We are yet to give honour to our produce - Obazele
Can you give us an insight into your background?
My names are Paul Obazele. I am a native of Ishan in Edo State by birth. My father is a retired staff of Radio Nigeria and a broadcaster by profession. My mother hails from Issele-Uku in Delta State. I schooled at the LA Primary School, Ughelli in Delta State before proceeding to the Anglican Grammar School, now Iyi-Agor, Ubulu-Uku in Delta State. After my secondary school education, I got admission into Auchi Polytechnic, where I read Business Administration upto HND level. Years after, I did other short term courses, topping it with an extensive one in the famous and prestigious Lagos Business School, Victoria Island, Lagos. There, I had the golden chance to read a media related course. It is a certificate course in communications.
How come you are in movie production and acting, instead of the media house?
Oh yeah! I love that observation. But the truth about it all is that I came from a broadcast home, so to speak. As a result, I started seeing spool-reels used in radio stations at the age of three.
As a child as expected, I began to toy with them. Infact, they added to the legion of toys I was opportune to play with. This too, eventually dove-tailed into my romance with the movies. As somebody born into broadcasting, I had the natural traits. But sadly my father did not encourage us to go into broadcasting or journalism because of his strong belief that broadcasters like reporters hardly keep a successful home. Hence, he did all he could to discourage us from embracing media-related professions.
What were your first outings as an actor and producer?
As an actor, it started long ago. I mean as far back as 1985, a year before I graduated from the Auchi Polytechnic. Then, I was into the waka pass roles in NTA Benin drama programmes. Two years into this (1987), I met late Lai Aransanmi who gave me another waka pass role. From there, I started my journey into acting proper featuring in The storm where I played the role of Memuna Yahaya�s husband. After that, I became the biggest T.V actor.
This was actually years before the Nollywood phenomenon. This mainstream thing began in NTA. I was so much used in almost all the soap operas then that voices began to rise against such and the producers who picked me.
I remember that I used to feature in Checkmate on Thursdays. There, I played the role of a lawyer. That lasted for long upto five years. In Ripples, created and produced by Zeb Ejiro, I played the part of Dr. Raymond while the sizzling drama series lasted before I was given the role of Inspector Amin in Third eye where I featured alongside veteran actor, Olu Jacobs. Apart from these, I had so many T.V commercials. I was involved in over 65 commercials, 6 billboards, and uncountable calendars. Among my most prominent bank commercials, was that of First Bank.
Infact, it made appreciable impact throughout the country. My involvement in commercials did not dim that of modeling. I can still remember vividly that myself, Emeka Ossai and Frank Osodi were in the fore front of it all in Nigeria. It may sound incredible, but it is true. If you like, investigate because they are emphatical evidence to prove this.
I went into production because of the funds I had then. I wanted to utilize the funds to produce my kind of movies. That I actualized with the shooting of �Shadow of Death� directed by Bolaji Dawodu. It was a star-studded after. I remember myself and Zack Orji took part in that production alongside one Tejire now in London. That was how my journey into production started. Luckily Geo Films Ltd, marketed it. From commercial stand point, it was a good movie.
Productions so far?
I have 10 carefully and painstakingly produced movies on my own label. As for others; it is uncountable. However, each of the productions were not easy, because as a producer, you must source fund guard it jealously and pay it back as agreed as at when due.
What encouraged you to become a professional producer at the expense of acting?
I want you to know and note here that I will never subscribe to the idea of preferring one to another. Though I still feature in movies. The script, however, must be seen to be of good standard. This is so because if I consider the script to be substandard, then everybody who do not see reason for one to shun the script will only waste his saliva and shut after a futile attempt to confuse, so, that I will take part in such half baked movie. If the script is bad, count me out no matter the amount at stake.
It is on good source that I have turned down over sixty per cent of badly written scripts whose writers also refused to adjust them.
I am into production because I am a content owner. My case is like that of a poultry owner who can�t ignore the health and survival of his chicks. Any few minutes of ignoring them may lead to their sudden and untimely death for the fun of it. Hence, the commitment at all times.
Is being a producer more financially fulfilling than being an actor?
