma Godwin to name a few. The movie also features Christine Allado from London, Miguel Nunez Jr from Hollywood and hilarious South Africa actress, Thenjiwe Moseley. In most cases, the script determines the cast, however, some of them are people I have close relationship with; it was an honour working with them.
What’s the inspiration behind The Accidental Spy?
Let me let you in on an open secret; I love writing and I love movies. In my work to both promote and produce films for others, I noticed that there was a gap in the industry that needed to be filled with a genre of film. I tried to communicate the story with some writers, but they were not catching my vision and so, I decided to write the screenplay myself. After I was done with it, Filmone Nigeria believed in my vision and worked with me to produce the movie.
It seems The Accidental Spy have a political slant?
I am a Nigerian and every Nigerian makes fun of the word cabal. It is my desire to have the basic amenities available to all Nigerians and I tried to use humour to analyse a part of that.
How challenging was it working on this project?
The challenges were there, but not unique to me and therefore not insurmountable. I say the challenges were not unique to me because, every producer in Nigeria has experienced the same during their productions. We had an issue with funds and then with the right equipment so that our product would match since we shot in different climes. I had a clear vision regarding what I wanted to achieve and so I was willing to put all my resources behind it.
Being your second movie project, would you say it’s something worth doing again?
I am in love with making and watching movies and so I will say yes; this is something I will definitely do again and again. I entered into the industry to make my impact and put our work on the map for all to see and appreciate. I may not be where I want to be as a producer, but I aim to continue to produce good movies till despite the small budget we work with, our movies will stand neck to neck with A-list movies across the world. Already, I’m working on a new project and will be making the announcement this January. I daresay movie lovers will be enjoying another cinematic thrill from us in the coming year.
From journalism to Public Relations and now filmmaking, how do you manage all these portfolios?
What can I say; I love creating concepts. The dynamics of administration I learnt as a Theatre Arts major working with talented people such as AY comes in handy. God has been my bulwark and over the years he has brought unique vision helpers across my way and in partnership with them we have always accomplished great things. As a graduate, I spent my first years after NYSC working as an entertainment writer with Daily Independent Newspapers. I joined Nollywood via movie promotions and worked with Yvonne Nelson and AY and other movie producers to promote some of their blockbuster films, including 30 Days in Atlanta, A Trip to Jamaica, 10 Days in Sun City, House of Gold, Single, Married and Complicated to name a few.
Without equivocation, God is my selling point. All my ideas and support come from him and he always adds the ‘umpf’, that special something, to all I do. I won’t ramble about the story of how I metamorphosed into a movie producer; it’s a story for another day.
It seem you prefer working behind cameras?
I work hard behind the scenes so as to provide something spectacular for my audience. This part that contains the sleepless nights and creative sessions that go into the execution of what is eventually presented is what a lot of people don’t see.
Talking about the AY Live Concert, how did you take it to this level?
By taking it one step at a time. Before AY Live commenced, I used to organise shows in Delta State University and my events were always reputed to be the best year in year out. AY Live is a bigger expression of that event-packaging gift God blessed me with. From the beginning, we have always sought to give the people the best of entertainment available because, I believe that, when someone pays his hard-earned money to see my show, he deserves nothing but the best and that has been working for me.
What are your plans for The Accidental Spy?
We plan to take the movie to different regions so they can have a feel of what we are currently doing in Nigeria. As a movie industry, we have taken the lead and we need to continue to show our innovations to all and sundry.
What’s your take on shooting Nigerian films abroad?
I strongly believe that Nollywood can be a tool for effecting change. Personally, I am all for cultural dissemination. As we shot in the various locations, we were able to share our cultures with the cast and crew from various nationalities. We shared food and folklore and gave the people a whole new glimpse of the country called Nigeria. Sharing our cultures and learning from each other is the primary positive benefit of international collaborations in the entertainment industry.
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