I’m everybody’s little sister in Nollywood – Ivie Okujaye

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I vie Okujaye is an Economics graduate of the University of Abuja. The Delta State-born actress who is referred to as ‘Little Genevieve’ due to her striking resemblance to Genevieve Nnaji proved her mettle with her first role in Alero’s Symphony alongside popular R&B star Faze.

An Amstel Malta Box Office winner, Ivie has won multiple prestigious awards such as the African Movie Academy Award (AMAA) and the African Magic Viewers Choice Award (AMVCA). She is also a scriptwriter and some of her works include “The Volunteers”, a movie shot in Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria by Desmond Elliot. Her first ever produced movie, Make a Move is due to hit the cinemas from June 6, this year. In this interview, she talks about the movie, her career and the challenges of delving into movie production.

BY JULIET EBIRIM

What’s your latest movie, ‘Make a Move’ all about?

‘Make a Move’ has to do with healing through the arts. A lot of movies have tried to explore and eradicate the issue of abuse. We are not focusing on abuse, but importantly, on how you can get out of that situation you wouldn’t want to find yourself. It’s about emancipation; taking a step and finding the audacity to do something that would help your life.

Why did you decide to preach this message through music and movie?

Actually, I intentionally did not want to say, it’s either music or dance. I prefer to say it’s for the arts. Although it’s more about dance, I’m hoping that people would see that the characters change the direction of their lives through the artistic choices they made. So, it’s really not about music, it’s about healing through dance.

Ivie Okujaye

Talk about the soundtrack you did for movie?

I’m an adventurous person, I do a bit of different things. And as an actress, I should be able to do a bit of different things. Singing is something I can do and I intentionally did the soundtrack for the movie. It’s not a single per se, rather it’s a soundtrack for the film and people liked it.

Why ‘Make a Move’?

I’m very particular and partial towards the affairs of women and children. If I have any opportunity to help a child or a woman, I would do so. That doesn’t necessarily make me a feminist. If I also come across a man who is passing through a difficult situation, I’ll equally assist the person. I’m not against the opposite sex. I’m just more passionate about the affairs of women and children because they need help more and I’m very passionate about my art and craft. So, I had to bring these two things that I love together to enable me preach something that I hope would inspire a lot of people.

Does this have to do with a past experience?

Not at all. But I insist that people who have not had bad experiences in life need to rise up and help those of them who have been badly hit by the storms of life. I have not experienced any kind of abuse,but I have seen and heard about people who go through these things and to me, it’s injustice and I just felt I had to use this medium to lend my voice.

What has the reception been like?

At the moment, what is making waves is the trailer. But the film will be out in a few days from now. Judging from the trailer, the reception has been heart-warming. A lot of people loved it, giving the fact that it’s a dance movie. Though dance is an aspect of it, but what most people don’t realise is that there is more to it than just dance. Hopefully, when they see it, they’ll get to understand it better.

What was the experience like, being your first movie?

I was lucky to have selected tested-hands that helped make the experience a glide. It was like having a wonderful ride. The cast and crew were fantastic. It was so easy, we met our target everyday. Everybody was united. I know it’s my film, but it’s one of the best set I’ve ever been on.

You set an initial target of N30m for the project, were you able to meet that target?

That particular issue is a bit tricky. What was meant was that other films have met a particular target and I hope to either meet or beat the target. When you embark on a project, you hope for the best. You look at what your competitors are able to make in terms of return on investment and you hope to beat their record. But, I can’t in all fairness sit here and give you a definite amount I hope the movie will make when it hit the cinemas. The film industry is probably one of the risk filled industry in the country, because there’s no assurance that you’ll recoup whatever you spent producing the film.

Do you hope to continue with music?

I would like to conquer the movie industry for now. You can never to be too old to chase new dreams. So, if I’m able to do this by God’s grace, I would definitely venture into a few other things, expand a bit and if people like it, I’ll be dancing to my songs in a club one day, who knows!

Ivie Okujaye

Ivie Okujaye

What has been different about you since you joined Nollywood?

I’ve been very fortunate because I’ve heard a lot of people tell stories of woes. But I’ve not had any. I was lucky to come in through a platform that is respected and recognised which is Amstel Malta Box Office. Aside that, I’ve worked very hard to open windows of opportunities, to keep the doors that AMBO created for me open. I’ve never had any experience that would drive me out of the industry. I’ve had challenges, which is normal with every job.

Are you saying you’ve not been harassed sexually?

No, I haven’t. Most people I work with, take me as their younger sister before anything else. They tend to draw me close as a friend and to advise me. When I go to them for any consultation, they are happy to help. I’m someone you’ll just enjoy talking with, that has worked for me. Maybe, that’s why I find it easy, I’m everybody’s little sister.

How daring can you be in interpreting roles?

