‘We are so fixated on foreign content that we sometimes lose our originality’
Today at 4.30pm, TV host Isabella Akinseye will premiere her latest quiz programme, The Movie Buff Show on Africa Magic Showcase. A graduate of Education (with English and Drama) from the University of Cambridge, Akinseye heads Yellow Tamarind Productions, a Lagos-based creative content production outfit that launched its flagship television programme, Africana Literati on Africa Magic Family and Africa Magic World last year. In this interview with CHUKS NWANNE, she spoke on her latest project and her collaboration with GCue Studios.
After Africana Literati last year, you are back with The Movie Buff Show. What informed your decision to collaborate with GCue Studios on this project?
Indeed, iron sharpeneth iron. I showed GCue some 3-minute videos I had done some years ago; it was called Nolly Silver Screen Video Review in 180 seconds and I reviewed an African film in each episode. But what started as a random discussion turned into hours of ideation and that was how The Movie Buff Show was birthed. We went from wanting to create content for the web to a full-blown television show. Looking back, it had to be God; my steps were ordered by Him. I was not even supposed to meet GCue that day let alone spend hours developing content. These days, he teases me that there is nothing like 5-minute discussion with me because our brains are always creatively charged.
How did you advance from conceptualisation to production proper?
After our initial discussion, we started by agreeing on timelines and raising funds. It was like, if we dropped the ball, things would grow cold and life will happen. So, GCue made sure that we turned around in about a month; we also agreed that we would self-finance and work for free. We were taking a chance as nobody had commissioned us to do a TV show, who send us message? We paid everyone except ourselves; that was our own equity contribution to the project. We divided the responsibilities playing to each other’s strengths. I focused on writing, presenting and voicing, while he focused on directing, set design and supervising post-production. We co-produced which meant us doing anything and everything that needed to be done to get the show off the ground.
Working on a project of this magnitude in the country without sponsorship is usually not an easy task, how challenging was this for you?
I always say television production is hard work because, sometimes, people think that speaking English is all there is to it, which is a big lie. Since we were self-funding, we had to slow things down to allow us both manage our cash flow as neither of us had planned for this. Another major challenge was getting information for the script as we had to rely on the Internet. Sadly, there are few books, magazines and journals to consult when it comes to the development of our industry. Some of the actors do not have functional and well-maintained websites. Also, we had some contestants who cancelled last minute. By and large, it was a smooth production because we had a crew made up of experienced professionals who were committed to our vision. Could it have been better? Yes. That is why they say, beta soup, na money kill am.
What were some of the high points shooting The Movie Buff Show?
My high point started early in the morning of the shoot; there was environmental and I almost did not make it to the studio. I was terrified but when I got the studio by 6:59 am, the kind of relief that washed over me was a high on its own. It was my first time shooting in a studio, so, I was happy that I did not have to stop every ten seconds to dab my face. The air conditioner worked; there were no power cuts and there was enough space for crew and contestants. I did not have to worry about a car horning or rain outside. I enjoyed being able to focus on my craft and as we say, turn up for the show. Did I mention that I have always envied quiz show hosts? So that was a dream come true.
Tell us about your role as the quiz mistress?
For starters, none of the contestants said, ‘Yes quiz mistress;’ it was not as tense as some of the shows out there. On the contrary, it was fun and we all had a great time. My background is Education with English and Drama and I have worked as a teacher I also enjoyed participating in quiz competitions as a student. So, all I had to do was channel those experiences. People like Frank Edoho make it look easy but it really isn’t; there was a time Gcue had to come in between the breaks and tell me that my energy was dropping. So, I had to mix being a TV presenter with a quiz mistress. Thankfully, I had fewer lines to memorise since most of the show is I reading out the questions and engaging with the contestants.
Which do you enjoy more, being in front or behind the cameras?
Definitely being in front of the camera because that is where I come alive. Also, shooting a TV show is a collaborative effort; we all draw on each other’s energy. I can’t afford to drop the ball or be the weakest link because my action or inaction affects everyone. It is always great when the crew is rooting for you because it makes you put your best foot forward.
I would love to do more behind the camera because I think that is where the real magic lies; they are the ones, who make sure we come out looking good. For now, my part behind the scenes is majorly on scripting, voicing and producing. Scripting a non-fiction format TV show such as The Movie Buff Show can be a solitary venture; it’s you and your computer, unlike drama series where the writers have workshops and do a lot of discussion. Same with the voiceovers; it’s you and your microphone. Production combines everything together and be quite challenging from concept stage to TV. That is why it was great to collaborate with GCue Studios.
So, what can viewers expect?
An entertaining TV show that would test their brains in a good way. Also, the show has a local Naija feel; we did not set out to copy anybody. We are so fixated on foreign content that we sometimes lose our originality. It was important for us to be ourselves – no fake accents or over the top gesticulations. We also got a good mix of contestants from different backgrounds, which made it very interesting. So, I believe our viewers will be able to see themselves on the hot seat and follow along. For those who have not paid attention to our industry, Nollywood, this show is testament to the good that can come out; we are not fully exploiting our potential. The Movie Buff Show premieres on Saturday, February 4, 2017. It will air at 4: 30 PM on Africa Magic Showcase (DStv channel 151) and show at the same time every Saturday for the duration of Season One, which is thirteen episodes. We are also big on connecting with our fans online via social media.