I borrowed N27, 000 from my parents for my first film – Alade Aromire

Source: nigeriafilms.com
Listen to article
Alade Aromire has a couple of firsts linked to his name. One is the fact that he is the first person to own a vernacular pay channel in the history of television in Nigeria. He will also be remembered for his many movies. SENI DUROJAIYE spoke with him.
Where and how did you start your sojourn into film and television production?
Everything about me is about Lagos, particularly Lagos Island. When I was young, I discovered I could draw and paint and an uncle of mine took me to the Museum Kitchen for a weekend get-together with other youths. From there, I got to develop my interests in acting.
Along the line, while I was growing up, an older cousin who later got married to late Hurbert Ogunde encouraged me in her own way. Around then too, when I saw the aura and charm that late Ogunde exuded whenever he came to Idumota, I would be like, one day, I would be like him. That feeling was always re-invigorated by my cousin who used to take us to old Glover Hall to watch either the black and white Indian films that was the vogue then, or Ogunde and Duro Ladipo's stage plays.
How did you venture into commercial acting?
It started with the formation of Eko Echo Drama Club. All the founding members were very young boys at the time, talk of the likes of Yinka Quadri and Rasaq Ajao. My late father actually gave the group that name and he was very supportive; anytime we wanted to stage any of our presentations, he was always helpful. If I may add, we were still in school then.
Did your involvement in acting so early in life allow you further your education?
When I left Ansar-ur-Deen Primary School Alakoro, Lagos Island, I went on to Ansar-ur-Deen College, Isolo, Lagos. When I was there, I used to sneak out of school to go and watch films at cinemas around Lagos. When my dad got to know, he didn't like it, so he sent me to stay with a friend of his, Chief Onuma, in Awo-Nmanma, Imo State.
Tell us about your training professionally
It started at Ife. When I returned from Imo State, I went to the University of Ife. I wanted to study Dramatic Arts, but I didn't have the prerequisite subjects like Literature, so I was given an option of joining Ori-Olokun Theatre Troupe and spending a year, which I did. Eventually, I secured admission into the Dramatic Arts department of the University of Ife.
How did you go about your first film that was said to have shocked even the respected veterans of the industry at the time?
What obtained then was optical movie, but I discovered that there were film laboratories in Ibadan, Lagos and Jos that I could explore to achieve my aim. There was nothing like movie then, so I decided to experiment, because even though the laboratories had no optical soundtrack, they had magnetic soundtrack and I knew I could get a projector that could pick up magnetic soundtrack so I experimented with the reversal film and, that turned out to be the first Yoruba film wholly produced in Nigeria.
Everything was done in Nigeria. It was edited here. The title was Idajo Aiye.
How did go about exhibiting it since there were no movies then?
I premiered it at Super Cinema in December 1984, and it was a huge success.
This should have come earlier, but how did you raise capital for the project?
I took a loan of N22, 000 from my father and my mother gave me N5,000.You won't believe it, we made N72, 000 gate fees at the premiere. The likes of late Ogunde, Baba Sala and others couldn't believe that someone could wholly produce a film in Nigeria without going abroad for processing, printing or editing.
Would it be right to say you didn't take it abroad because you had no funds to do so?
No! It was a case of breaking grounds. I just thought because nobody was doing this thing did not mean it was impossible here. I said to myself, these things are available and I could make use of them. More so, there was a laboratory here, there was a Natola film somewhere in Surulere, Lagos. I premiered Nkan Nkan at the National Theatre in 1986 and we made over N200, 000.00, and how much did we produce it with? Let's say N100, 000.00.
If it pays that much, why did you disappear from the scene at a time?
My quest to improve on what obtains in the film industry informed my decision to travel out of the country when I did. It was not as though I just disappeared from the scene. I travelled to West Germany, as it was known then. I was at Cologne where I enrolled at a Goethe College there originally to study their language, but while there, I discovered they ran a crash programme in film and television production specifically for foreign students and lectures were delivered in English.
I opted for that and I think my interest in television actually started from there. The course lasted three months. Afterwards, I was posted to Dutch Willlick Television Village in the outskirts of Dortmund. While at the place, I thought, if this people could run a television station based on their own dialect of Dutch language, I could do something similar when I get back to Nigeria.
Is that what gave birth to Yotomi Television
Yes! Then, I saw portable cam coders; as a movie man, I knew I could do some things with it. In fact the first thing that struck me about the camera was the picture quality, it was far better than what we achieved with reversal films.
So, when I got back home, I decided to introduce it by shooting the first Yoruba movie with it. When I finished shooting and told people that I wanted to premiere it and that it would be shown on the wall at the National Theatre because I knew I could get a video projector, they didn't believe it. But we did it. That was when Col. Tunde Akogun was Sole Administrator.
But you've ceased to produce movies
I believe there was nothing more to achieve in the movie business. So I decided to go into television.
Tell us about Yotomi Television
Before I started Yotomi Television, I'd produced Yoruba language talk shows on NTA 7 and Alade Aromire Live on NTA Ibadan and Osun State Radio Vision Corporation as a way to gathering more practical experience about what we are doing now on Yotomi Television, because the kind of equipment I trained with in Germany is different from what is in use here in Nigeria.
So, the moment I spoke with Engineer Bayo Banjo and he said I could come over whenever I was ready, I did.
How much did it cost to set up Yotomi Television?
It will be really difficult to tell. Like I said, Engineer Banjo gave us backup concerning license and airtime. Again, we didn't have money to hire professionals so we decided to train young people who showed zeal and interest to learn. So, it is very difficult to put a figure to how much we took off with.
We learnt you've not totally divested from the home video industry.
You may be right. I have stopped movie production because I realised that to put my best into the television I'd need to stop. But I still market other people's movies. I own Alpha Culture Marketing.
What is the prospect of Yotomi Television like?
It is very bright and that is to put it mildly, if not, we would have gone under. Again, we are looking seriously at some expansion. Though I can' talk on that for now because the picture is not clear yet, that is not to say it is not feasible. You would be amazed at our viewership if you get to know. What that tells is that we have a very bright prospect.