The Face Of Nollywood In France
Before completing my diploma course at the Film School in New York, I had to come up with a final project. I always knew that I wanted to work on a piece that clearly depicted the difference between 'good and bad'. I wanted my project to show a demarcation between God: the representation of all that is good, and Satan: the representation of all that is bad. I wanted the neutral ground to be man, caught in between the two choices and obviously in a quagmire. I derived my piece from my vivid imagination of the Devil getting kicked out of Heaven and God. And in his anger, he declares that he will stop at nothing to make sure as few 'men' as possible actually get to Heaven. I called my project – Six feet below!
Ultimately, I needed to prove a point. I have been in the industry for the past 13 years, involved mostly with the production of commercials and documentaries. I don't consider any of these as very strong testimonials of a creative mind; in fact, I find them rather limiting and restrictive. I needed an avenue where I could express my creativity and exert myself fully, and I did just that. I put myself totally into this movie, both physically and financially. I needed to prove that international acclaimed movies can also be produced in Nigeria.
I am a very artistic person who puts my heart into all my projects, so naturally, I was disappointed when writers didn't believe in my story and vision enough to pen the story down for me. I am not gifted in the writing department. In as much as I knew, I had a selling idea; I needed someone with the flare for writing to put my story on paper and help me start the process of putting flesh on the skeleton.
Luckily, I met Yinka and we began to create 'magic' through my ideas and his writing prowess. We disagreed on very many occasions but that was the spice that kept us both on our creative edge and had us come up with a production I am immensely proud of.
Your story is nothing like the regular Nigerian Movies. Was that a risk worth taking?
Absolutely I was not trying to reproduce what my fellow country men have done, because that would not have set me apart from the pack, which was my intention.
I wanted to work on a movie that would set Nigerian productions on the same pedestal as Western productions. I needed to show the world that Africa has beautiful locations, talented crews, motivated and expressive talent and the capability to come up with an internationally acclaimed production.
According to your story, Dale and Lola depict what most people struggle with every day, but you added a Metaphysical edge to it. Why the risk?
I strongly believe that when two people have sex, not only do they merge in the physical realm but also in the spiritual realm. How much more two people with completely contrasting morals? If these individuals have different 'angels' looking out for their different interests, is there a union of sorts between these two elements in the spiritual realm? Clearly, each element would deem itself superior to the other and would not want to 'merge' with the other. In my artistic imagination, I envisioned a 'swap' of the two elements from their former occupant to the other through the sexual intercourse.
How did you come up with the title: Changing Faces?
I never had a problem when deciding on the title for my movie. I always knew words would come around. Changing Faces is a metaphorical title that embodies everything I was trying to carry across in my movie. It depicts that there is a change in the physical realm. However, watching this movie quickly dispels any thoughts of cosmetics surgery or any other form of physical change, bringing in a more spiritual change. The change may be internal, but it does eventually manifest itself on the outside for all to see.
Tell us about the cast
I did a lot of auditioning, especially for the role of LOLA. Initially, I had a Nigerian actress in mind, but when I found out she was very busy and equally had another project at hand, I had to scout for the best actress who would suite the role, which was eventually played by Rachael Young, a UK based actress. And for Dale, I changed him from being a black character to a white character. This change did not go down well with the writer as he did not understand why I kept having difference epiphanies and changing the script. Eventually, we agreed on not a white or black person playing the role, but Marc Baylis as the best man for the job, regardless of his race. His character was the embodiment of all that is good and morally acceptable. His antagonist Lola acted by Young was the embodiment of all that is bad and condemned by society as immoral. Rachael is a wonderful actress and I had confidence in in her delivery of the taxing role. Her character Lola will sleep with anyone, anywhere, and prides herself as being an irresistible seductress. Quite the opposite of the protagonist, 'Dale' who is hard-working, loves his job and wife. His only shortcoming is his depriving his wife of her conjugal rights.
Most directors would admit to having a favourite character in their movies. Who is yours in Changing Faces
One character stood out the most for me; that was the Androgynous Black played by Emmanuel. I felt like he totally understood my story; was passionate about it and was completely sold to my vision. Even in his silence, he took over the entire production and became a lead in his own respect. As a director and instigator of the story, he totally won me over.
Every production has it challenges. What were those encountered by Changing Faces?
I was doubling up on different roles. I was the director, producer and financial 'hustler' of the production. I felt I needed clones for everything to flow smoothly. Things did not go according to plan most of the time and that was very frustrating. There were times when I felt I was not getting the delivery I needed and during those times, I would end up doing the job myself. I guess I'm a perfectionist, and I was especially not taking any chances with my first groundbreaking movie. However, this was also my driving force, to a large extent. I used all the mishaps to push myself to excel and I'm quite happy with the end product, in fact, I am excited about Changing Faces.
Your film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and won a lot of considerable contracts, what should the world expect from you?
I am particularly proud of myself at having accomplished this milestone in my life, despite the barriers that were before me. I am now focusing my energy on marketing my movie and sharing it with the world. I want this to be used as an example of the good productions Nigeria can offer.
Having taking these first steps and with the backing of my experience in the industry, I am now ready to venture into Hollywood. I intend to work on a bigger movie with a bigger budget because I intend to incorporate the big names in my production. I am particularly interested in using Denzel Washington in my movie and Chinwetalagwu Ejiofor.
I am looking to doing a couple of Hollywood movies in the near future and then giving back to society that which I am privileged to have acquired over the years; knowledge!