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The name of Nigeria and Nollywood stood still yesterday in far away New York at the New York International Independent film and video festival which started a few days ago when The Rivals, a Nigeria movie, was screened in the festival. It is the first time any Nigerian movie is making this kind of statement in that festival since its inception.

One of the producers of the movie Blessing Effiom speaks to Home video people about the recognition for Nigeria, the joy in their hearts to be singled out to present the movie to a world audience. Aside from these, she speaks on the challenges of producing The Rivals.

For so long, no one has seen you around the catwalk, do you miss it?
It feels very strange because that is what I did for a very long time. But my new found love is acting and producing of films and I am having a great time doing that. I must say the acting and producing spirit has always been there before but modeling took charge of me. Actually I studied theatre arts at the University of Calabar, I graduated in 2001 and I went ahead to do a script writing course in South Africa. I also did some courses at the Goethe Institute, Lagos, so what I do now has always been a part of me since. I am having fun right now.

The film
The first film I did was Before the vow, I just wanted to try out the lessons I learnt from the course I did in South Africa. One was expected to do a movie that happened in a place for less than 2 hrs. My second film was African Queen which had to do with fantasy. It was a mix of different cultures and not set in a particular place.

I followed it up with Walking the lane which is about prostitution and entering the minds of those who indulge in it. It is a moving movie. Then came After the vow which is a sequel to Before the vow and not released yet. The Rivals is new and it is set in the late 1970 Calabar. This is one of the production I consider a proper movie, we made sure everything was right, we had a good budget, a good script, we built a great set, good costing and we are happy. The Rivals, is just a normal story but we paid good attention to details. We did not take chances here.

New York International Festival
We believed we had a good product that would go places and not end up at Idumota. So we went searching and found out that New York International Independent film and video festivals was still to come so we enrolled the synopsis. They liked what they read and asked for the film itself and one thing led to another and we are now in New York. The Rivals was shown yesterday 20th of July 2007 to an aestatic audience.

Is this not just another of those epic stories by Nigeria?
Like I said, it is those little things that make a film good that we have done. Our script is not out of the moon. It is just one of those normal scripts but we really did it well. Our cinematography was superb, we did everything the way it should be done. Nothing was left to chance at all. A prince must take a wife and three women are sent to the palace for him to choose from after six days. And he did.

The actors in it are the same actors Nigerians know of — Desmond Elliot as the Prince of Calabar, His father, the king is Alex Usifo-Omiagbo while Patricia Leon is his mum. The eligible ladies for the Prince are Kate Henshaw - Nuttal, Omoni Oboli and my humble self, Blessing Effiom.

There is no big deal about it except the clarity of pictures, suspense and all that. I brought to bare everything I learnt from theatre arts school and at the script writing school in South Africa. But beyond these, it is the person that matters. It is more than just being a normal film maker. We invested all we had and soaked garri to survive so that the movie would be done. We were determined and our budget was N7m. Omoni and I put this money together, went to the market to buy the costumes, the props to set Calabar in 1970. It was tough. Everything was authentic Africa material, we searched for old black and white television sets, furniture, money etc. When we were building the set, we nailed things ourselves because we couldnt pay people to do so.

Modeling years
I got into modelling by chance. One day I was shopping when one guy came up to me to ask if I wanted to be a model and I said yes. I had always felt like one. I was a regular follower of whatever Naomi Campbel did. I loved short skirts, the mini. I believe it was one of the things that attracted the agent who saw me at the market and asked me in. I had said yes and he talked about Silverbird International fashion show and they were casting. After that I went to Ghana for Ecofest competition with Valerie Campbel as part.

This was during my NYSC year. I won and moved on to London, then to Milan, then to South Africa, it was at South Africa that I discovered that I wanted more and not just being a beautiful queen, I wanted to do something else.

I just found myself asking questions which they say don't ask. As a model, you had no voice, you were just an ornament and I said no to it. And one thing led to another and I enrolled into a script writing school in South Africa.

Different ways
Things are done right. No Kpakpakpa, the characters are developed gradually until they have a life of their own. Things are done very well and we should learn to do things right in Nigeria. Things are done in stages with the production plan. Without a plan, you waste time.

I do not read, I love to listen, I watch TV and listen to radio. I also dance, swim whenever I have time. I also love to cook.

My man
I am thinking about this now because everyone is also thinking about marriage especially now I am in Nigeria. But when it happens, it happens. I would love to marry someone who appreciates me and what I do. I want some one who would stand by me. He must be handworking and we must respect each other. If a man loves you, he won't cheat on you.

I think we are (Omoni and I) going places with The Rivals. We just have to keep our fingers crossed, we are just begining.

Blessing Effiom is from Yakur LGA of Cross River State. She went to school in Port Harcourt and Calabar and would always have home to think about. She is the second to the last in her father's family.