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Producers live large despite piracy problem –Onuda

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Gregory Onuda is the CEO of OGPLUS International Films. A top Nollywood producer, he speaks on the industry in this interview with REGINA OTOKPA. Excerpts:

Producers seem to be more interested in the cinemas lately?

As a matter of fact, that is one of the challenges we've been facing for years now. That's a common fear in the minds of producers because you don't want to put so much into a movie and at the end of the day, some hoodlums or heartless sets of people will try to frustrate your effort or thwart your intents. That's very discouraging and fearful, so to speak. We just have to look for a way, irrespective of the fact that people are losing so much money to piracy, and get our business to thrive by coming up with strategies to curb this menace.

We also hope the government; most importantly can help in this regard. From records, even thecinema culture is just there. We've not reached where we need to reach simply because the cinema culture in Nigeria is still at its infancy. A lot of people don't even have access to the cinemas because there are just a handful of cinemas here and there. So it is until quite a number of them have been built that we can begin to think about making money as much as we should be making. People need to be able to easily access a cinema close to them. Apart from the passion put into shooting the movies, producers want to be able to recoup the investment also being put into it as well.

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Do you agree that the outgoing administration did something tangible for the industry despite all the Aso-Rock visits by members of AGN?

In the past we didn't really feel government's attention. But with due respect to the outgoing administration and in all honesty, a lot was being done to assist the industry. We were being given listening ears and the outgoing administration maintained an opendoor policy towards Nollywood.

We didn't feel much impact like we are now feeling. One of the initiatives of this present or outgoing administration is the Project ACT Nollywood which was created to support producers with fund to produce their movies. Once you have a great script, you apply and if you meet the criteria, you'll be supported. The administration really financed Nollywood in no small way. Some of us benefited from these initiatives.

The in-coming administration needs to really be able to prove itself by changing the industry. So Buh a r i must prove his change in Nollywood too. This is an industry that employs many, makes all Nigerians happy and can change Nigeria's economy if well harnessed. The best way he can do it is to bring piracy to a halt. He is been well praised to be a no-nonsense man that eschew corruption and this is the time he has to prove it. If he is promising to stop Boko Haram in a short period, then stopping piracy should be one of the easiest tasks for him, at least to bring it to the barest minimum. Many entertainers and producers live large even with the piracy problem, now you can imagine the kind of life entertainers will start living if there was no piracy. If I release a million copy of my movie and sell everything without pirates cutting short the sale, you could imagine how rich I'll be.

How will Buhari do that?

Already Nigeria is respected for being the third largest producer of movies in the world and our stars are being recognised abroad, but if Buhari can stop piracy, Nigeria has a chance to be like Hollywood in movie production or rub shoulders with it.. It's not like we can't produce works as good as you see in Hollywood, but Nollywood producers are just being careful not to lose their investments to piracy.

Ask yourself; is it the money that Nigeria doesn't have? Or is it the man power and knowledge. I trust my Nigerian people, if they know that piracy cannot stop them from making billions from sponsoring films, you'll see how these investors will be begging producers with money.

It's easy. Just look at the amazing things we are doing with the little we have. All that Nigeria needs is a government that will help us purify the industry. I've been to several film events around the world, and I even just came back from the Berlin Film festival and I interacted with several top international movie stakeholders, I'm beginning to realize how high this people see us. Many producers in Hollywood want to come to Nigeria, but they are withdrawing because of the challenges of piracy, unfriendly environment and so on. The market is here a n d everybody wish to tap into this market but so much needs to be put i n t o place.

Tell us about your new movie, Anniversary?

Anniversary is about infidelity in marriages. It is something that happens every day, but it's taken from a unique angle of a man who pretends to be the perfect husband, an honest man and everybody saw him like that. Even his wife could bet her life over his 'uprightness'. Family, neighbours and friends thought he was sent from heaven. But he ended up giving his wife and everyone the shocker of their lives. He got himself into a relationship outside the marriage and he got committed to the relationship more than with his wife. The story started on February 14th which was supposed to be the anniversary of his marriage. So the man planned to celebrate his wedding anniversary with his good wife and also celebrating Valentine's Day with the irresistible concubine he has gotten entangled with. This movie is full of so many intrigues and suspense. The story peaked like a normal love story but the complication and intrigues of the script will wow everyone and want to make them watch all over again and also tell others about it. The movie features Gideon Okeke, Elikem of Big Brother Africa, Zynelle Lydia Zuh, Juliet Ibrahim and her sister, Sonia Ibrahim and others. Anniversary will be premiered in a couple of weeks from now both in Ghana and Nigeria and we are also premiering in America and Europe.

Talking about marriage, a lot of Nollywood producers seem to be delving into the issue of infidelity in marriage?

It is difficult to ascertain and there is no way or yardstick to measure who cheats more. People just try to assume that the men cheat more because they are believed to be promiscuous in nature. But if you also look the way of the woman, you can really be shocked to your marrow how many women find themselves cheating.? So not only men cheat in marriage or any other relationship. I'd say both the women and the men cheat, but our job as producers is to try to inform and educate. We bring the revelations to the public through our movies so that they can choose right from wrong. To make them have a review of their lives. When people go to the Cinemas to watch a movie, you expect them to take home something. What moral values are you trying to pass?

Could you tell us more about you?

My name is Gregory Onuda. I hail from Edo state and I'm a movie producer. I have a couple of movies to my name. I'm the producer of “Sasha”, “The Living Ghost”, “Scam” and I produced “Anniversary” which Is my recent movie. With the Nollywood film, Anniversary, we are eyeing the cinemas because we utilized state-of-the-art highly sophisticated equipments, high grade casts, great location and what have you, in shooting the film. It's a very big project and I have to say It costs us a lot to achieve that and I'm optimistic it will appeal to a wider audience. So, we basically produced this film for the cinema audience because of its standard.

How much did it cost you?

It cost quite a lot financially. One can't begin to measure the cost now. Even I terms of non financial capital and what have you. I'm just glad we were able to come up with something good.

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