Nigeria’s movie industry is divided into Nollywood/Kannywood and it takes a very uniquely talented person to marry them both. That is what Uzee Usman has done. The young Kannywood producer holds two degrees in Political science and English from University of Abuja and University of Jos respectively. He also studied Special Effects in South Africa, in this interview with Stellamaries Amuwa he encapsulates the Nollywood industry.
Would you agree that your popularity is more in the north, and why is that?
I started my career in the north, so yes. I was also born there and grew up there in Kaduna. I was in Lagos though, for a while until 2008 when somebody reminded me of being from the northern part of the country and suggested that I go back and give back to my people, which I did, almost immediately.
It is northern movies that really brought me fame. I am the producer that started this merger thing in the industry today; that is bringing people from the kannywood to join Nollywood stars to do a movie.
How did get into the movie industry?
I began my movie career in 2003. I started as a make-up artiste which earned me an award at the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) in 2008. I also won the best Makeup Artiste for the movie, ‘London Boy,’ and gained experience and contacts that launched me into stardom.
I then started acting, after which I tried presenting before upgrading to a movie maker and entrepreneur. I soon became very famous in Kannywood movies and even produced some of the movies. I am the CEO of Uzee Concept too.
Over the years, I have produced more than 20 movies in Nollywood and Kannywood, which earned me multiple awards including the United Nations Peace Achievers Award. I’ve also been Best Film African Viewer’s Choice Awards (AMVCA) winner in 2014, Best Producer, B.U.K, Best Film Maker (North), Actors Screen Award, Best Movie Producer, Afro-Hollywood Awards London 2016, and lots more.
My movies so far include: ‘Maja,’ ‘Oga Abuja,’ ‘Under,’ ‘Red Line,’ ‘Hassana Da Hussaina,’ ‘Thorny,’ ‘Power Of Tomorrow,’ ‘Almost Perfect,’ ‘Dark Closet,’ ;If I Am President’ and ‘Makeroom.’
I also host the most talked about talk show in northern Nigeria called, ‘Taurarin Zamani,’ which airs every Saturdays and Sundays on African Magic Hausa at 5:30pm, Arewa24, and AIT, at different times.
What inspired your choice of going the entertainment way?
It’s all about the passion! I have a passion for entertainment, movie making, especially acting. That passion has driven me to where I am today and to the glory of God, I have achieved a lot doing it.
How do you cope with challenges?
I am the kind of person that never allows anything to bother me. My friends know me to believe in the phrase; ‘everything will be alright.’ So basically, I sleep over things and then let it go. I am a very simple human being and I know that no matter what, I will sleep and when I wake up the next morning, I’ll let all the worries go.
As one the famous Kannywood personality, what has been the challenges in the industry?
There wasn’t really any big challenge that I had to deal with because when I came, the top actors at the time just let me take the position that I prove to be worthy of. The only thing I will say is that there is a lot of competition which is healthy in every profession. But in the north, there isn’t a lot of competition because there’s just a few of us. I can say that there is just about five of us that can take the industry from the north to the south successfully and be accepted immediately especially when you consider language barrier, education and a host of others. Most fans do not care where you come from as long as you give them what they really want.
Would you say you are where you ought to be in the industry?
No I’m not, but I thank the Almighty God for the level He has brought me so far. I can proudly say that I am a United Nations ambassador on SDGs, Nigerian ambassador to Mac- Arthur Foundation Global, amongst others.
And what would you say is the position of Kannywood in Nigeria movie industry so far?
Let me say this; in Nollywood there are branches and of all those branches, Kannywood is the one that’s most reckoned with. We have stars that have emerged from Kannywood and are in a competitive circle with those in the southern part of the country. Kannywood has the largest branch in terms of fame and sales so much it has generated huge revenue for the government.
So why did you say that there is only one industry and that is Nollywood, in a recent statement?
The reason is that, so many braches are springing up like Kannywood and Yorubawood and more, it’s wrong. We are all Nollywood but Kannywood, specifically, stands out because, at some point, that branch was not associated with southern movie makers until people like me came in from somewhere to effect the merger and make sure it works. In movies, language is not a barrier. We watch Indian movies, we watch Latin and American movies and some of these languages we do not understand. I believe in differentiating but we all are still under Nollywood. Like it is in Bollywood. Indian movie industry also has a series aspect and some of the top artistes seen in the series do not even appear in the movies.
How do you balance work and leisure?
Trust me, out of the 12 months in a year, 11 months for me is totally work. I take a break in December every year but lately, since I started appearing in television shows, December has become one of the most busy period for me because of the event of the year. I can’t say I have a love life because I’m totally dedicated to my job.
How do you achieve your urbane look?
One of the main secret of my urbane look is that I’m a free minded person. I go to bed every night with no ill feelings. If I must sleep, I sleep like a baby. I wake up every morning and I look fresher than I was the night before.
What does fashion and style mean to you?
It means a lot to me, half of my earnings go to fashion. I wear almost all the top designers in Abuja and Lagos. I am an ambassador to a very top brand designer. I like fashion, you cannot be in the circle of entertainment and not be top notch in terms of fashion. Fashion opens the door for me, it’s a must for anybody that is in the limelight.
What fashion accessories would you not be caught without?
Rings, wristwatches, belt.
What are your most memorable moments?
One of my memorable moments while growing up was when I got the call that my first visa to travel to London had been approved. That was some years ago. I could not sleep till the next day but just held onto my passport all through the night.
What is your philosophy in life?
Everybody will be alright, don’t take things too serious. Always remember that you will die one day.
What is your advice to young Nigerians?
Always believe in yourself. Don’t fake another person, you can achieve your own goals. Don’t allow politicians to use you and dump you. Always start from somewhere, time is never a problem. You can be 35 and still pursue a degree in the university, it’s not a big deal. Always be positive and be yourself, be prayerful and dedicated to whatever you do.
What is your message to your fans?
To my fans I will always be that little boy you have supported to this level and I promise to always bring out my positive vibe especially on my show. I promise that you will keep seeing good products from me. ‘Makeroom’ is on the way by the grace of God, before the middle of 2019, it will be out. Then there is ‘Lagos Street Life’ to expect too.