Why I took Nollywood to Israel – Teco Benson
By AZUH AMATUS AND SAM ANOKAM
In Nollywood today, Teco Benson is a household name. He started first as an actor, then a producer and later a director.And today, he is at the top of his career since his debut, getting accolades and winning several awards locally and abroad. In chat with Daily Sun, the movie-maker with over 30 hit flicks to his credit, among which is the recently released Explosion, bared his mind on several issues, particularly those centred on Nollywood.
He also spoke about his recent trip to Tel-Aviv, Israel, and how he was able to market to Nollywod to foreigners.
Israeli trip and experience
I must say it is very good for Nigeria as a nation that we went there, we did very much to launder the image of our country and our dear nation, as there's no other country we can call our own. The trip was organized by the embassy of Nigeria in Israel and it was part of a cultural exchange programme to show the Nigerian culture and paint the real picture of Nigeria to the outside world.
At the event, we various textile products from Nigeria, and we had cultural shows all the various ethnic groups in Nigeria. We also showcased diverse dances and so many drama presentations, and we had Nollywood which was represented by Explosion directed and released by my humble self. The premiere was wonderful, the turn out was impressive and what actually touched me was that people clapped intermittently as they were watching the movie and at the end of the whole show the impression about Nigeria changed.
Minister of Information Mr. Frank Nweke Jnr. also attended the show and he stood up and spoke so beautiful about Nigeria as a nation. I feel so glad that I was chosen to be an ambassador of Nigeria and Nollywood.
Impact of trip on Nollywood
Well, the major lesson we learnt was that people out there, have a lot of respect for Nollywood and of course, there are lot of expectations from Nollywood. Our movies are also popular there and people expect much from us. So for me and my colleagues, I think it's time we sat up because I believe to whom much is given much is expected, we have to really buckle up and eschew mediocrity. This is because the lust for money at the detriment of professionalism kills the industry and honestly I feel very bad when I see people throw professionalism to the gutters because of money. God has given this industry to us as a medium for a purpose.
My vision is to change the society through the medium of film and I have doing this to the best if ability; as all my films have instant messages. Since I don't have access to government, I don't have access to political power, and I don't have access to the pulpit, but I have access to this medium of film. So whatever I want to get across to my people I know how to do it through the film medium.
'Explosion' is about my biggest project in recent times. The drive for that movie was borne out of a big burden in me. I sat down for more than eight years to look at Nigeria, and I discovered that the people of Nigeria were not created to be thieves, we are very hardworking people, but all of a sudden this 419 thing came and every youngman abandoned what he used to do and jumped into it because of the easy cash that comes with it. I must tell you it has done more harm than good. 419 is robbery, theft, murder, its evil personified, but we have clothed it in very beautiful attire and call it some beautiful names and people tend to forget that this is a big sin not just against God but against humanity.
Honestly, aside Explosion I haven't done another movie. My plan is to release it before I go into another, if my colleagues can borrow a leaf from me, the problem we are experiencing today would not be there because most of them are fond ofreleasing movies as if the world is coming to an end tomorrow. Producers should be disciplined such that they don't just focus only on money. For me, I look at the value of what am doing and its effect on people.
Why fewer movies?
I think I am getting more mature and understanding the realities of life. So many producers churn out thousands of movies and in the end, they don't even have any money in their accounts to show for their efforts. I believe it's good for one to be focused – there's no need to hurry in life, anything you want to do, do it well, do it properly. I might not stick to three films a year, sometimes if I have the fund and time and if I have other people who can work with me I can increase it to five or thereabout but I can never go the way of other producer who churn out movies as if they are making popcorns. Apart from movies, I am into commercials, T.V series, as well as studios use and equipment rentals.
Actually this company was established in 1996 but was not registered then. It was in 1997 that registered the company. In 1999/2000 I got a place and moved in. It been a very nice experience, I have made tremendous impact in the movie industry. I have edited movies for almost all the big names in the industry. T.F.P stands for Teco Films Production.
The problem with most artistes is that they are always in haste; secondly, there is the financial challenges. Our counterparts in Hollywood, Bollywood and other developed nations produce films with a budget of about two hundred million U.S Dollars but here we have very low budget and our economy is so poor. Our movies are released directly to videos and the scenes are not encouraging at all. Sometimes you make movies from which you don't even make profit, and when you make profit, it may not even enough to take care of yourself until you produce another movie.
Love for action movies
Before I delved into action movies, I have cut my teeth in other genre of movies, I have done lots of Christian movies, and thrillers, but my interest in action movies was borne out of the messages received from people. You see, the quest to be different was what pushed me into action movies.
How it all started
I came into the industry in 1994, but before then, I was a civil servant in Anambra State but I didn't find satisfaction with my job. I studied Environmental Health and Pathology but I soon discovered that what I actually studied in school was not my calling. Is all about calling, before you were formed in your mother's womb God has already destined you and planned what you will be. I thank God for the experience.
After acting in some movies, the offer to produce a movie came my way in 1996, Sunny Collins asked me to produce a movie titled compromise for him, but I had never produced a movie before then. Eventually that became my first movie and Collins' first movie as well. After that, I also produced other hit movies like "Suicide Mission", Scores to Settle, Abandon, Confusion, Narrow Escape, Atrocity and many others. I also directed "Waterloo" and went on leave because I was not satisfied.
From the time I produced Compromise my name was everywhere, but when I now produced "Eye for Eye" an action film, people started raising eye brows, because I was a writer and a producer and I was an actor too. But because all I want is to use the medium of film to change the society, I have to supply the contents in that film, I needed to choose the script I wanted to shoot. So almost every of my film turned a commercial success. This is so because I always take my time to do all my movies. When I did State of Emergency in year 2000 it was a big shock to the nation and I think it ballooned me to higher grounds. Even with the entire name as a director, my movies are less than 50.
Government and Nollywood
The truth is that government was not prepared for the boom that we experienced in Nollywood, and so they never cared. I just out of nowhere Nollywood started from efforts of individuals but the industry has so boomed now that it has attracted the attention of government. Government is beginning to notice the impact of the industry and is trying to make an in-road into the industry.
I must say that Obasanjo government has impacted positively on the industry because for the first time in this administration the former minister of information, Chikelu, Chukwuemeka did a lot for Nollywood; and after his exit, Frank Nweke Jnr has also been trying his best to encourage practitioners the industry. So future is brighter and by the time government comes in properly there will be a change, Nollywood will now get to the next level.
Biggest problem facing Nollywood
The biggest problem facing us now is piracy, and then the second monster is anarchy
Oh I am married to Uju Blessing Benson, Uju is a young beautiful lady in her 20s and God has already blessed us with three boys. I have a wonderful family; we are from Ojoto, Anambra state. I studied Environmental Health at Enugu State School of health technology after which I did a P.G.D in Pathology at Nnamdi Azikwe University Nnewi Campus. I am planning to continue in an area related to the industry