Why I left banking for Nollywood - Vivian Ejike
With almost a decade experience and romance with Nollywood, consummate movie producer and linguist Vivian Ejike, is still not relenting on her oars, especially in the areas of churning out quality movies. In fact, unknown to many, pretty Ejike's passion for tinsel town, saw her quitting a thriving career as the Head of Private Banking, in one of the nation's leading financial institutions, some years ago.
Most of Ejike's colleagues and family members are yet to comprehend that 'zany' move till date.
Now with six quality movies to her credit, the French graduate from the University of Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, is however, of the opinion that Nollywood still has a lot to offer nationally and on the foreign scene.
Ejike, who recently had a successful worldpremiere of her latest movie, entitled, When The Heart Lies, led Daily Sun, into her undying world of movie making, how it all began, the challenges and her winning strategies. She also spoke on their new Nollywood outfit, vision behind it, how they intend conquering the industry with it and many more.
You had a wonderful outing at the recent premiere of your movie; When the Heart Lies, after that, what has been happening to you movie wise?
Actually, after the premiere, which was both successful and demanding, I decided to take a well-deserved rest, outside our shores for a couple of weeks. I'm fully back and facing my work squarely, as a filmmaker.
We would like to know some of the new things you are embarking upon now that you are fully back?
Currently, I'm working in collaboration with my colleague and partner, Emem Isong, on how to release our movies. Our company, Nollywood Distribution Company Limited, is also open and we are gradually putting things in place. We are also looking forward to having another world premiere in Abuja soon. We want the premiere to be very big; in fact, it is going to be a phenomenon and a showstopper too. We are aspiring to surpass what we did in Lagos. We want the premiere to coincide with the release of both movies. Hopefully, the movies should be out nation wide between the ending of October and beginning of November.
We would like you to tell us more about this newly opened company jointly set up by you and your partners?
Just like the name implies, Nollywood Distribution Company Limited, is a purely Nollywood company. Emem Isong, Babalola and myself came up with the idea of setting up a wholly Nollywood company for Nollywood. This strictly film and video distribution company, would help us to distribute our jobs and that of other filmmakers. In the next couple weeks, we would definitely be fully operational.
When you are fully operational, what would be the core values, vision and mission of this company?
We are looking at a company that will be able to match the big film production companies in Hollywood like: MGM, FOX, Paramount and the rest of them. We want to stamp our name in the book of history in Nollywood and beyond.
We want to also distribute our movies in all the nooks and crannies of this country and even around the world, in achieving this; we want to start from Nigeria, because the potentials are here. We also believe that we are going to grow very big, in no distant time and conquer Africa and the rest of the world; I believe we have what it takes to achieve all these.
If you are to envisage, what would you say are the possible challenges you and your partners might encounter in your quest to make a head way with this outfit?
No doubt, we are going to encounter a few challenges, especially the Nigerian factor: the truth is that I enjoy this job, it is also what I like doing. And in life, if you enjoy what you are doing, you hardly feel any pain. Moviemaking is fun to me… I only see a big challenge arising when we eventually cross the borders because we might have to learn a bit about the new terrain and deal with new people also.
The National Film and Videos Censors Board has come up with the Framework of distribution policy, are you people in support of it?
The truth is that we support any laudable initiative that will make the Nigerian motion picture industry work effectively. Any good and legal idea, we would definitely support. We are out for the growth and improvement of the industry. Let me also state it here categorically clear that our company is out to help every right thinking moviemaker in Nollywood to achieve his or her goals and dreams.
As long as the movies meet our standards, we are going to distribute.
But the truth is that we won't market below the standard movies, only quality movies that measure up to standards, if it's less, I'm afraid, we won't be able to market, because there is a standard.
Several companies in Nollywood have also registered as films distribution outfits, what stands your own outfit out?
Basically, we are here to unite instead of discriminating, we are also looking at a situation where we can partner with the existing market and structure on ground. We will work very hard and carry everybody along. We are working together for the good of the industry. Other things that stand us out are precisely going to be our trade secrets and I can't divulge them publicly. Above all, we are not in competition with anybody; we want to carry everybody along. In fact, everybody is relevant to us. It truly hurts me that Nollywood is still at cross roads till date. I wish and pray that all hands must be on deck to move Nollywood forward, and that is when I feel we will do better.
In your views, has the government done enough for Nollywood?
