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‘My best decision is starring Omoni Oboli in Anchor Baby’

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Born in Enugu but raised in Owerri, Imo State, Lonzo Nzekwe has lived in Canada for five years. The indigene of Abia left Nigeria around 1997 when he was about 22 years old. Back then, he was a basketball player and a member of Imo State basketball team. Lonzo, who started his creative career as a music producer, opens up to Blockbuster on how he came into filmmaking. He also talks about his wave-making movie, Anchor Baby, which premiered at Silverbird Cinema, Lagos, last Thursday and now showing in cinema houses around the country. Excerpts:

In search of greener pasture
I left Nigeria when I was about 22 years old. Back then I was a basketball player, playing for the Imo State basketball team. In those days, the only thing I wanted to do was to obtain a university scholarship in the US and play college basketball. I wanted to make it to the NBA by all means. I got a few schools interested in me but for some reasons, things weren't falling into the right places. I got frustrated and moved out of Nigeria. I lived in the UK and US prior to moving to Canada. I guess I went to Canada because of the great opportunities there.

Starting off with music
I started off as a music producer before I got interested in film production. I always knew I could direct and produce films ever since I have been in Nigeria but I didn't have a passion for it then. Recently, I started developing a very strong passion for making movies and that's how Anchor Baby started. I just didn't want to do music production anymore but I'm still a great fan of hip hop.

Self-made filmmaker
I have a great passion for making films and I want to win more than the next man. I come from a sports background and I'm very competitive. That alone has got me this far in the game. I am a self- thought filmmaker. I watched a lot of films; both the good and bad ones just to know what to do and what not to do. I also watch the “making of films” which is always at the end of most original movie DVDs. You'll be amazed at the wealth of information one can get from watching those clips. I also read a lot of books on how to make independent films including the “2-Day Film School” DVD by Dov Simmens. I studied those religiously until I felt I was ready to shoot Anchor Baby. I am a very creative person, so I guess it helped in the process. Well, If I wasn't a film director I would be doing whatever I got to do to put food on the table for me and my family.

Why I cast Omoni Oboli
When I wrote the script, I wanted someone who could transform and bring it to life. I hired a professional casting director to audition all the actors I used in the movie. I sat through all the auditions and hand picked every single character in the movie. I watched a few of Omoni's movies and was convinced that she has the ability to transform the script. I also did a brief background check on her and spoke to her extensively on the phone to feel her out. That's when I decided she was the one.

Though, a few of my production crew were against me bringing her from Nigeria but I told them that there is something I see in her that they are not seeing. I noticed they were waiting to see what she was going to bring to the table. So, from the first day Omoni came on set, I took her aside and let her know that Anchor Baby is her movie. Right away, she took over the show and set a standard on the set that every other actor had to follow. That decision to star Omoni Oboli was the best that I made in the earlier stages of the production.

Anchor Babies in US
I know a lot of Nigerians will easily connect to the story. How many people do you know that are Nigerians who come to the US to have their babies. Almost everyone has a friend or relation who was born in the US or Europe. These babies are what the US terms as “Anchor Babies”. Most Nigerian parents regardless of their economic background will like to see their child succeed by providing a better opportunity for the child when he is born and that's exactly what I tried to portray in the movie.

Crazy buzz
There is crazy buzz about Anchor Baby. I knew people will like the trailer and the movie but the thing that baffles me is seeing people from North America and Europe getting hyped about the movie just like Nigerians. Though, when I wrote the script, I wanted to make a movie that anyone in the world can relate to. It's a real human story and the themes I touched on include love, hope, dream, loyalty and human struggle. The same issues everyone goes through. I'm just glad that a lot people are feeling it and anticipating the release.

Anchor Baby at cinemas
Anchor Baby has hit the cinemas from December 10, 2010 after being premiered on December 9. I had almost 40 actors with speaking roles and about 60 extras in this movie. Some of them are Omoni Oboli, Sam Sarpong, Terri Oliver, Colin Paradine, Michael Scratch, Mark Cassius, Rachael Ancheril, Cyrus Faird, Santiago Lopera, and Chris Patterson. All the foreign actors were hyped once they got the full script. As I said earlier, the story is not just a Nigerian story and that's the beauty of the whole process. I wrote it in such a way that even if you are from any other nationality apart from Nigeria, you will be able to connect with the story and the characters because it is a universal story. I have Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian and African characters playing major parts in the movie. That alone attracts people of other nationalities to Anchor Baby right away because everyone goes through it just like Nigerians. Matter of fact, if I was a Hispanic writer/director, Omoni and Sam's characters would have been Hispanic characters and the story wouldn't change one beat. I know Nigerians are anticipating the movie, so I want to promise you that Anchor Baby is going be one of the best movies you have seen in a very long time.

On Alpha Galore
Currently, Alpha Galore, my company, is only into film production but we have other things in the works which will be made known to the public when the time is right. Definitely, I have a few projects that are in the early stages of development right now. Once I get Anchor Baby out there, then I can focus more on the new projects.