Kunle Afolayan is a known name in the movie industry. One of the children of the legendary movie maker, Ade Love, the award winning producer, in this interview talked about his successes, fears and prospects, among other things.
HAVING grown up under the wings of a successful entertainer back in the days, what memories of your childhood have you?
I have so many of them and that has helped me in moulding myself into what I have become today. Despite the fact that my father was wealthy and well known, I lived as a child whose parents were striving to survive. The money my father had then was used in feeding multitude, so there was no such attention for us. Also, the kind of training we had was different. I practically grew up on the street, learning street trades and all, so although I was seen as been born with a silver spoon, in the actual sense, it was a wooden spoon. And today when I look at what we went through then and how we managed to survive, it helps me in telling my stories better, because I was able to cut across people in different background, age grades and class.
Were you ever a part of your father’s productions?
No, the closest I got was going to locations sometimes to see how things were done. And when they realise that we were disturbing, they would send us back home. But when I was around age 14, my father started sending me on tour with the other members of the group, where we travel to other states and through that I was able to learn the trade and business of film making.
Why did you take a long break off the screen after your role, Aresejabata in Saworo ide?
I was working at a bank when I took up the role of Aresejabata then and so I had to take time off work to play that role, thereafter I went back to my job. Two years after, Agogo eewo was shot and I also managed to features in few other films. But it got to a time that I couldn’t combine both careers any longer, so I had to make a decision on what I want to do. So I resigned from my job in 2004 and set up my company.
When exactly did you develop the passion for film making?
It has always been there, but I started nursing the ambition of being a film maker in early 2000, coupled with the fact that I saw film making started in this country and what was obtainable in the early 2000 was totally different from what it used to be, so I felt that I could contribute my own quota to the industry.
Your movies Irapada, Figurine and Phone Swap are huge successes, what is the inspiration behind them?
I set out to achieve and I’m glad that in a short time that I started making films, it’s been worthwhile. Once I dream it, I actualise it, and that is because I was determined from the onset. I didn’t come into the industry to be famous or make money, but because I had a dream to revolutionise the industry in my own little way and contribute my own quota from my experience while growing up into what I think the industry should be. And those are all the elements I’ve put into my films and I thank God that they have really worked.
In times of finances, manpower, intelligence and all, how much do you put into your productions?
I put everything into it, I’m always at the realm of affairs and I’m the executive producer of all my films. I also raise the funds for them, I direct them and I see to all the departments. It has not been easy though, but it always turn out to be how it was dreamt, because of the hard work that is being put into it. More so, the kind of team I work with right from the beginning have been dedicated and they always share my passion and dream. And that is why we have been able to get it up to this level.
Judging from how much you invest in your productions, how do you monetise your creativity?
The profit comes from mileage sometimes and not money, because very few people make the kind of films that I make, in terms of budget and such films really can’t recoup their money from just this market. You have to have other sources of recouping your investments, which is why I always consider the local and international market and so far, I have no regret whatsoever, because I have always managed to break even.
And where I think I have really gained a lot is that every project I have done always pave way for the next one, it’s like more or less building a platform. One good film would bring some sort of credit and pedigree and that would enable you to do the next one and when you do the next one and it’s still good, that would also pave way for another one, and that has helped a lot.
What exactly does your company, Golden Effect, do?
We are a production company, we are into equipment rental and no matter the level of production, we would coordinate it. We also act as casting agency for productions, both locally and internationally. We line produce for foreign film making industries as well.
You appear to be a very hardworking person, how do you manage the career and being a family man?
The same way Dangote has managed to build his empire and still manage his family, the same way those who started before me Ogunde, Ade Love and others have managed to separate their family from their businesses is the same way I’m managing to do same. There is time for everything and family values are very important. But you should be able to pay bills and you have to work to do that. So my family shares the same thoughts and it has been great.
You recently posted on Facebook that you may not be long, what prompted that?
I didn’t imply that, it was the media that turned it around. I was just talking out loud. I just woke up and I felt overwhelmed, like I was doing too much and I felt it wasn’t healthy. And at the end of the statement, I said ‘what do you think?’ It was more or as if I was seeking advice. I didn’t predict anything like people said.
When it’s time for me to die, I will die, nobody can predict anybody’s death. That morning I just woke up and I felt I had pushed the body too much. I just came back from a shoot and the next thing, I was off to another one. My social life is dead and all I do often now is work and I don’t think that is healthy. So it was just a thought, I didn’t predict my own death.
What challenges do you face as an entrepreneur?
The major challenge of an entrepreneur is funding. I have people I lend money from because I have a deadline on this job and right now the company is broke and that is how it has always been for sole proprietors, especially when you are the chairman of the company. So funding is the only and major thing that I am facing. Decision making is not a problem because I know what I want and I cut my coat according to my cloth.
How do you think the Yoruba sector of Nollywood can be improved?
In terms of the quality of Yoruba movies, they have better stories and their films are better understood compared to the English speaking ones. The only thing I think they lack which they’ve improved upon is the production value. Looking at most of the English speaking movies these days, they even lack content, there is no story and all there is to it is glamour. You can tell five minutes into the film what would happen at the end of the film.
It’s a general problem though, which I think cannot be collectively solved because it is in other parts of the world. As big as Hollywood is, there are people who are producing DVD and high quality films, while others produce very low quality films. So it’s just a free industry where freedom of expression is allowed and you can pick your phone and make a film.
What is your next project, October 1 all about?
Though the date depicts the Independence Day, it is not purely a Nigeria story. It sets against that period, so everything that happened in the film starts on September 6 and ends on October 1, 1960, which was when Nigeria got her independence. The story is about a crime investigation at a small town called Akote where there was a crime of murder and rape. A Northern Nigerian detective was then summoned by the colonialists to resolve the case before Independence Day. The movie would be released early next year.
Your brothers Gabriel and Aremu are equally good actors, why do you hardly feature them in your movies?
It would be a wrong casting if I feature my brothers in a movie because I want them to be a part of the production. I know some families in the industry that does that and I have explained it to them before. It is absolutely wrong casting.
I can’t imagine me playing the role of a policeman in a movie, while Gabriel plays the criminal. It is very wrong. The only way you can justify such casting is if he plays my brother. Even if we are both playing roles that are not linked in a movie, professionally, it is wrong. The Wayans brothers for instance, play the role of brothers in all their movies. Dharmendra and his children in any Indian movie would play father and children and the same goes for Amitabh Bachchan and his children. It is only in this country that a whole family plays diverse roles in one movie.
Professionally, it is wrong and I will never do it. If I’m not in a film and I think any of my brothers would fit into the movie, they will do it. Gabriel understands because I have explained to him several times.
Judging by the few numbers of movies you’ve featured in, it is obvious that you are very selective. So what makes a good script to you?
A good script depends on what you are looking to get and who your audience is. Sometimes you want to write a script and shoot it just for the people of Lagos. Sometimes you might consider Nigeria or the international market.
If you want to write a story for the people of Mushin, your story must have things that the people of Mushin can relate to, they should be able to see a reflection of themselves in the movie and that is the only way it can appeal to them. So a script that tells the story as it is, is a good one.
On the average, how many movies have you featured in since you started acting?
They are less than 20.
What are your favourite movies?
I love Forest Gump which featured Tom Hanks. For me the movie is a classic and it’s a film I watch all the time because I learn a lot from it. Another film that really inspired me was Apocalypto by Mel Gibson. In fact it really helped me when I wanted to produce Figurine. There are films that I study and they have really helped me. And locally, Ti Oluwa ni ile is one of my best films.