By Charles Kumolu
Eku Edewor is an actor, producer and television personality. She burst onto African screens as the host of award-winning entertainment show, 53 Extra, which showcased the latest in music, film, fashion, and red carpet events across Africa.
Born Georgina Chloe Eku Edewor-Thorley in London, England to Nigerian and British parents, Eku was raised between London and Nigeria – an experience that gave her opportunity of being exposed to two vastly different environments. The graduate of English and Theatre from the University of Warwick, who trained as an actress at the New York Film Academy speaks on her latest work, Superstar, and feminine issues in the movie industry.
Superstar, a movie you starred in and also worked on as co-producer, is doing very well in the cinemas. There are even talks of it being a blockbuster. How do you feel?
I feel like I achieved what I wanted to achieve, which was to produce a film that I could be proud of. I was the lead producer in Superstar and worked really hard to ensure that I was able to meet the requirements of the script and to give Akay the production he envisioned. I also wanted to make sure we were able to bring scale to the production which is a challenge in Nollywood as funding can restrict one so much. I solved this by finding partners that were willing to go on this journey with us. I am saying a big thank you to Sujimoto, Hotsports Studio and Geely Motors who really supported the vision. I defined myself as a creative producer as that’s where my strengths lie, being able to come up with creative solutions. I think success lies in hiring a team with the talent to give more than what is asked. I mean those who can add their artistry rather than just serve as a functional crew. I think we achieved that with Superstar. Cinematographer, Prod design, Hair Makeup and Costume – all understood the assignment. My job was to guide the team.
Ultimately the film had a very clear vision and Akay had high standards he held himself to in terms of the type of film he wanted to make and I’m so happy we met on this because we both wanted the best for the film. It was exciting working with such a talented young director. He was able to tell his story and support the actors in delivering great performances.
What went through your mind when Inkblot Productions reached out to you to be a part of the film?
I was really happy to get the call from Inkblot. I was a little surprised as we have never worked together before and many people aren’t familiar with me as a producer. It was pretty exciting to be asked to do this. When I learned I was producing two films back-to-back, I was a bit concerned. I don’t like to overburden myself but I ended up working with Matilda Ogunleye who was a co-producer on the projects and was great to work with. And she has so much experience in this industry. If I am honest when I read the initial draft, I wasn’t too excited. I loved the premise but I found myself not connecting to some of the directions the script took. By the time Naz took the script and pruned it, I started to get excited and when we found Queen in the form of Nancy Isime and all the elements started coming together I knew this film had a life of its own.
Tell us about your character in the film. Was it easy connecting to this character, and how did you get into it?
It was easy figuring out Teni. She is a mother and keeps her life private. Although she is supposed to be stern, her caring nature spills into her work and she bonds with Queen. I am similar in the sense that I have one-on-one friendship with people. I rarely do group outings. And I loved getting to know Nancy, we are similar. I was on my phone all the time producing and Teni was on her phone all the time managing Queen. There was no need to fake that. It is funny that recently I have been playing serious women, but, in reality, I’m a goofball and love to joke and have fun.
What do you currently look for in a project. Is it the script, the cast, the logistics, or a combination of elements?
A great story and the team. Also, a great production team with aligned goals. To make quality entertaining work that people will enjoy, I understand cinema here is challenging to crack, but I don’t think you can cheat making a good film. If you have a team of people skilled at what they do and truly passionate about all the elements needed to tell a fantastic story, then I feel like I am doing something worthwhile with my time by being a part of that team.
Akhigbe Ilozobhie was the director you worked with on Superstar. From a producer’s perspective, what are some things you noticed in him in terms of a learning curve that other directors should adopt?
Know the craft, study, know your inspirations, consume the content you want to emulate, have a clear vision, reflect on your work and see where you can improve, and be open to growing. You never stop learning as an artist and Akay is always developing, learning and dreaming. I can see such a bright future in him.
What have you personally noticed that has changed in the movie industry over the past decade?
The production value is getting better and better. What we can achieve on a fraction of the budget of our international competitors is frankly amazing.
What is the landscape looking like for women filmmakers in the film industry right now?
I think there are women like Jade, MA, Kemi, Abimbola Craig, Isioma, Lala, Mrs. Austen Peters, Zulu, Arese, Bunmi, Uyi, and Omoni to name a few that are fighting hard and are really inspiring other women. They are showing other women that it can be done, and that’s a driving force for other women. I am seeing more women wanting to make films. I pray more women also get into crew positions. Film is a vast industry, and there are so many roles women can play that shouldn’t be hindered by stereotypes.
Given the attention on diversity in the film industry, what has your experience been as a female producer and as an actor?
I was privileged to land great opportunities early on, which gave me exposure to get my foot into doors that would have otherwise been shut to me. I feel that if I was looking to get straight into production it would have been harder despite my CV clearly stating I have production experience. People are still surprised when I bring it up or swipe past the projects that I post. I have to keep reminding people I am an actor and producer, not a model and have been for quite some time. I think that is a clear prejudice that women face. When you appear to care about how you look like a woman, one thinks it must occupy your whole time. As an actor, my biggest challenge is how women are represented. I don’t see diverse roles for women. It is always such limited representation. I want to see more stories of women living lives that are not about pleasing men, finding only love, but being vehicles for change, and the hero who saves the day. I want to see more diversity in the representation of women, not all women are hyper glam or can be, and the big parts always seem to be that. There are so many types of women. Let’s see more of them.
In your opinion, what should be the strategy in opening doors for more women in Nollywood?
Men help themselves all the time and it’s not considered sexist until there isn’t one woman in the room. Meanwhile, as a woman, you hire a few women all of a sudden and you are pushing an agenda. Please, women, hire more women don’t be deterred.
Being a star yourself, does this movie, Superstar, change your view about what being a superstar is?
I realised how damaging it can be to live a life in the public eye. The longer I have been in the public eye, the more I have retreated because I need to have peace of mind. I cannot be interested in people’s validation of me. I just want to keep working and doing my best work. Maybe one day I will direct, and with the way the world feels, maybe I should do it as soon as possible. But I am producing a film for Nemsia Productions this year as well as another Inkblot project and also got a couple of acting gigs lined up. 2022 is my year.
Shooting movies with Covid 19 out there, what do you think the ideal situation should be like?
We’re all doing our best to keep safe and keep others safe. We are testing and doing what we can. It is something we all as individuals do. We take calculated risks when deciding how to navigate our everyday lives. Do we stop living? No! We do the best that we can on sets. In an ideal world, we would have all the resources in the world to test everyone every day but if we do that, we would have no money to shoot the film.