Following a successful international premier on March 17, the much anticipated movie ‘Phone Swap’ produced by prolific film maker, Kunle Afolayan is undoubtedly set to break new grounds in Nollywood and further place Nigeria and Africa on the global theatrical scene. I recently caught up with the thespian and he opens up on topical issues like the sponsorship deal with Globacom and why he hardly appears in movies except those produced by him.
What Is the idea behind Phone Swap
Phone Swap is something that came to us as a brief from an advertising agency and we came up with a script which we were supposed to work on with the agency. But for some reason, we couldn’t work together on it. So, we decided to produce it ourselves, that’s what brought about the story idea.
You have a partnership with Blackberry and Globacom
With the sponsorship of these two multinationals, will you say you have made money even before ‘Phone Swap’ hits the markets
No, no, no, the sponsorship from them only subsidized our budget. The budget of the film is very high, but through sponsorship, we were able to subsidize the budget by 20%, so we have not made money at all.
Having said that, how do you get sponsorship for your films
It is because of our track records, we’ve done a whole lot with brands in the past, if you look at our films like ‘Irapada’ and ‘Figurine’ you’ll see that there’s always been brand presence and association with a whole lot of brands. When we are in pre-production of our films, we always try to see who fits in the scripts. we write our story originally and we look at the scenes and see what brands can fit into them, that’s how we’ve always done it.
Do you produce films solely for the commercial value or because you are passionate about the movie industry
If I produce films for commercial value, I will be doing low quality films that will sell very fast and I will make marginal profit. But for me, it’s about content, it’s about my name, it’s about selling Nigeria, selling Africa, selling our culture and selling what we stand for. But you need to also consider the commercial aspect because that’s the only way you will remain in business, but my priority is the production value and the story line.
Now, I observe you do not feature in other movies except yours, why are you being selective
I feature in people’s movies but if they don’t call me, I wouldn’t force myself on them (laughs). Anyway, making my own films occupies my time; making one film takes over a year. Right now, I seem to have dual personality, I am battling to still remain an actor while a lot of people see me more as a film maker. Of course I am both and I want to feature in a lot of films, but the script has to be good. For example, I was suppose to feature in ‘The Meeting’ by Mildred Oko and Rita Dominic but for some reason, I was out of the country, doing the post-production of ‘Phone Swap’, so I couldn’t be part of the film. Also, the pay has to be good but majorly, it’s about the script.
You have two brothers that are also in the film business
Why haven’t they featured in any of your movies
If the story doesn’t accommodate them, they can’t feature. Take Phone Swap as an example, when the story came out, I didn’t see myself in the film, that’s why I had to create a cameo role which will accommodate me because am an Ambassador for Globacom. Aside that, if there’s a script that can accommodate their person as a character, why not. Am looking forward to a time when we’ll all feature in a film together.
Your assessment of Nollywood
I think we are improving, we are beginning to up the stakes in terms of production value, a lot of people now shoot in higher formats. So, I think we are getting better.
What should the government do to help improve the movie business in Nigeria
They should create an enabling environment like if you want to shoot an airport scene, why do you have to pay? We pay huge taxes. Infact, from the cinemas, we pay like 20% tax. We pay 5% VAT on gross, 5% entertainment tax on gross, 10% withholding tax on NET and what do we get in returns? What facility has the government provided to help the industry grow? Nothing and we pay these huge taxes to the government.
I think they should pedal down a little and give some concession because this is an industry that is still growing .If by now, we pay such amounts, I don’t see this industry going anywhere. For example, if you gross 1 million naira from a cinema and you have a 50-50 deal with that cinema, what will possibly come to you at the end of the day will be maybe 300 thousand naira out of 1 million naira. By the time you share with the cinema and the tax of 20% is off, that is what will remain, So how do you break even? The government should really look into this.
Thank you Kunle
That’s another exclusive from RBB, keep your browsers close and your fingers crossed because you can only imagine who I will be bumping into next! Could be our very amiable presido, GEJ. :D