Aside being a good actor, soft spoken, baritone voiced, humble David Otse Egwurube, is also a fast rising director and line producer. The gentle actor, who is currently filming at a location in Kaduna, in this interview with ANTHONY ADA ABRAHAM, talks about his passion for the movie industry, his future and why government needs to support filmmakers like himself amongst other sundry issues.
How did you start off in the movie industry?
I started acting in the late ‘80s when I was in primary four. I remember my first stage work was James Ene Henshaw’s ‘A Man Of Character’ and I played the role of Kobina. My class teacher at the time, Mrs Umoete, actually discovered my talent and groomed me and from then on, it was from one play to another. I was at different times, the president of literary, debating and drama society in my primary and secondary schools. As a matter of fact and with gratitude to God, I can say that I was one of the best debaters in my school days.
As a kid, I had two ambitions, one was to become an actor and the other, an accountant but when you have a father who was in sciences either as a doctor or an engineer, you know you had to follow their path not because you want to but because it was compulsion. Entertainers or sports men were tagged failures at the time, so I could not tell my parents that I wanted to study Theatre Arts or anything other than engineering or medical sciences.
Coming into the industry for me, began professionally in 2008, after I voluntarily resigned from where I was working with one of the largest computer firms in the north. I started off as production assistant with the Ultimate MTN Project Fame, 2009-2011. I knew then, that I had all it takes to earn a role in any audition/movie but I wanted to learn the ropes. I wanted to learn from scratch. So while some looked at themselves as too big to start off as assistants, I did it for three years with passion and joy. Along the line, a childhood friend, Mohammed Onu, encouraged me to go professional because of my exploits back in school. He told me of AIT-DAAR Comm and Black Gold Promotion Ventures’ 1st Season the Great Search TV Reality Show. I went for the audition and I was top at the Kaduna venue in 2010. The rest is history.
What was your first production like, I mean your first movie?
After I got back from the TV reality show, I featured in ‘Chronicles,’ a movie directed by Edward Uka. It was the first time I was acting for screen outside reality TV. Though I wasn’t paid a dime for my role, it was the first time I experienced how an actor could be manipulated into playing roles in two different projects without knowing. Of course, the plot was unearthed and it contributed to the reason why the movie didn’t see the light of the day on time and when it eventually did, it was poorly done as different cameras were used and actors got angry and left the set. It wasn’t funny but I got my first pro ugly lesson there. It was Zack Amata who met me in Kaduna for the first time in 2010 and immediately fell in love with my acting and voice. He encouraged me to leave Kaduna for Abuja and immediately gave me one of the lead roles in his TV series, ‘Winners and Loosers,’ where I played the role of Richard Overedjo.
Tell us about the movies you have directed or co-produced and the challenges
In 2011, I featured in a short film project for the London Film School, ‘Waking At Dawn,’ written and directed by a Nigerian based in the UK, Onyinye Egenti. Before then, I had started directing a documentary, ‘Strides of a Giant,’ on NTA Kaduna. I also conceptualised and directed the first 26 episodes of ‘Dialogue, The Peoples Platform,’ a talk show that ran on NTA Kaduna in 2012. But it was Onyinye who first told me to think of directing because I have what it takes. However, It was in 2013 while on the set of a yet to be release series, ‘Kinkisha,’ where I play the role of a king, that my friend, Toka Mcbaror, also began to encourage and say exact things Onyinye had said to me. I had vital contribution to the story of Kinkinsha season 2 alongside the Script writer Smart Conrad. But my first major assistant directorial experience was in the production of ‘The Merry Men’ (the real Yoruba Demons). I have line produced several movies too, but the most challenging experience was with ‘Merry Men.’ It was not easy standing before great actors and veterans in the industry as an assistant director or even to have a one on one contact with people you had watched as a kid back in the day; that could throw you off balance if you do not know your onions. For example, I remember the day the first assistant director was off set and I had to stand in to rehearse and prep the actors for shoot. I almost froze when I was to prep Jide Kosoko, then it was Ireti Doyle and then came RMD and AY, wow! My feet were quivering. But one thing gave me courage, their humility and willingness to take your direction and thoughts. I was blown away by AY’s exceptional humility and professionalism.
Is this your first time starring in a movie in the north?
No. As a matter of fact, most of the projects I have been part of in the past have been set in the northern part of Nigeria. But for political delusion and ignorance of leadership to the importance of film making, the north has the best scenery for cinema and photography. From Kogi to the far northeast, you see pictures that can wow any film maker all over the world. But the leaders in the north are most interested in oil money and federal allocation for their own pockets than to support an industry that will employ majority of the people. Most unfortunate.
