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The making of Shanty Town

By Eniola Daniel
04 February 2023   |   3:59 am
If you think you can’t do it but you are willing to, just attempt it, when you get it right, do more and go for gold, do it like Chichi Nworah, producer of Shanty Town and co-producer, Ini Edo.

Chichi Nworah<br />and Ini Edo

If you think you can’t do it but you are willing to, just attempt it, when you get it right, do more and go for gold, do it like Chichi Nworah, producer of Shanty Town and co-producer, Ini Edo.

Shanty Town, a movie directed by Dimeji Ajibola follows the story of three Lagos-based hustlers who unite to wage war against the giant and most ruthless crime ring in the state.

The Netflix six-part crime thriller series has Chidi Mokeme playing the lead character of Scar- a ruthless kingpin who is at the top of the food chain.

Speaking on how the project was conceived, Nworah described it as a product of teamwork, which has one of the best writers in the industry, cast and crew, and a robust partnership with Ini Edo.

“We look at things happening in our society, about things a lot of us are not speaking about; organ trafficking, child trafficking and a lot of other illegal things happening in the society. So, it is an opportunity for us to talk about these negative things and let people get to know how they are affecting the society adversely. There are innocent young girls going through a lot.

“This is an important discussion that needs people to see and talk about. It’s not emotional like a mother and child story, but it’s important because women are going through a lot. A lot of women are taken into custodies by pimps not because they want to but because they want to survive, and this happens every day. Modern slavery is still happening and we can’t close our eyes to the menace. The main reason we are telling the story is because we want people to see it and know that they can fight for their freedom.”

When asked about the budget for the film, she said: “Our blood, sweat, energy went into it. We are still spending, we can’t be certain about the budget yet. Shanty Town is a huge project.”

On what makes the project different from what she has on in the past, Nworah said: “As a film producer, when I see a concept, first thing that goes into my mind is how far I want to take it. The same thing applies to other producers so, Shanty Town is a project that when it came, I thought about it and wanted it to go far, to be a global project. It is a film that when people see it, they will know that Nigerian producers are ready to work. Our talents are ready for global audience. On this project, Ini Edo was the best partner to work with. She gave her all.

“We built our set; we didn’t have to film in peoples house. We traveled far to get the location, constructed it; built the prison, hospital and everything.”

She also talked about the challenges, saying: “We coughed out money. Money is number one challenge. Management of people was also a challenge.”

Speaking on her role, Inem (Ini Edo) said: “Inem’s life in prison was an interesting one because we don’t see that kind of experience often. Inem in prison is a tragic story of a waste of life. Inem being in jail was a reawaking. She realised that she has thrown the better part of her life away and allowed circumstances push her to a point where she can do nothing for herself.”

On what women can learn from her role, she Edo said: “I played a dual character; one was in jail while the other was the one that shows love to humanity, who shoulder the fight for freedom. Women must realise that in as much as society and circumstances push us to a corner where we find ourselves doing compromising things, we also have the ability to fight for what we want. We have the responsibility to correct the ills in the society. We must understand that we are in battle every day. We fight for survival, we fight to be heard, and the fight is necessary because as women, we literally birthed the world so, we cannot allow things to go the wrong way. Women are coming to a point of realisation that we all have to constantly speak up and fight for what we belief in.”

On the scene where she engaged a man in combat, she said: “The preparatory part of this project is one of the most interesting things for me because I love to fight. It took me three weeks of intensive training of mixed martial arts with Pierce Mgboke who also played the role of Top Gun in the series. The physical challenge was one of the major reasons I jumped on that role. As an actor, I had been craving for a character that would challenge me both physically and artistically, stepping away from my comfort zone, make me feel alive artistically.”

Speaking on life on set, she said: “Shanty Town is one of the most interesting projects to work on. Fellow filmmakers still ask how we were able to manage the number of casts because we had a huge number of people on set everyday; we had 180 casts and crew everyday. Shanty Town is a blessed project with amazing casts, the passion. We were like a family on set and I am grateful to God for that.

“The story of Shanty Town doesn’t end in the sixth episode. It has a whole life on it’s own. The most interesting for me on this project is the anticipation; the anticipation is making me nervous, we didn’t do much publicity when we filmed it. One of the reasons for that was because we had Netflix in view and we didn’t want to give out too much. I trust what we did.”

When asked about the most outstanding actors in the project, she said: “I think we’ve never said enough about Chidi Mokeme. He has birthed a character that will outlive him.

“Shanty Town is unbelievable, gritty, outstanding; it’s unbelievable that it’s hard to believe that it was shot in Nigeria. We are grateful to Netflix and I can promise that more contents are on the way and the global stage will be compelled to give us the right seat on the table.”