Nollywood actor and film maker, Olu Michaels, 48, is one of the movie entrepreneurs who invested so much without getting the desired reward. He has worked with many big names in the Nigerian movie industry, including Funke Akindele on Jenifa’s Diary for two years. The travel agent-cum-producer, in this no-hold-barred interview with OLAITAN GANIU revealed why he wants to remain single, and even childless, how his multi-million naira investment on movie project went down the drain, among others. Excerpts:
IT seems you’re a jack of all trade. What aspect of entertainment are you venturing into now?
I’m focusing on movie production because I’m looking into changing the narrative where this cartel has been in the industry for a while. I don’t like the idea where each time I switch on my television, there are certain people who do a so-called English movie. Also, as a producer, each time I said I want to produce a movie, I was told: ‘If this or that person are not going to be in the movie, we won’t buy it.’
I have actually produced a movie, gave it to a marketer and they refused it simply because the director is a Yoruba man or he is not part of their caucus. So, why is that? As long as the storyline is good, why do I have to bring your clique into my production? In the next two years, I’m looking into changing the narrative.
What approach are you using in changing this narrative?
Of course, I will keep doing what I know how to do best. Over the years, I’ve worked for many people and my observation is that once you are creative and unique, if you’re in a hole, clients will look for you. So, my approach is, continue producing good movies. If the content is good, the storyline is fantastic and picture quality is perfect, fans will look for you.
Do you partner with digital platforms?
No, this is another problem – getting a link with Netflix, Showmax, iRoko and likes. Hopefully, we would get a link someday because I am so passionate about dominating the Nigerian movie industry. Over six years, with the little money I saved, added with loan – my plan was to buy a house with money in Ajah, but the plan changed when I was coming back from France and I met an actress at the airport. I told her my desire to become a popular actor and she was like: ‘I could help you if you really want.’ As we speak, I have invested almost N100million and I’ve not got a penny back, not even a thousand naira.
It is annoying if I want to go in detail. The first movie I ever made titled, Igbekele, was shot for N2.1million and before I got a marketer to buy it for N600,000. In fact, the marketer was telling me, ‘I am just doing you a favour and to encourage you.’
Since then, about 13 movies I have produced so far are here on my table and the cheapest of them is N2.1 million. Last week I just finished one for N4.7million.
Do you think that is what’s robbing off movie entrepreneurs?
There are so many producers who have been here before me and some of them told me: ‘I give you just one year. You might not have money to feed.’ And, honestly, they are not lying because in less than six months, I have spent N47million and have not got a penny.
Even the N600,000 I said earlier the market bought my movie, he promised to pay in 4-5 months’ time and that will by February 2020. And people buy from us and sell it to online platforms for millions.
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So, what do you think is the way forward?
Well, what I think will help is when a company such as DSTV, Rock (Remi Njoku) open their doors; they only appoint a few people who can go to them. I think marketers might have edge over us as producers.
At a point, I was willing to give my movies to DSTV for free. All they need to do is to make the movie known to people and after a while, people will pay for it. Again, I’m not asking these people to give me money to produce movies. I have all the necessary resources and equipment to perfect movie but at least they should see the content but they will rather take their own people.
And for your movie to be in cinemas in Nigeria is not easy except you are a popular actor or actress.
Despite these challenges, you keep producing, why?
I will keep producing movies, except there is no money. But as long as there is funds, I don’t think I will stop. Honesty, I should get tired because of the house I’m hoping to buy. I don’t have it. Since I don’t have a house to stay, I will keep shooting. I just keep hoping that I won’t get tired one day.
Which project are you currently working on?
We just rounded off a movie last week and we are shooting another three before the year runs out. We are just waiting for the two titans, Omotola and Genevieve – in the Nigerian movie industry. I am currently working on featuring the two together on one of our projects.
For two years, I was part of a crew that worked on the popular comedy series, Jenifa’s Diary, created by Funke Akindele. I have produced several movies through my production outfit by the name ‘ibelieve’. The outfit has produced movies such as Irin Ajo, Like mother Like son, Crack, The Messenger and Tafa Onimoto among others.
How are you charging the government to intervene?
The federal government has been doing the little they could but unfortunately, there are some people that are supposed to speak too, especially the veterans, to encourage the younger ones.
As an actor, what do you look forward to in the script?
Deep storyline. In Nigeria, most scriptwriters narrow a storyline, they write based on one family. One of the best movies I saw recently is a movie titled, ‘King of Boys’. In the movie, there are lots of stories. You might just be seeing only Shola Shobowale but there over seven stories in the movie.
As a professional filmmaker, do you think it’s ideal to produce a movie in two to three days?
Well, it depends on the story. I won’t say it is wrong or right. When I came into the industry that was what was being done. I’ve been in a movie set in Asaba to produce an English movie and at a point, I wanted to run away because that is what I was used to in Yoruba setting, which could take about two to three days. If you go more than three days, they will tell you, it’s a project.
Today, a project is one week and what the English movie refers to as project is years but Yoruba sector, three days, we are through with a movie because of the cost and that is why there is no substance. I’m challenging all that with my movie project.
What would you describe as your best achievement?
So far, each time I get on set, I have been able to touch different lives. I am passionate about empowering and doing charity work. I believe if you are from nowhere, you will understand what it takes when someone begs you for food. Sometimes, I don’t like giving cash but prefer to donate the machine or equipment needed. While I was growing, I had nobody to help me. The worst that can happen to people is being poor without having someone to help.
Any plans to venture into politics?
Yes, eventually I am hoping to become a governor or senator.
Are you married?
I’m not married, and I don’t intend to. Truth be told, I’m scared of marriage and I don’t think I will ever get married. Though, I wanted to have kids when I was younger but not now, it is too late. Why I said it’s too late for having children is that I am a workaholic and I don’t like a situation where I would want to sleep and then a baby starts crying. My parents have been begging me to get married but no.
What do you look out for in a woman?
I am a jealous man. For example, if I marry an actress and I see her kissing another actor on set, I will never tolerate such. Also, if I marry a beautiful woman, I might never concentrate on my work because I will be on the look to protect her.
How do you feel being lonely at night?
What I do every time I feel lonely is that I have a car that I bought with all my money. It is a Mercedes-Benz and the interior is wow. I love it. I just drive round town and get home and sleep off.