It hurts so much because government has done nothing, but we appreciate what the Censors Board is currently doing…
Your latest movie, what would you say makes it unique and different from others on the shelves?
First, When the heart lies, is a star studded flick with several Nollywood stars on board. It is also a very challenging job too and my sixth movie as a top producer cum actress. It has a unique storyline with several new discoveries, which all helped to make the movie tick. Mind you, I was an undergraduate in 96, when I produced my first movie.
As a producer, how do you cope with challenges on set?
Sincerely, when I'm shooting, I tell people I enjoy myself. So, even though the challenges were enormous, I still do not feel it, so indirectly, there were no much challenges for me whenever I am on set. I enjoy myself always.
As a top moviemaker, what has been the secret of your success in Nollywood?
First of all, God, resilience, interest and passion in what I do, again consistence. Since my return, I try not to look at the material gains, but keep doing the job because I love it and have passion for it. I know that the benefits will come someday. I just love to keep working hard and can't stay with lazy people.
Did you regret leaving banking for Nollywood?
No regrets at all, I left banking for Nollywood because of my passion for the industry and the arts Then a lot of people, even my parents viewed it from a bad angle and even urged me to go back. But like I told you, I have a passion for the industry and movie making. Between '99 and 2002 that I was a top player in the banking industry my heart was still with Nollywood. I was in the banking world, but my spirit was with Nollywood. And at a point, I just said I was going to leave and just woke up one day and resigned. A lot of people thought I was taking a wrong decision but I was doing very well, and stood my ground.
For resigning as the head of private banking, my people were totally against me, especially my dad, he was a banker for 30 something years, even my mother too. So, banking is a sort, of a family tradition and I'm not a conformist. I know my calling is in the entertainment industry and not banking.
Any plans of going back in the nearest future?
Never. I have been getting offers but I don't want to go back again. I would have loved to go, but I won't get job satisfaction, especially the type that I'm getting from Nollywood now. I feel very good and happy wherever I see my movies on the shelves. I intend remaining in Nollywood for the greater part of my life. I'm not even sure I can do any other thing very well now, except moviemaking.
Aside making movies, what else are you into?
Nothing real, I might have a few interests here and there, but movie remains the ultimate.
Why this so much passion for Nollywood?
I wish I could explain it but I can't, I think it started when I was a child. I was actively involved in drama while in primary and secondary schools. I have always been arts inclined.
Did your parents ever kick against your romance with showbiz?
My father was a bit skeptical about it, because he thought I was going to end up being a lawyer or a medical doctor or something related, in fact, something professional. But he has relaxed his skepticism about my love for the industry. He is now very proud of me after seeing that this is my life and what makes me happy. My parents are not domineering.
We would like to know more about you and your family background?
Well, I'm from Nri, in Anaocha LGA of Anambra State, I attended Federal Government College, Enugu. I later went to the university of Port-Harcourt and read French. I had a stint with the LOC 99, for my youth service. I worked briefly in a private company before going into banking.
Did your parents force you into the banking profession?
For me, going into banking was inevitable I knew I would go to the bank. Even though I knew I would go to the bank, it was also left for me to know if I would remain there or not. And of course, I stayed and tasted it before leaving. My parents did not force me into it.
Among all your released works, which would you say has been the most successful?
I really don't know how to equate that because my previous movies had always been sold off. As far as I'm concerned, they are all the same. Like I told you earlier, it is not about money, but the passion for the job. I stopped the trading off issue last year with Saving Serah. I started marketing my movies after then.
Do you have any hero?
I love Dora Akunyili, she is a woman after my heart. I used to like Buba Marwa a lot because of what he did for Lagos State during his tenure. He was one man that turned Lagos State around. I have lots of respect for him.
What is your love life like currently?
The only thing I can say is that I'm single and not searching.
What is your strategy for coping with advances from men as a pretty lady?
Most times, I try to convert my toasters into good pals, and it has really worked for me.
What would you say stands you out?
My drive for life stands me out and the fact that I strive for excellence in whatever I do.
What is the next level for you?
The ability to always aim higher and looking forward to be able to compete with them in Hollywood soon. We should just try and make government participate in our movies by pumping in funds and creating enabling environment, even the corporate bodies too. I have made movies in the past but with this one, I have further raised the bars and broken the barriers. I want to also say a big thank you to my family especially my parents for all the love, care and support.