Being a production person depends largely on how you have been able to manage the side of the divide you are at that point in time.
The truth however, is that both sides are really rewarding. Just as rewarding as they are, they also have their short falls and long term effects.
What are the features you are passionate about in productions and why?
If Royal Pictures (my company) is going to do a movie, we must first look at what the society stands to gain. There must be lots of interesting twists in the story or plot and they must be attention catching.
What is the magic of working successfully with some difficult top actors and actresses?
I remember that I was taught in my course of studies to always master anything I do. That�s one of the things you must be taught to imbibe at the Lagos Business School. It�s a pan-African University. For what I do when difficult star actors and actresses come on board my production, I simply strike a balance aimed at the securing good relationship with them. I show this in listening attentively and genuinely to them during their individual rehearsals. In the course of these, I fine tune them smartly to suit my purpose.
What are the factors responsible for the current lull in Nollywood?
These can be linked to producers not getting the expected return on investment from such large sum of money. This factor may have been hastened by government�s complacent attitude to the hues and cries of the producers who are already in the woods for God�s sake.
I must confess that these problems have since been compounded by government�s refusal to create a special fund known as the film fund, meant specifically for seasoned producers with very little or no production fund.
It really beats one hallow therefore anytime I remember that Nigeria is the largest employer of labour. This alone, makes me to wonder aloud when I can�t find any justification for government�s refusal to create an enabling environment for motion pictures to thrive in the country.
To me, government by their refusal has not lived up to its responsibilities to the industry. This is sad and disappointing to say the least.
What are your achievements as president of the Association of Movie Producers?
My first achievement as Association of Movie Producers (AMP) is that we have been able to restructure internally. We now have a good data base for all members. We have been able to establish a superb relationship at last with content buyers. On the heels of this, we have also been able to enter into an MoU with the Silverbird Television (STV); National Theatre and some other organizations that are in business or partnership with AMP
My achievements have since recorded the Eko International film festival already in its third year running. It is on good record that the Lagos State Government sponsored that of last year. Although, it is yet to be done this year. However, they have given us their word which we took on concert truth.
What does it take to be a producer in Nollywood?
You must have the natural urge and genuine interest at heart to be a producer. Once you have both, then you should do a letter to the Association of Movie producers (AMP) to enable us to refer the potential producer to the committee in-charge. They will now tell the person in question what to do once they got his application.
What is the relationship between a director and producer?
The producer can hire and fire the entire production crew, including the director. He presides over the director during productions because he hired him. It is on good source that the producer has never hired a director he can�t vouch for his high professional standing which should encourage him initially to go for director.
Aside from this, the director must have appreciable and demonstrable ability to interpret well script that he wants to school. I have been able to combine producing and acting successfully because I have been able to define where each assignment terminates.
Can we say that Nollywood producers are really producing along international standard?
I hate getting into such talks because the Nigerian government and top Nigerians have bluntly refused to give honour to our producers.
So, I wonder what criteria we are using to judge world standard when our films are setting the pace here, there and anywhere in the world. It therefore means that we have done well for ourselves and the unappreciative Nigerian nation.
All our producers need now is sincere support from the government who should create urgently a level playing ground and also provide us the kind of necessary fund we need to produce good films. This is very important in our continuity. I mean it!
How do you marry professionalism and business successfully as a producer?
Any movie producer is the soul of a production that he presides over. As a result, he takes credit for whatever happens to that production so, any producer should ensure that he really takes good care of the business side of his production, while the show goes on.
Can you remember any instance(s) whereby top actors/actresses disappointed you and what you did?
No! I can't just remember because I am pretty busy building relationships. Hence I cannot remember any instance.
How have your members been faring with censors board�s directive that all films must be watched, graded and approved?
I must confess that I fully support this because this is the standard all over the world. The only thing I will frown at seriously and react too to is an attempt to take away key or relevant scenes that give the production a whole meaning it needs.
Has this censors board's directive been working out fine as expected?
I think it is. However, I want to state here that producers are law abiding professionals and citizens of Nigeria. As a result, I doubt if they will go contrary to the governments directive on this matter of censorship. Although, there are issues here and there that should be looked into.