Usman Adeyemi, popularly known as, Uzee Concept, came to fame starring in various movies, some of which he produced. Adeyemi who is also a TV host, movie maker and entrepreneur in this interview with ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM says the world is yet to see his best
How did you get into the movie industry?
My inspiration for coming into the industry was basically passion, dedication and the desire to do greater things for the industry, which I’ve had from my childhood. I grew up knowing I love entertainment and movie making.
What are your challenges as a movie producer, actor and entrepreneur?
It’s been rough, especially in 2004. I came into the industry in 2003, and I actually started off as a makeup artiste. It’s been really rough. It’s been crazy; trust me. But it’s just a normal ladder you have to climb in life to make it big. I started professionally in 2002/2003, and that was when a veteran in the industry said I wouldn’t make it fast if I started off as an actor but encouraged me to go behind the cameras. I went to South Africa to learn makeup and special effect. I came back in 2005 and then became one of the most talked-about makeup artists after I shot “London boy” and Simi Opeoluwa who assisted movie ‘London Boy’ gave me an award in 2008 as the best makeup artist. That’s the story from there. The name ‘London Boy’ is everywhere, and then I owned a company called Uzee Concept, the concept is even bigger than me.
My first movie was in Ghana titled ‘Under’, which featured Atuz Frank, Tonto Dike among others. That was actually the first movie Atuz featured in, with Daniel K. Daniel who left Abuja to Ghana. Daniel was an upcoming actor, Tonto was big then; she was on the A list. She was a very good friend of mind. She came over to Ghana to support me in that movie. “Under” came out not too successfully though it was ok because the money I invested came back. I actually met Ali Nuhu in 2008 and that was the same year he won the Best Male Actor award. In the same movie I won the Best Make-up artist. He then said to me, Uzee you have to go back to the North; you have to give back to the North because that is where you came from. So, after my movie in Ghana, I realised Ali was stating the obvious. That was how I came into the Hausa movie industry and I needed to do something different.
I just didn’t want to do a regular Hausa movie. My aim was how to join the two industries together Nollywood and Kannywood. So I came up with a script called ‘Wata Sheria’ and brought in Jim Iyke, Ali Nuhu, Ahmed and others. I planned a comedy titled Oga Abuja, incorporating Igbo concept and the movie came out a mega hit. The last movie that actually launched me as a mega producer in Kannywood is ‘Oga Abuja’ and from that day, everybody knew Uzee in the north. Afterwards, I shot another movie titled “MAJA” featuring Osofia. Uzee became a household name. I also had another project which I brought in Osofia, and it was inter-religion and inter cultural. It was very thick in terms of how to connect both north and southern part of Nigeria, not only artistically but also in reality.
MAJA also launched me globally. It also gave me the United Nation Award. It gave me AMVCA and many more awards because of the message it carries even in Hausa. From there onward, I had to go to my first love, which is acting. I have been doing some movies in Kannywood. My first major movie was in Mike Ezuruonye’s movie Lagos Real Fake Life. I also starred in Make Room. The movie is not yet released, but it is going to serve as an avenue to judge my acting prowess.
As a northerner who has been acting and producing movies in the North, when you look at the conservative nature of the industry, it seems women are not given the same treatment like their male counterparts. What is your take?
It depends on how you started off your acting career. For example, if you started your acting career basically from the north, that would affect you. But for me, I can’t limit myself as an actor in terms of passing across messages to the general public because it won’t be passed thoroughly. The aim of making movies is to pass across messages.
(Cuts in) …because It seems the northern movie critics don’t really care about what the men do in movies like the women. Why?
Like I said, the culture and tradition hinder women from the North to do certain things. Women have limitations. Take it or leave it, and it’s been brought into the business of showbiz. There’s a limit you can go as a woman in the North as it concerns the movie industry. For instance, Rahama Sadau exceeded her limits and it caused a lot of problems for her. But she still pushed on because she has a larger dream, she believes she’s not supposed to be limited to expand her knowledge and expertise in the industry. Today, she’s everywhere. When you go online, she’s one of the most talked-about because of the controversies she has gone through. She was bullied but accepted across the world. Everyone is fighting to have her star in their movies because she is already a face in the industry.
You recently co-produced a movie that featured top Nollywood actors like RMD, Alexx Ekubo, Ali Nuhu and others?
The movie is called Zero Hour. My concept is to merge both industries together. There is nothing like Kannywood and Nollywood on a separate note. They are all Nollywood. My major target is on how to make all movie industries to be one. If you noticed, every movie I do now in terms of stars, I bring in people from every part of the country to make it international standard. When Zero Hour came up, I had to bring in different actors. For example Rahama Sadau had problem in the North but she has the audience globally. Ali Nuhu was part of it. He has good followership. I brought in RMD who has a global face; Alex Ekubo who is one of the most talked about right now. I also brought in Robert Peters from the USA to come direct the project. It is a combination of technically sound and actors who are professionals, and have good viewership. Coming in as the producer, I tried to take it global.
Taking it globally you have to shoot it right because anything I’m doing now, it has to be of international standard. That’s why I don’t do many movies now. Thus, shooting a movie that will be watched globally involves a lot of money. I have a Talk Show.
What are you working on now?
Make Room. It’s one of the projects I want Nigerians to watch and it is in the Hausa language. The movie is based on a true story, a global issue that everybody knows. But it’s coming in a different style. The movie is about the kidnap of the Chibok Girls, and it’s going to tell the world, Nigeria and Africa what really happened. It will also tell the world we can produce a movie of international repute.
How much did you spend for the production of Make Room and did you receive any support from the government?
It is actually a self-funded project. But we got support from the government in terms of ammunitions, army, and police. It’s a N200m project. We are still spending. It’s a movie with global viewership. We are spending per day. It’s a huge collaborative project in the sense that we are editing it internationally; in the USA and China. Then we are bringing it back to Canada for the sound and all that.
What’s the last good book you read?
My friend’s book called Something Deep
Abuja is hardly recognised as a destination of choice for shooting movies. Why did you decide to work in Abuja?
Abuja is like home for me. I have lots of people around me always who can always make things easy for me. So that’s why it is easy for me to shoot in Abuja.
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