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Household names like Funke Akindele (Battle on Buka Street) and Kunle Afolayan (Swallow) are known to have started out in front of the camera as actors before finding their way to the top wearing the producer’s hat. While these people should be applauded for their exploits, it is important that attention is also paid to the up-and-coming filmmakers taking similar routes beneath the surface. It is one of Cheesemonger’s major objectives to spotlight young filmmakers and their bold, new ideas. One of these budding filmmakers is Heavens Obule, a name that should ring a bell to many other independent filmmakers because of how well he collaborates with them.
An indie filmmaker, Obule is also an actor who has featured in indie projects as well as mainstream projects such as MTV Shuga, and Skinny Girl in Transit. After attending many producing programmes like the three-month programme at EbonyLife Creative Academy, he decided to venture into producing. In 2021, he founded Take One Production Concepts and organises Night of Shorts, an outing where short films by indie filmmakers are screened.
In this interview with Fancy Goodman, he talks about his journey as an actor, a producer, and in independent filmmaking. This conversation has been edited for length & clarity.
You’re the brain behind Take One Production Concepts, a production company. How has it been running the company, especially as an indie filmmaker?
To be honest, it hasn’t been easy. We just recently registered it as a company and trust me, I was so overwhelmed and excited. When I started as a business name, I didn’t imagine I would metamorphose to a company this soon. But truth be told, it’s been fulfilling. I am enjoying the process.
The production company organises Night of Shorts, an outing for indie filmmakers to showcase their short films. What are the contributions of short films to Nollywood as an industry?
Short films are the way to go now. I think that it’s helping to groom young filmmakers to make mistakes, learn from it and get their hands dirty. It’s also great to see the beautiful power of collaboration.
Why should indie filmmakers showcase their short films at outings like Night of Shorts?
The exposure and connections to be formed are important. I can’t think of any other reason apart from having honest discussions and networking.
You are an actor who has featured in shorts, features and web series. In your experience, what is the difference between acting in these projects?
To be honest, there is no main difference apart from the time frame to complete each project.
What was your experience on the set of MTV Shuga?
It was a dream come true for me! The set was extremely professional and beautiful, and it gave a “New Nollywood” vibe. There were great minds and professionals as well. For someone that has always wanted to be on the show, I wasn’t disappointed, as I thoroughly enjoyed myself
You have been posting audition videos on your Instagram since 2017. When did you realise you wanted to be an actor?
I would say since my third year in the university (2016). So when I finished university in 2017, I went into it professionally in 2018 during my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) posting.
How has acting influenced your producing? Was it when you began acting you decided you wanted to produce?
I started off being very rigid. I knew I had passion for producing but I just really wanted to act. I was like “I want to be just an actor”. In 2020, I had a mental shift that I could be more than an actor and get many of my friends that are actors on my projects. That was when it started.
In Hollywood, actors famously take charge of their careers by producing their own films or hunting for indie filmmakers and scripts they can spearhead. Is this your plan? Or do you just happen to love producing?
I actually love producing. It’s very hard, but I love it! Fun fact – I started producing to be able to get my friends on my project as leads or sub leads while I stay behind the camera.There’s this joy and fulfilment I feel seeing my friends win. I love it! Once in a while, I get to feature in my films, but I never set out with the mindset to play the lead in all my projects.
As a producer, what do you look out for while hiring talents like actors and the directors?
I am very big on energy! If that’s sorted, then I probe for skill. I try to pay more attention to an actor’s attitude and energy because the last thing I need on my set is a pessimistic energy! So, yes, attitude comes first for me!
What have you learnt so far from managing people and their egos on a set?
First, feed people! Loool! As funny as it might sound. I have learnt to feed them well. Feed them with food, respect and care! Everything would fall in place!
Which filmmakers (home and abroad) inspire you? And why?
James Omokwe! Anyday, anytime! That man is who I want to be in future. His work ethic, his zeal, and everything else. I see myself in him every time, and he really inspires me!
You also post film reviews on your instagram. Do you think Nigerian filmmakers receive criticism well? And why do you think filmmakers need film critics?
I don’t think Nigerians have come to the understanding that because someone not liking your film doesn’t necessarily mean the person hates you! They just don’t like it, and that’s fine. Listen to the reason, and improve on your next film! But honestly, we have a long way to go! As for me, I always want constructive criticism from a place of love! But I think some critics don’t come from that angle.
In 2021, you and your team made a feature film, Clout, with just 150,000 naira. This is impressive! One of the major challenges of indie filmmakers is funding. How do you think indie filmmakers can make more features?
“Clout” stressed me. I think collaborating and having “cheap” scripts will help indie filmmakers make low-budget features to test the waters. Filmmaking is really expensive.
What was the inspiration behind Clout?
I wanted to do something that had never been done before and my Director, Bobby Emmanuel Okoye, really wanted to make the film. His drive and passion inspired me to jump on the project.
Besides funding, what other peculiar issues do young indie film producers like you face, and how do you deal with them?
Funding is our main headache o! Give us money to shoot. Aside from that, I can’t think of anything else. Though, getting a good location to shoot is also hell.