…as the movie premieres
Nollywood’s ace producer and scriptwriter, Emem Isong is set to release her directorial debut ‘Champagne’. The movie which was shot in South Africa and America features Majid Michel, Alex Ekubo, Mbong Amata, Tana Adelana, Padita Agu, Susan Peters, Anita Chris amongst others. ‘Champagne’ premieres & starts showing in cinemas nationwide from Friday December 19th. In this interview, she talks about the movie, her career and new found love. Excerpts….
By Juliet Ebirim
Why is the movie titled ‘Champagne’?
I just wanted to do something that is a bit associated with glitz and glamour, so I decided to name the lead character ‘Champagne’. There’s really nothing more to it.
Did you undergo any training in directing?
Not really, I learnt on the job and besides, I did a bit of theatre directing in the university. I know they’re different, but I’ve worked in film for twenty years, it’s a lot of experience. So, I decided to try my hands at directing.
Do you hope to direct subsequent movies you’ll produce yourself?
No, I don’t think that’s my strong point. First of all, I don’t have the patience. I can’t stay in one place for a long time. I prefer to write and produce movies, I enjoy that more. But once in a while, I will direct.
What was the experience like shooting this movie?
It wasn’t easy, I must say. It was very challenging. I don’t even know why I embarked on this, it was experimental for me. I almost broke my back.
Where did the major challenge come from?
South Africa, actually. Shooting in a terrain that isn’t your comfort zone is crazy, perhaps not knowing the right people and all that. It was very challenging. Shooting in America wasn’t really a big deal, because I’ve shot some movies there before.
Why did you shoot in South Africa?
I shot there because I wanted the experience of shooting there. I just wanted something different, so my team and I decide to have fun while shooting.
Would you say directing is more challenging than producing movies?
Personally, I think so. It’s something you have to really contemplate on. Producing is about management, you have a production team and you can delegate duties. Even if you are not there, a lot can be done. Also, I won’t say writing is challenging because it’s a passion, I have a flair for it. I can write at anytime, it’s a God-given talent. I enjoyed directing, I will do it again but not often.
Are we likely to see you before the camera, acting?
No, that’s a no-go area for me. I don’t think I can act and I have to tell myself the truth. I used to do stage-acting though, but I’m not sure I can act.
It’s been 20 years of consistently following this career path, what are some of your high moments?
I think it’s venturing into directing, because I’ve done every other thing I wanted to do: Writing, producing, distribution and I have a training school. I want to see that I have a one-stop shop for the business that I do.
What do you find most fulfilling about what you’ve achieved?
The fact that I have a lot of people who love my movies. Some people feel that the movies I’ve done have caused some positive changes in their lives. That makes me happy. When I go somewhere and I hear someone say “I watch only Emem Isong’s movies”. I try to do the best that I can.
What has kept you going all these years?
God’s grace and my passion for what I do. It hasn’t been easy but I love what I do. I may not be making as much money as I ought to, but if it was about the money, I would have quit a long time ago.
What are your projections for the movie ‘Champagne’ in terms of sales?
I like to be positive and optimistic. I’m projecting N200m. (Laughs). I’m hoping for the best.
What’s your view of the Nigerian movie industry?
I just wish we would be a bit more professional. It’s not just the industry, but the country. We’re still cutting corners here and there. I know it isn’t easy, but we hope that in few years to come, we’ll be able to get that right especially in the area of distribution so that film makers can make the money they ought to.
If you could change anything in the industry, what would that be?
I would love us as a nation to be more encouraging towards the entertainment industry. I like the fact that most of us now do our thing making people appreciate us more. But distribution is still a huge problem, we need more cinemas and outlets, to be able to get these movies out.
Congratulations, you recently tied the knots with your Cameroonian husband, what was the attraction?
I don’t want to talk about this, it’s my private life.
But you’re a public figure…?
Let’s just say we met and fell in love, that’s all.
Have you guys known each other for long?
Yeah, kind of. We fell in love and decided to spend the rest of our lives together. That’s all there is to it. (Laughs).