Doris Ariole is a filmmaker, script writer, producer and director. She has written several blockbuster scripts and has worked with many notable names in the industry. In this interview with Chinedu Ibeabuchi, she provides a glimpse into an aspect of Nollywood which is still under tapped.
Some say Nollywood movies are below standard and movie fans blame this on poor storytelling. Do you share same view?
The story is different from the script, and many great stories are poorly developed into scripts thereby losing its essence. We don’t have bad stories in Nollywood; we are just not telling them well. Writers need to identify their strengths in terms of genres and develop their skills. Yes, I hope to create a platform where I can share my journey as a writer with other writers so as to inspire them and be inspired by them too. A filmmaker never stops learning. As you get to discover yourself more, a great deal of your creative depth gets to evolve as well.
Is writing lucrative in Nollywood?
I still don’t believe good writers are being paid what they deserve but I am also a producer and I know that funds are not easy to come by, so I am motivated by my desire to see good movies being made out of good scripts. Hopefully the pay will get better.
Have you ever had a case where your script was plagiarized and you were denied of your hard work?
At the moment, no and I hope it never happens. I flow with the leading of God’s spirit when it comes to work. I have little trade secrets on how I chose clients as well. Sometimes on first meet I know who has come to steal (laughs). You need to know how to pitch without giving out the distinct parts of your story that will make it stand out. Above all, God has just been gracious. I’ve had favour with God and with man.
Aside script writing, you direct movies. The first movie you directed has been shortlisted for the 2018 annual Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards(AMVCA). Tell us about it.
Benevolence was my first feature as a Director. It took me about two years to finish the final draft of the script. It meant a lot to me to direct an actor of Kalu Ikeagwu’s caliber. I appreciate that he trusted me enough to direct him.
How long did it take you to shoot the movie?
I prepared for two months for the shoot.
What makes Benevolence unique that it got nomination for AMVCA 2018?
When I submitted Benevolence, I was very confident that Kalu Ikeagwu would get nominated because I haven’t seen him transform a role as much as he did for Benevolence. We actually discussed the story before I started writing it and he agreed it was unique. Even while I was reviewing the drafts, I met him to discuss it as well. So, before we got to set, he understood his character very well.
Are you so confident that you will clinch the award?
No matter the outcome of AMVCA voting, I am more than grateful that my first feature earned an actor a nomination. I take it as a pat on the back that I did my part well as a director and need to improve so that every time an actor works with me, he/she will be guided into a stellar performance. You can’t give your best performance as an actor with bad directing. I truly hope people are still voting Kalu Ikeagwu as best actor in a drama for the movie Benevolence. Nomination is a win already but taking that award home is dependent on our beautiful viewers. We are doing our best to promote it.
Any effect of AMVCA nomination on your career?
Some known actors have reached out privately to express their interest to work with me. Every actor wants that Director that will help them get a nomination or award. Even as a writer, my clients are saying ‘please write us an award winning script’ and I sincerely give my best to every script. The truth is that, it all starts with a good script. Even the best actors are hampered by a bad script. If you improvise and change the script on set, then you didn’t shoot the bad script, you rewrote it.
What inspires Benevolence movie?
It was inspired by the tenacity and faith of Ruth in the Bible. I believe so many women out there are Ruths as they push for their dreams. Benevolence has also screened internationally. It was initially premiered in America before I released it in Nigeria last year. The reception was amazing at the International Christian Film Festival, Orlando. Benevolence is available on Africa Magic and Online. The DVD will be released in the last quarter of the year.
So what is your next project?
My next project is another faith-based drama thriller, inspired by one of the controversial bible stories and characters. Will let the cat out in due time.
When did you start a career in Nollywood?
I trained under Amaka Igwe for about four years in the areas of acting, writing, producing and directing. My training with Delyork was another big boost to my confidence to direct. After my Delyork training in 2014, I decided it was time to take on a feature project. Two years later, I did it. I had only directed short stories before Delyork. Now, I’m focused on writing, producing and directing. Acting was what I did as a child in my Nursery and Primary school projects. Writing became my passion and childhood dream at the age of 13. Today, I can confidently say I am living that dream, all by the grace of God. I have been writing for a couple of Nollywood and international Filmmakers. Some of my writings have been produced into TV and cinema movies and released on appropriate platforms with very good reviews in each case. My first Nollywood script was Sister’s Love in 2006, which featured Genevieve Nnaji and Omotola Jalade Ekehinde as biological sisters. It explored sibling rivalry. It wasn’t my first script but was the first script that I got paid for writing by a Producer. Felt good receiving money for writing.
Are you in a relationship?
I am currently not in a relationship and waiting for a kind and sensitive man. Someone who won’t have issues with my work. I also want a man I can help achieve his own dreams and visions. It takes two, so we must work together.
What’s your hobby?
I love cooking, I love food but I try to eat heathy. I love watching TV. I love romantic drama and comedies. I love Telemundo actually. I love how they stay true and close to their cultures in their story and character development. That is what we need to do with our series here too, not copy them, simply apply those techniques.
Which element of literature is common in your work?
I love drama; all my movies must have drama at the heart of it. Even with my comedies and romantic script, I still preserve drama. I believe life is drama in itself.
What’s the major influence on your career?
My career is influenced by Amaka Igwe and Tyler Perry. They inspire positivity with their works. I think we still need to up our game as writers. I feel like a lot of passionate and gifted people are jumping into writing without proper foundational training. You can’t learn it all at once, but you can start with foundation classes before the advanced and Masters Classes that are trending.
Why Nollywood? Why not publications of prose or drama?
I love Nollywood. We have become a world phenomenon. It can only get better. Those who are willing to get better and are humble about it are surely getting better.
What motivates you?
As a writer, I am motivated by good story lines with distinct characters. Character driven plots are the best for me. That is why I try to create unique characters to drive my story. As a producer and director, I am motivated by a good story and a beautiful script made from it. Budget and casting are also an issue for producers. Being a star doesn’t always guarantee best performance. For commercial purposes, good star rating is still a necessity, even in Hollywood. What trips me most is star performance not just rating and hype.
Tell us about your production outfit?
My production company is Hadassah Studios inspired by the Jewish name of Queen Esther. Hadassah is strictly about Christian Entertainment. But as a freelance filmmaker, I write and work on secular projects for my clients. Hadassah Studios is different from me. It is well beyond me.
What’s your vision for Hadassah?
I want Hadassah Studios to be recognized as the best faith-based movie production Company from Africa.
How would you describe your Christian story telling compared to other Christian movies?
It’s engaging and inspiring. I throw in humour and romance with some complex characters and controversy because this is the reality of our daily walk with God. My plots are not judgmental and churchy because that’s what you notice with some faith based movies out there. God is love and his grace abounds in every situation. So in my movies I focus on celebrating God’s love and grace in every situation we find ourselves in. The spectators for my movies are both Christian and Non-Christians. Both experience God’s grace in their lives daily. And both need to walk in love as individuals, a people and a nation.