Garlands for game changer, Uduak Isong Oguamanam
It was her birthday over the weekend and to commemorate it, award-winning writer and producer, Uduak Isong Oguamanam, called out close friends, colleagues, fans and family members to a private screening of her latest effort as a filmmaker, Lost in London, a comic movie that continues the adventure of the comic character, Okon Lagos.
A special birthday dinner preceded the screening, which was attended by some industry heavyweights, including former president of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP), Zik Zulu Okafor, actor, producer, director and member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Desmond Elliot; movie director, Niyi Akinmolayan; actress, Uche Jombo; and Sunkanmi Adebayo, who directed the movie that is due for cinema release on June 9.
At the dinner, encomium flowed freely for the multi-talented filmmaker, who, from different scales of objective observations, has applied herself to the tenets of professionalism.
No doubt, Uduak has done well for herself as a writer, producer and entrepreneur and is among the very few female filmmakers in the industry regarded as filmmakers in the professional class.
An accomplished and award-winning writer, Uduak has proved overtime that she can be relied upon and has her eyes on the summit. Married to the very personable Oguamanam and blessed with children, Uduak holds a first degree in Communication and Arts/Russian Language from the University of Ibadan, and a Masters in New Media and Society from the University of Leicester, United Kingdom (UK). She also holds Diploma in French from Alliance Francaise.
A short story writer and screen player, Uduak, who won the 2006 Commonwealth Short Story Award, joined the industry as a writer. She revealed that it was not difficult for her to get into the industry because her elder sister, the very prolific writer, producer and later day director, Emem Isong, was already a notable figure in Nollywood.
“So, it was not too hard for me to get into the industry through her,” she alluded. Writing came naturally for Uduak, who attended the prestigious Berlinale Talent Campus in Berlin, Germany, on the strength of her screenplay, Unfinished Business.
She recalled that as a child, she loved to read storybooks and the natural progression, as she said, is to write, once you are filled with the stories. But to get into Nollywood and be accepted as a scriptwriters, Uduak revealed that she had to write so many screen plays, which at first didn’t get her elder sister’s approval.
She later penned a script, which Emem liked, and today, the rest, as they say, is history. However, in between penning scripts, Uduak worked in the aviation industry, the capital market and also had a stint in a telecommunication firm before heading to the UK for further studies.
“After my Master’s degree in the UK, I looked for the communication jobs, but I was constantly getting banking jobs and I wasn’t interested in that, so I decided to go on my own and produce my very first feature film, Okon Lagos.”
With that blockbuster movie, Uduak literarily walked into Nollywood unhindered. No doubt, the movie’s success story announced her entrance on the scene and made distributors beat the pathway to her office.
So far, Uduak has written a number of critically acclaimed scripts, including A Piece of Flesh, Unfinished Business, Ekaette, Edikan, Through the Fire, Entanglement and Timeless Passion.
She has also co-written Bursting Out, I’ll Take My Chances, Weekend Getaway and several others yet to be released. As a producer, Uduak has signed a couple of works, including Okon Lagos, the sequel Okon Goes To School, Kokomma and the latest one, Lost in London, featuring Bishop Umoh, who is now popular as Okon Lagos.
But why has Uduak continued to feast on the character of the witty semi-illiterate wanna be? She replied: “I want to create an enduring character that will out-live me. One that Nigerians will never forget.
“I mean, we have characters like ‘Amebo’ of Village Head Master, ‘Chief Zebrudaya’ of New Masquerade, ‘Ajasco’ of Papa Ajasco, ‘Osuofia,’ ‘Jenifa’ and so on. “So, I decided to develop a character native to the part of the country that I come from that was a real JJC, going to Lagos for the first time, as I have done, and I came up with the ‘Okon’ character.
“I will say Funke Akindele’s Jenifa inspired me a lot and the character is catching on.” Uduak looks forward to international collaborations, but added that when it comes, she would insist on co-producing works that would appeal to Nigerians.
She insisted that she wouldn’t ever be caught trying to make films that would look like an American film, saying: “My problem is when I watch a Nigerian film trying to be like an American film and failing woefully at that.