As a first timer in the industry, what would it take to produce an internationally recognised film?
First thing is a good story. There can’t be a good film without a good story or script. Secondly a good cast, I mean the right cast. Thirdly, get a creatively good director who is willing to take risks, I tell you, we only have one, two or three of such persons in Nigeria today. When I talk of risks, I mean someone who is not just a seat call shot director. I call them directors by the books. Film making needs people who are willing to take the risk to break rules where no one dares to. The best of film directors or makers are not so loud but quiet yet able to risk in creating the unusual.
Tell us about those that mentored you as an actor and director
I can’t mention all of those who tutored, advised, encouraged, reinvigorated, cared and spurred me directly or indirectly because that is what mentorship entails or mentors do. From the first woman who discovered my talent back in primary school and who believed in me when others couldn’t channel my youthful energy to positive results, Mrs.Umoete (I look forward to uniting with her someday if she is still alive). Of course, the schools I attended (ASCL Staff Nursery, Primary and Secondary, Ajaokuta, had formative impact in what I am today). Mrs Ngozi Opene, Pius Okugbere, Zack Amata, Dr Julie Amego, Olu Jacobs, RMD, Ayo Makun AY, Mohammed Onu, Toka Mcbaror, all have significantly impacted my journey so far and I can’t thank them enough. They inspired me and have continued to be a source of courage. God bless them!
Would you say that the Nigerian movie industry has good script writers today?
Yes we do.
How would you compare our scripts today with what was obtainable in the past?
I think we have better scripts and script writers today than in the past. Film or story telling is gone past the usual ritual killing and bad imaging of our very existence as a people. There is a new era where topical issues and research based stories are the in thing. We need to get the world to know our story and who we are in terms of rich socio-cultural heritage, inventions and also how we have also evolved. I love stories that, in the end, gives the audience the assurances that we can also develop and use film to woo developmental investors to our communities. Look at what RMD’s ‘Oloibiri’ film did. It opened a lot of eyes to that community. Such is our story. Not just violence or selling us to the world as perverts or degenerated people on earth. The truth is that there is no nation on earth where evil isn’t found. The question is how you portray the evil and how they are resolved positively. I’m not saying don’t expose evil whether it be corruption in the home, government, private sector, communities etc., and boy! I hate injustice and the seemingly craziness going on in the socio-political and economic life of our country and I would want to do a lot vie film towards correcting these malaise. But in the end, I should not sell my country and hardworking Nigerians in the gutters or to the world as though hell is resident in Nigeria. No!
Who are your favourite actor locally and internationally at the moment?
Locally I don’t have one but several including RMD, Joke Silva, AY, Genevive Nnaji, Blossom Chukwujekwu and host of some new actors on the block. Internationally, I’m in love with Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman even until today, Angelina Joli, Brad Pit and more.
What’s your take on the entertainment industry today?
Growing and becoming intensely competitive so you got to keep working and self-schooling if you know what I mean. There is an everyday evolution of some sort and you got to stay relevant through hard work. We also hope it gets better in terms of remuneration like in other climes
Have you ever gotten any support from government?
What is your take and suggestion as someone finding it difficult to access funds to make movies?
These so called promises or provision are merely on the lips and in paper. These funds are actually hijacked by non-industry cabal and used for their selfish gain and their families. Where they even make you come close to getting to filling out forms to access these funds, they get you turned off through unrealistic collateral bullshit. Bottom line is, real film makers have no access to these funds in reality. I think government should have the courage to impress it on BOI to give genuine film makers collateral free loans. For example, we have a couple of stories that we want to embark on that I tell you if we get the funding and support we need, it would blow your minds out in quality, content and delivery. But if I tell you the budget, the bank will ask me for unrealistic collateral. But if it were politicians or one big general connected to the ‘ogas at the top,’ they will ask them nothing. Film making is capital intensive because it’s one industry that employs the most per time.
Aside acting what other things do you do as leisure?
I work almost round the clock because bills are real. I do legit businesses and hustling by the side but when it’s time for leisure, I just hang out with reasonable friends, watch football. I used to love playing football too but these days, I am not as consistent. I listen to music, love to sing too especially gospel.
What is your message to the upcoming actors?
Be real to yourself, work hard to be the best at what you do. Talent and gift can take you to the top but only good character and attitude can sustain or keep you there. Remember you can’t fast track destiny so take it one step at a time. Avoid the get rich, quick stardom syndrome, we all have our space, time and season so stop competition and comparing.
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