Elimihe Osezuah’s, foray into film making is not without its triumph and challenges. His two-hour motion picture is a story of social change. He speaks to OMOLOLA ITAYEMI about the movie titled, First Cause and his perception of movie making in the 21st century
Sneak previews (screening) however common they’ve become, have emerged an integral part of the movie and entertainment industry. It gives an opportunity to see important parts of the movie. Some call it a two-edge sword as it can also spell doom for a movie not well produced because it provides an opportunity to deduce the nuances that make up block busters or slackers at the box office.
So the 50 minutes screening of the two-hour motion picture held at 1960 Hotel, Ikeja recently (with a select media audience) elicited a sigh of relief and excitement from Osezuah when the viewing audience interest was captivated from the first picture to the last scene.
Immediately the last picture ran its full course, the entire audience erupted with applause. Perhaps the power of First Cause, his debut movie, as a movie conceived and executed on the 4k digital cinema format was not so much its technology as its story.
Osezuah says First Cause is a story of self-belief which inspires the understanding that the only solution to change one’s circumstances in life is to change one’s thought pattern. It goes to show that no matter the odds against an individual, a determined mind will always succeed. The movie portrays the typical Lagos-life of challenges, difficulties and triumphs experienced in an individual. It also boasts of a perfect flow of intrigues, suspense and love life.
A graduate of English and Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State, fresh-faced, enthusiastic Osezuah was born into a polygamous family. His early years were spent with one of his uncles in the village where he learnt the culture of the Esan people which later played a crucial role in his days in the university and his interest in film making.
‘’I was able to speak my dialect which helped in no small measures when I gained admission into tertiary school. In one of the courses offered (Oral Literature), we were made to write short stories about our roots in English Language and translate it into our local dialects. Of course I excelled in this, stoking my interest in our culture and tradition. Much more than that, it taught me to be also self reliant and entrepreneurial,” he revealed.
Becoming a producer wasn’t a walk in the park for him even though all he wanted to do was make movies. His desire to learn film directing from the film making school in Jos couldn’t be actualized and he sought solace in employment behind the scenes in television stations.
‘’I wanted to travel to Jos to learn about film directing but I didn’t know anybody there, so I got a job with one of the television stations and I was made a producer at DBN. I used to produce four programmes a week which were all recorded. It was fun for me then.
Although the money was small but I loved the job because it was fun having my works on air. I learnt a lot and people commented on my programmes and I realized that I was passionate about my job,’’ he says.
Pressure of the job and the station’s refusal to allow him start his own production led to his exit. But the effort was worth it as and today he has made a few documentaries and few TV programmes since his sojourn in Lagos from 1999 as TV producer at DBN TV, copywriter and producer at Media International then producer and Group head, TV production, Rosabel Leo Burnett, who now runs Elose Plus Media Limited, a production ideas company located in Toyin Street in Ikeja.
First Cause went through its own challenges like any other production. ‘’There are no infrastructure on ground to support movie making , the government is only interested in collecting taxes but they are not interested in putting down structures that will protect the industry from charlatans. This is perhaps sensitive because the television or movie industry is a cultural platform where our culture is displayed. Another challenge faced concerned the issue of military uniforms used in the movie. For example, they gave me some uniforms to use on a particular day after using it for that day, I returned it and when I went back to get those set of uniforms the next day, they gave me another set of different uniforms which could be very confusing,’’ he says.
From the onset of the movie, there was no way of knowing the final destination of the story. At first it looked like a story of gangsters after a weakling felon who had crossed their path. Then halfway, it was like a story of family financial woes and regrets of a dying father and then love kicks in. Then at the end it came out with a strong sense of advocacy for the Nigerian youth. In all, it is a story of love truncated by greed and social irresponsibility in high and low places.
To a superficial audience, First Cause is another of such movies that pummels the authorities, a hate story about a Nigerian political system, and a police force that brutalizes and batters the innocent on a tip from the high and privileged side of society, but at the end with all its imperfections, the police force comes out with a bite that makes the audience wish the Nigerian Police Force could be like that in real life.
The almost new actors gave a mind-blowing performance with a director who is not afraid to take a risk with new actors. He also worked with popular names such as Gabriel Afolayan, movie veteran Akintola Akin-Louis who worked seamlessly with the new actors.
Directors are sometimes perceive as cocky when it comes to their works. Ose, as he is fondly called by his crew, falls into that group. When asked if he believes he has made a masterpiece in First Cause, and if the Nigerian audience user to a certain style of movie would appreciate it, his answer borders on the supercillious. ‘I really don’t care what certain elements in the Nigerian movie market thinks; one thing I know: I have made a mentally liberating movie with a cathartic end. Nigerians deserve an intelligent movie that gives them value for their money. I don’t believe that our people are so ordinary that they can’t appreciate First Cause. This is a society that raised Chinua Achebe, Elechi Amadi, Wole Soyinka and other celebrated pen masters. This same society can and will raise great movie directors for the world and Nigerians will appreciate them. The count has just begun’, he remarked when confronted with the possibility of First Cause not making it in the Nigerian market.
Asked how he was able to raise funds for the money and to have been able to shoot on 4k using the Red camera, he simply stated ’ Faith.’ ‘I pursued the dream of making it with only two hundred thousand Naira on hand and that at the moment of the Sneak Preview, the production had taken thirteen million Naira and counting as a lot of music pieces were still being scored for it.’
He stated also that as a lyricist, writer, producer and director, a good part of the above the line budget was taken care of without any financial implication. ‘I believed in the movie, so I dared to borrow for it when my money was not enough. I have two brand placements in the movie, though.’ He however expressed disappointment that corporate Nigeria and government have up until now failed to see the strong need to engage the industry profitably.
Not yet fulfilled as a producer, the dark skinned director watches movies to relax. ‘’I read lot of books as a form of relaxation. I do a lot of meditation after reading books on what I want in life and work towards them. I also do exercises to relax in order for me to be look fit and be in good shape,’’ he concluded.
His second movie is already a work in progress. This second movie promises to address the problems in the country like the level of government neglect in the mental capacity of people.
‘’I want every Nigerian to watch my movies and be inspired to greatness that they can make it in life,’’ he concludes.