Jenkins Alumona, strategy expert and former editor of TheNEWS, In this interview with Clement Danbutor, talks about his movie production debut, which has delivered Breathless, a flick scheduled to premiere today
Why are you into movie making?
Well, I am in it to make my little contribution to the Nigerian movie industry, which is being applauded all around the world Don’t also forget that I have been a communication person all my adult life. I was a journalist, guess I am still one; before going into marketing communications. Filmmaking is also part of communication. Essentially, I am in the same field. One of the companies in the Strategic Outcomes Group, of which I am CEO, is involved in production.
It is called Flykite Productions and has made a number of acclaimed documentaries for a variety of clients.
This would suggest that I have had an association with what you are talking about. Our work as a production company puts us in regular contact with movie people, something that has helped us learn how they work. So, I am in it not because I have some ideas that I believe can help movie making progress.
Having said that, I am a big fan of movies, foreign and local. I own a large collection of original movie DVDs. My interest in movies has regularly provoked a desire in me to go into movie making. The desire was not activated before this time because I wanted to do it with the right people and material to work with. It was when I found the right combination that I got into the game via Breathless, which will be premiered today and will debut at the cinema on 1 July. Breathlessis a collaboration between Flykite and Creative Unit run by Charles Uwagbai, a young and brilliant movie director. Charles’ openness of mind convinced me that we could work together and make some contribution towards the growth of the movie making.
Movie making in Nigeria has really grown despite what critics say. One has to look at how big Nigerian movies are around the world to understand that we have a big thing on our hands. And if our movies were crappy, as the critics suggest, they would not smash hits they are around the world. This does not suggest that we do not need to improve. However, disparagement of the efforts of those who are hobbled by a variety of institutional, financial and technological challenges come across as unfair.
It indicative of absence of empathy for movie makers, who in spite of the odds, have made the world stand up and take notice of Nigerian films.
What we seek to do with Breathless is to further encourage the desire for improvement in movie making. When you see the movie, you will agree that we have done that. The cast and crew of the movie consist of some of the best in the industry. The equipment deployed are top-notch, locations superb and performances terrific.
How would you describe Breathless?
A stunningly well made movie in all ramifications. It offers a brilliantly written story of sibling rivalry, love, lust, murder, revenge and justice, which twists and turns as it hurtles forward and features great and memorable characters.
Doris Ariole, the scriptwriter, is accomplished in her field. The shots are terrific and the performances are high-end. For the performances, I guess this is what should be expected from Mike Ezuruonye, Uti Nwachukwu and Bimbo Manuel who, by common consent, are three of the best in the game. The terrific performances delivered in Breathless have been recognised at Africa’s most prestigious movie awards- the AfricaMagic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA) and African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA).
Uti was nominated in Best Actor in a Supporting Role category at 2016 AMAA, while Mike was nominated for Best Actor in Drama (TV Series) at the 2016 AMVCA . Even the actors admitted being mightily thrilled by the professionalism that went into making the movie..
Why did you choose Ezuruonye, Nwachukwu and Bimbo Manuel?
We felt they were the most suitable for the characters they played. That was the most important factor and our decision has been proved to be correct by the nominations the film received. These gentlemen have impressive resumes having been around the turf for some time that has seen them do great stuff on a regular basis. More than the CVs, however, it was because they were the right fit that made them to be chosen. It was not an easy task.
Charles, the director and co-producer, is knows his job. So does everybody who worked on the movie. We all worked hard to deliver this beautiful movie. It wasn’t just the actors. Behind the scene, everybody put in great shifts. The movie will introduce to the Nigerian scene Brycee Bassey, a Nigerian-American actress who, along with John Njamah, Bobby Michaels and Nancy Isime, delivered memorable performances.
What did it cost to produce Breathless?
Money, time and mighty effort. Movies cost money to make and when you see Breathless, it’d be obvious that it has gulped a lot. I am unable to give you the exact sum because we are still spending. The film will debut at the cinemas on 1 July. The spending continues. But we’ve spent good money by Nollywood standards.
We are happy that we have succeeded in getting corporate support for the premiere from governmental and non-governmental bodies. The Federal Inland Revenue Service, Tatzinger Champagne, Intercontinental Hotel, City FM and Inspiration FM. This is also an evidence that the movie is a hugely appealing one.
What were the challenges faced during production?
Oh! Many. As you’d find in movie making, we had pressure aplenty. People were stretched. In such situations, tempers are very brittle. But that goes with the territory. We also had to manage egos, time schedules, equipment and other things.
I figure you’d must have witnessed situations like that in your newsroom when the pressure of production gets to you. It was a massive grind. But whatever pains we went through was soothed by the end product, which is a beautiful film; one that you’d happily watch over and over again.
Are there plans to make more movies?
Why not? This experience, even with its physical and mental energy-sapping demands, yielded the quality we hoped for. Charles is also itching for more and I am convinced we’ll subsequently work well together again. As a matter of fact, we have one lined up already. It is called Just Drive. But first, watch Breathless take your breath away.