Why we must rescue Nollywood from charlatans-----------Gabosky
Although he never received formal training as a filmmaker, Chief Gabriel Okoye, popularly called as Gabosky was a pioneer producer in the Nigerian movie sector better known as Nollywood. As a businessman with a passion for film, Gabosky joined the motion picture industry mainly as an investor. But he was clever enough to learn the trade from professionals whom he hired to do the job for him.
After acquiring much knowledge in filmmaking, Gabosky settled for topical films that could make strong statements about society and human beings generally. He first came out with Nneka the Pretty Serpent (1992) and Battle of Musanga (1994). He followed up with other titles before Nollywood, according to him, became an all comers' affair.
But with the new distribution framework being implemented by the regulatory body, Gabosky said he is set to produce more controversial films that would speak to the conscience of the people both in and outside government. He told us about his new movie, Banned in Nigeria, which addresses the issue of corruption and a proposed one, which he intends to shoot in the Niger Delta:
The name Gabosky
Gabosky is an acronymn for my name. My name is Gabriel Okoye. Gabosky is Gabriel Okoye (Gabo), the Sky means that the sky is the limit - Gabosky. Gabosky is registered as a business name. I started with Gabosky Ventures, in 1989, then Gabosky films in 1992, Gabosky Foods in 1996 and then Gabosky Engineering and Construction all of which are under Gabosky Group.
Gabosky films started with Nneka the Pretty Serpent in 1992 but it was released in 1993-1994. Later, we had The Battle of Musanga, Beyond the Vow, and others but I am yet to reach the promise land as far as filmmaking is concerned.
I have passion for movie making although I was not trained as a moviemaker. But the passion is what drives me. I have a greater passion for filmmaking than even the trained filmmakers. I started filmmaking with a number of contemporaries who started the revolution of producing indigenous films outside the overwhelming Chinese and American movies.
After NEK, came JBM with Circle of Doom, then I came out with Nneka the Pretty Serpent, and Amaka came with Rattle Snake, Zeb came out with Fatal Desire and JBM again with Evil Passion and later Taboo. Opa Williams came out with Onome and so we went on.
Nollywood then and now
In those days, the industry was nice, although we were just starting then. We were shooting on U-matic. I brought in the beta cam with the Battle of Musanga, after which we had the DV Camera. Most of the artistes then were new, as we sought for people who had theatrical background from the NTA and the Councils for Arts and Culture.
We paid them paltry sums but they all enjoyed their job. Pirates were not many at that time, such that when one made a movie, one was sure of recouping the money invested and also rake profit.
When we released a movie in those days, we used to sell between one hundred and two hundred thousand copies. I remember when we released Nneka the Pretty Serpent, I spent about N5million copies and I made more than N5million profit. Then it was business and everyone was enjoying it. Like every other business, people saw it was profitable and started coming into the business. Then there was no structure, no government regulations, so people could come from other profession and become filmmakers without formal training. The situation started affecting the industry because the quality started dropping and some greedy people came in and started influencing our artistes wrongly. Also mediocrity set in and all of a sudden, there was chaos in the industry and this brought it to a halt.
How to make a good film
A good film starts from good thinking, good projection. When you think well, you have a good script. No good script, no good movie. When you finish writing a script that influences society, it is the job of a moviemaker to turn it into a film. For this purpose, you need state of the art cameras, as well as a quality crew. The crew would gather the tools that are needed to make a good movie. Good sounds and pictures are equally relevant. When these things are in place and are backed with a good interpretation of the script by the cast, then the end product of the film would be good
I didn't train as a filmmaker but I employ people to do the job. Okechukwu Ogujiofor studied Film History at the University of Jos, while Bolaji Dawodu and Zeb Ejiro were with NTA.
For me, I did not start as a producer, I only understudied the professionals and later acquired the knowledge. In those days, all eyes were on professionalism. Getting the best hands to do the job was not difficult but now people just dabble into it and that is why some people described the movie industry as an accident. It is not accident, it was started by those of us who love the film medium and who have a mission to use it positively.
People who are coming in must be well trained. They must have a platform that would give them that leverage to perform. This training would make them better filmmakers. Every African country sees us as the USA of Africa where good things come out and flow into other African countries but if we are not good, how can we say we are number three in the world? Nigeria is in the world map of moviemakers but after producing these moves, what next?
Coping with today's Nollywood
I was one of those who started the industry with a clear mission to produce quality movies. None of my contemporaries then has produced more than five films each. Amaka Igwe, Kenneth Nnebue, JBM and I had a mission and we were called the big four. We used to sit together to decide the next move in the industry. We didn't just come out with anything because we were not hungry.We came into the industry as investors in the industry, so we sought for quality.
When you are a businessman making movies, people would not recognize you until you make a hit. We had this mission to produce Nigeria movies and take them to the international level. But when others joined us, they came with commercial interest and nothing more. They started doing anything to get inspiration. These people came with their bands and drummed for themselves. They outwitted themselves with quasi productions. At a time, we decided to call in the government to regulate the industry so that we shall see if the movie industry can be packaged in line with international standard that was what gave birth to new distribution framework.
Before government came up with the framework, we had organized ourselves into pressure groups. The pioneers of this industry identified the problem with good distribution network, we discovered that good content will make good films and if well distributed, filmmakers would make profit. It is important to invest more money to make better films, pay artistes, get better directors and every aspect of production would increase. So we started disturbing government from Walter Ofonagoro to Ojo Madueke to Chukwumerije and Chukwuemeka Chikelu. Then at the Nigerian Film Video Censors Board, we started from Demola James to Mrs Odeh and then to Emeka Mba.
They called stakeholders to develop a new way forward through series of seminars, meetings and workshops and they came up with the new distribution framework. All the marketers were carried along and they worked with the new framework until the government came up with a larger readable sticker for every movie that will be produced so as to curtail piracy. But opponents of this framework went to the Ministry of Justice to change the law that says that piracy is a crime without stipulating the punishment.
I am working on two films. I just finished Banned in Nigeria, which talks about EFCC and how it has been fighting corruption on the surface. Banned in Nigeria entails most of the things that are supposed to be banned in Nigeria. The other one is problematic because Americans wants to join me to produce it. Danny Glover is involved but the sponsors want it shot in South Africa. The story is centred on the late Ken Saro Wiwa and the Niger Delta issue.
This story already has a distributor in Hollywood. This movie will make an impact on the whole world. My partners love the script because it is an international story. I have another controversial movie, which is a comedy called Africa is the land of wisdom. I want to make stories based on our icons and monuments.