Akin Omotosho is a Nigerian South African-based movie producer and director who recently won the Best Director Award in the 2016 edition of the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards, which held in Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos. According to the director, he came into filmmaking by reading up books about movie making and shooting shorts alongside his classmates. Currently living and working in South Africa with his family, Akin in this interview with MUTIAT ALLI, talks about what is currently on the front burner and his future plans. Excerpts:
Congratulations on winning Best Director at the 2016 AMVCA. How has the journey so far been?
The journey has been amazing. I am truly grateful. I entered the industry after Drama School in 1997 and to still be able to be in the industry and given an opportunity to contribute is a true blessing. The journey isn’t over yet, mine is an ever-growing quest. In 1995, I made a decision at drama school to become a filmmaker. I taught myself about filmmaking by shooting shorts at drama school using my classmates (I owe them big time), reading everything I could find about films and watching as many films as I could. After graduation, I got cast in a TV series and I used the money from that television series to fund my first professional short film called THE KISS OF MILK. That short film became my calling card when I moved to Johannesburg. That short film got me opportunity to make two short films: THE NIGHTWALKERS and THE CARETAKER (which was made as part of a programme that was looking for new directors). With three short films under my belt, myself and a group of friends co-funded my first feature film GOD IS AFRICAN which was shot in 2001. Since that time I have directed a lot of episodic television, two more shorts, two documentaries, produced six feature films and directed three more feature films.
Where there moments of doubt?
Most definitely. The challenge is to not let the doubt cripple the creative process. I have been truly blessed to still be making films. When I think back to that young man on campus dreaming of telling stories – I thank him.
Why did you decide to make this movie, ‘Tell me sweet something’?
As a student, I watched Love Jones and was really inspired by that film and wanted to make a film like that. I also love love songs so Tell Me Sweet Something was born out of both those inspirations.
As a director, what extra mile do you have to go to bring a movie to life?
I heard an old filmmaker say once: “Film making is a marathon.” He was right! That statement defines everything around what a director goes through in bringing the vision to life. If you can imagine what goes into the preparation for a marathon (the stamina, the patience, the exhaustion), then you can imagine what the filmmaking team has to do in order to take something that started in someone’s creative mind, to be written on paper, to be funded (which takes years), to be cast, shot, edited, marketed and presented. You have to be ready to commit fve years or more of your life to a project. That’s the extra mile.
How do you juggle working in Nigeria and South Africa?
It’s all story dependent. The team approaches each story and we have been fortunate to be able to tell stories in both countries.
Did it cost so much to do this movie?
Every film is has a cost and the challenge is to be able to make it (it requires a lot of people) and make your investors happy. The film was funded by a team of crowd funders, The National Film and Video Foundation, The Gauteng Film Commission, Mvest Media, Ladies And Gentlemen, Pana TV and the South African Department of Trade And Industry. Tell us about the challenges you face when shooting a movie Every film has its challenges. In our case, there were two moments where we weren’t sure if we were going to get the film made. To have overcome that is amazing. I mentioned the crowd funders above. There was a moment in prepping the flm where the two major funders dropped out within months of each other and it really seemed like the flm wasn’t going to be made. Fortunately, this is a team effort and along with the team we were able to recalibrate our process and we held a crowd funding evening to raise the additional funds. That crowd funders got us close to our goal and on that evening we met Mathew of Mvest Media (who had been invited to that evening by a friend) and his company ended up investing in the film. To have overcome that and not be crippled by the challenge was incredible.
Why did you decide to move to South Africa and work there, did you encounter any particular challenge in Nigeria that informed your decision?
My father got a job at the University of the Western Cape and we moved to South Africa in 1992. I was 17 years old at the time and in high school.
How can you compare the Nigerian and South African movie industries?
I think both industries are exciting and both have a lot to learn to from each other and it’s great to see more collaborations between the two countries.
Do you have piracy issues in South Africa as much as we have here in Nigeria?
Yes indeed. It’s a big challenge. Piracy is a problem worldwide. I try to get people to understand that it is theft. I support all initiatives to end piracy.
What do you look out for when casting actors for roles?
What are you currently working on?
I am in post production on two films. Watch this space.
Do you think it is time for the AMVCA’s to migrate to a full jury-based system or retain its current format?
I think the current format is perfect