I’m not too daring, I feel that there’s a way things can be tastefully interpreted without necessarily being too visual or graphic. There’s a way you can express love and romance in a film without doing certain things that would make the Censors Board have issues with the film. There are a thousand ways to interprete one thing.

What if you were expected to interprete it that way?

If I can’t do it, I’ll politely decline. There are some actors and actresses who have gone nude, but it doesn’t paint them black. It just means that they have a more flexible mindset on how professional they can be. It’s still a job at the end of the day. I’m just not flexible in my mindset yet. I came into the industry through the platform of AMBO and I’ve managed to set a standard for myself. It would be nice to maintain that standard without distraction.

If you were offered a large sum of money about 10 million Dollars, wouldn’t you be ‘flexible’?

The money will not influence my decision. It’s the story that will influence my decision. The movie that gave Lupita her award is titled ‘Twelve years a Slave’. She exposed certain parts of her body, it’s a historical story that has to do with what the blacks went through in the past. It’s possible to move me based on the story than the money because my passion and my craft revolves around stories and how I can interprete them. So, it’s not about the money, it’s about the story and the effect it will have on the general public.

So, if the story will impact positively on the people, you’ll go for it?

I’m still waiting for that story that will make me throw my borders aside. I’m looking forward to it because if I get it, it means I have grown, to be able to get that kind of story.

How have you been able to avoid scandals and controversies?

Simple, I’m a boring person. Though I’m not an introvert, I’m a sociable person. I rather sit at home watching cartoons than hang out. You are not going to see me in certain places to start spreading rumours. I’m grateful it hasn’t happened. I live a very simple life and I’m a simple person. It would be a shame for anybody to paint another picture of that.

Who do you look up to in the industry?

I don’t necessarily look up to people, I admire them. I admire Kate Henshaw for her down -to- earth approach to everything and her smiles. I love O. C Ukeje’s discipline. I love Majid Michel’s intensity as an actor. Lydia Forson is a very honest actress in the sense that she interpretes whatever character she’s given the way it is. I admire certain things about different people, but I don’t have someone I’d say I want to be like.

Some people refer to you as ‘Little Genevieve. What’s the relationship with her like?

I admire her success, she has created a very prominent career for herself. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet her yet. I like the way she carries herself and I think she’s intelligent. I’ll like her a lot when we eventually meet, I hear she’s simple.

How do you relax and what’s your fashion sense like?

I enjoy watching cartoons and I always find time to go swimming, because as a human being, health and fitness is important. Fashion wise, I don’t go with the trend. The most important thing for me in fashion is comfort. I don’t care how beautiful the shoes are, if I can’t walk in it, I won’t wear it, except it’s for acting. Arthritis is real and I’m not going to forget that because I’m still young. Comfort and decency is my watchword.

Talk about your relationship?

I’m in a relationship with the same person I have known even before I hit stardom. It’s a friendship that has blossomed over the years, and by God’s grace it will continue to grow.

What was the attraction?

What attracted me to him and what I admire in people is a certain level of humility mixed with confidence. Being able to balance both and I can’t stand sluggishness.

What’s your take on pornography in the movie industry?

It’s not something that is good. I would not associate myself with such practice. But I will not judge those who are into it.

Are you hoping to achieve the kind of success Genevieve has achieved?

I’m hoping to make my own kind of mark. Different people have made marks for themselves. I would like to create something that’s strictly an ‘Ivie Okujaye’ success. A lot of people have made different success stories, I admire them, but I’m a different person from them, so I hope to make my own mark too.

If you could change anything in the industry, what would it be?

Piracy. I would completely eradicate it. A lot of people are working so hard, taking a lot of risks and pirates would just come and enjoy everything. If piracy can be completely eradicated, you’ll see how much stronger the industry would be. There would be enough funds for projects and people will want to invest more in film making.

Now that you are tilting towards filmmaking, what is it you’d be doing differently from other filmmakers?

I’m not going to sound like I’m the new ‘Jesus’ of Nollywood. A lot of producers are doing the right thing, but they’re also facing the same challenges that I’m facing such as funding, piracy and the environment. I intend to take some of the standards that these producers have and run with it and hopefully make my own mark on the industry.

What challenges do you face as a new actress?

Stereocasting is a slight challenge. The industry tends to give the same types of roles to actors and actresses because of how they look and what they enjoy doing. In my case, I’m athletic, not necessarily tom boyish. I tend to get roles that have to do with that and sometimes, it can stereotype you.

Sometimes, stereocasting helps you make money, but it reduces your artistic abilities because you tend to forget how to do other things. That’s one of the challenges I face. The other challenges have to do with regular jobs which is getting the opportunity to show that you can do better than you did the last time. I’m happy, I’ve not really had major challenges.

What do you hope to achieve with ‘Make a Move’?

I’m hoping to achieve recognition. It would be an honour to hear people and fellow filmmakers applaud my efforts.

 

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