Award-winning actor, film producer and director, Kunle Afolayan, in this interview with TONY OKUYEME, shares his experience as a filmmaker. He also talks about Nollywood, piracy, fake lifestyle syndrome and other issues
How would you rate the movie industry currently?
Looking back from where we were coming from, I think we’ve upgraded in several areas. And if I look at what it was during the Ogunde and Ade Love era, of course, content was key, but the distribution structure mostly fell filmmakers themselves because then they were the producer; they were the exhibitor; they were the distributor; they were the PR people, and all of that. And then, another era came about 20 years ago, and people were doing most of their films in VHS, then the VCD, and then the DVD. But after sometime, the era of cinema came back, and the standard has been upgraded. Now there are more cinemas, and the film industry has grown. In terms of content, production value has also been paid attention to. Most importantly, quality is better. Also, important is that all they need is the platform, especially Netflix which now seems to consider Nigerian content as worthy to be on their platform. So, I think so far, we have upgraded and things are going on well.
What are the things we had in the era of Hubert Ogunde and Ade Love that you find missing today in the industry?
I think it is the passion, because then, they were doing it not for money, and that was why it was difficult for them to compromise quality. And they were always mindful of the viewers, and they always wanted to be sure that don’t give viewers what the viewers would condemn or look down upon. So, they put all their energy into it. But these days a lot of people are doing content just for commercial reasons; and they compromise on everything. So, that is a huge difference.
What do you think is the best way to curb piracy?
I don’t even know where to start from now because we have been at it way before now, even during the era of Ade Live. But I feel that the only person or agency that can put a stop to it is government; when government is ready. There is nothing that anybody can do. If government wants to act or if government wants to enact a law, they will. It is because the perpetrators know that if they get arrested the worst that can happen to them is maybe they certain fines or they go to jail for one month. But if we have serious penalties, for people who pirate people’s works – and this goes beyond film, we are also talking about music, books; intellectual properties generally, it will help in curbing it. I feel the only solution is in the hand of government.
From your experience, has the situation changed?
It is getting worse now because people pirate digitally, without even releasing the film. If you go on YouTube you will see a lot of Nigerian content that were not paid for. They just upload; they put it on Facebook; they put it even on their own websites. That is why I said everything is in the hands of government. We have staged protests, held rallies; we have reached out to lawmakers, to governors and to the president. Piracy has affected the industry seriously. You know, technology is changing; DVD sale is not what it used to be because now people sit in the comfort of their homes and they rent films to watch. But DVD is still a big market. We have four films now that we cannot release because we don’t know how to sell them. Omugwo is due for DVD, even CEO is due for DVD; ‘Tribunal’, all due for DVD. But we don’t even know how to sell. So, that is the situation.
Which of your films suffered more due to piracy?
All of them were pirated, even from Irapada to Figurine, to Phone Swap. In fact, some people were selling Phone Swap with ‘Preview Copy’ on it. Some students get it on flash drive and share it in their schools, even October 1 and Figurine.
How do they get access to these films?
People get them from different mediums. These films are exposed, especially, when you try to send a link, maybe, for awards consideration or festival consideration, it could always be hacked, and sometimes it could be internally or through cinemas. So there are windows that subject these films to being pirated.
Tell us your most memorable day or days in your career?
Honestly, I can’t remember, because I just do my films. My focus has always been to achieve, and once that is done, it challenges me to want to do more. Every film that I have done has been memorable. I have done a number of films that are quite a landmark. For instance, premiering a film on the plane is something that has never been done anywhere in the world. We did it for The CEO in partnership with Air France. But for me, I always look forward to what else I want to do. Also, for me, it is about the people. I am not making films to watch them on my own; I am making films for three reasons: one is to document our history, our culture, our ways, and all that; two, is to educate; and, three, is to entertain. The combination of these three elements determines the next film, and the next film, and so on.
Where do you see Nollywood in the next five years?
Technically there will be more digital platforms and I think distribution will be easier for people who really have contents.
What is your view about the dying culture of cinema?
I think the culture of cinema is back. It is not dying, because if the culture of cinema is dying people wouldn’t be building cinemas every day. It is increasing by the day; so it means that the film owners are making money; and it means that there is patronage. So, the culture is back.
Advise the young ones in the industry how to get better?
I would say, discipline is the hard work; it involves a lot of hard work. So whoever is coming in should come not believing that ‘it is because I want to be on red carpet’ or it is because ‘I want to be famous?’ It is hard work. So, you need to be dedicated; you have to be passionate; and you need to be a very disciplined.
Tell us about your most challenging role?
I think my most challenging role was in ‘October 1’, because it was a major production, and I was the producer, the director, and I acted; and because it was a period film, so wearing all of those hats was a bit tough.
What is your take about the Lagos Theatre, Oregun, which was recently unveiled by President Buhari?
I think it is another milestone for the State Government, and I am more excited because it means we are having more cinemas and theatres for practitioners to use. And the difference about this is that it is not just a theatre; it doubles as a cinema as well. That is the first time we are having such because all the multiplexes we have don’t double as theatres; they are just cinemas. But this will have screens for film projection, and also facility for stage plays. So, I think the Governor of the State, Akinwunmi Ambode should be commended.
Fake lifestyle has become popular among entertainers. What is your view about this?
I think it is an individual thing. Recently we were discussing this and I said that a lot of people always think that getting up there is difficult; no, that is not what is difficult. Staying up there is the most difficult. And you see it in most of these musicians, some of them would do one track and ‘boom’, they would blow; and then six months after they have gone down. And by that time when they blow, they money they made they start a lifestyle that is completely above what they should be doing. For me, I am very natural; I don’t chase shadows, I am not in a rat race; and I am not in competition with anybody. So, I do these films, yes, to earn a living, but most importantly, it gives me joy. Most of my friends are my friends of 10 years and 15 years and more, because I don’t care. Few days ago, I was still by the road side eating Nkwobi with some people. It is nothing. It does not mean that when it is time to fly business class or when it is time to meet with the president you won’t do it. it does not change your name, because your name is your name. When your personality starts changing then that is when you start having problem. Some people are naturally arrogant, some people learn it, and some people, it is money that changes their ways. But for me, one, I learnt a whole lot from my my parents. My father was always saying that life is short but it is constant and the most that the most important thing you should value is your name. Once your name is intact, it means that your life is intact. There is nothing to prove to anybody, like I said. So, once you start having in your head that ‘who are you trying to impress?’ then you try and cut your coat according to your cloth.
How have you been able to put your marriage, home away from the public glare?
For me, the business is business, and your home is your home. I keep my personal, family issue away from the public. It is personal, that is why they call it personal. It does not mean I don’t involve my family or my children in what I do, of course I do, but like I said, we’ve been groomed, and we’ve been taught that everything should be compartmentalized. Put your family should be; family value is so key.