Adebayo: Nollywood is open for competition

• Our Concern Is How To Create Enabling Environment
Since playing the lead role in Femi Lasode-produced Sango: The legendary African King, Wale Adebayo has appeared in a lot of flicks, soaps and others. The lawyer-turned-actor, who has been off the scene, tells OMIKO AWA that he will soon be back with something big.

What led you to acting?
Well, basically I have always had a creative spirit. It was almost a certainty that somehow my spirit and the acting/film industry will eventually collide and it did while I was still in class three in Satellite Secondary School, Satellite Town, Lagos. I joined the dramatic society in the school, and as they say, the rest is history.

With the film, Sango: The Legendary African King, bringing you to limelight and making your fans to call you Sango, how do you feel being called that name?
I got used to the name after a while. I could not even get anyone to call me by my real name; worse still some of my closest friends had my name saved on their phone as Wale Sango. While I was trying to avoid the name, a friend told me the harshest reality that rather than shy away from it, I should embrace it as a brand name. It was not easy, but I started by changing my Instagram handle to @sangooriginal. So, somehow, I just followed the flow. The movie Sango was that huge in the industry that time, it gave me a perspective of how much Nigerians love their cultural stories.

You were quoted as saying acting could no longer pay your bills and as such you relocated to the United States of America. Are you still into acting or what are you doing now?
Ah yes, but it was not just not paying my bills that was the issue, as the industry was improving in quality, it was also creating a great divide between being a professional actor that knows his/her onion and being a social media savvy. We are all in the social media savvy train now. I have not done any major acting here in the United States. It’s not easy here too. However, the process has been established and hopefully something will break soon.

Does the Nigerian movie industry have any future for practitioners, especially with actors getting peanuts for their roles?
Like I said earlier, the industry has been thrown wide-open right about now and the competition among filmmakers is becoming fierce. We now have other platforms like Iroko (the Netflix of Nigeria) competing with DSTV to create and buy contents on daily basis. The industry has expanded now, we are moving into animations/cgi (common gateway interface) like what Komotion Studios just did with Sango from another perspective. All we need now is just that small push to begin to have our movies officially screened in multiplex across the world. Industry professionals will find their way to the platform and for those who can’t compete, well, it is going to be really hard, because these young ones are not backing down.

If you are to compare and contrast the Nigerian movie industry with its American counterpart, what are the things you will want us to add or drop?
It would be pushing it too far, trying to compare the two industries. Although we are uniquely alike in the sense that we started off from the scratch too and we have pushed the boundaries of our movies to being a household phenomenon in Africa, eventually, if we keep on this part that, we would be able to bridge the gap. A lot of people in America are actually working tirelessly to see that something is done about it. A yearly Nollywood in Hollywood event just started in Los Angeles (LA) and three movies that have been outstanding in Nigeria would be shown at the cinema in Los Angeles. It is gradual, but it has started.

With the current paucity of funds to do quality films in Nollywood, can it still maintain its position as the second highest film producing industry in the world?
It is actually second and third. Second largest in terms of what we churn out and third as per revenue base and there is no other industry that has sprang up to replace Nollywood in terms of creating and releasing movies. Don’t forget our industry keeps expanding and improving each day, so, I know eventually we shall see the silver lining.

Are the various guilds that make Nollywood still relevant, when they cannot put things right in the industry or care for its growth?
Guilds are always important even though the Nigerian entertainment guilds, especially the film industry don’t seem to have the bite to strike at the heart of the problem between practitioners and investors. We can’t scrap them, we have to keep believing that some day, sanity will reign and new set of administrators who are not selfish will come.

What is your take on CBN promising to pay more attention to the creative industry in the country, as a way of repositioning it to bring in more revenue?
Everybody has been paying attention to the creative industry. During the tenure of Goodluck Jonathan, the Bank of Industry (BoI) started giving grants to filmmakers. Our issues are no longer that of finding people to invest in our industry, but more on how do we create an enabling environment where investors will get returns on their investments. It is always the question every potential investor will ask. How do I make my money back? No matter all the business profile or module you show on how the money will be made, it just does not sound encouraging where Nigeria is concerned.

How do Americans and Africans in diaspora see Nollywood movies?
Differently and intriguing, but above all they love the realistic storylines.

How do you see actors turn producers and directors overnight? Does this speak well of the industry and what are the likely effects on movies output?
My brother all die na die (pardon my Pidgin). The country needs restructuring not just the movie industry. It is only when each unit of filmmaking can see money coming in from each department before the proliferation of dual roles will end. It is not like Hollywood actors or directors don’t do the same thing; they do, but in their own case, they are more organised, while we are still struggling. As I said earlier, the Nigerian movie industry is moving in the right direction and we will eventually get there.

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