By Adie Vanessa Offiong and Fumi Favour Simon
Bright Obasi is a filmmaker, president of High Definition Film Studio and the film academy. He is the brain behind the movie, If I am President and speaks about it among other issues.
Weekend magazine: How did you start film production?
Bright Obasi: I studied Chemical Engineering at the Federal University of Technology Owerri and graduated in 2005. But somewhere along the line, I realized that was not what I wanted. I started writing stories in church and the impact it creates gives me fulfillment. Even if I didn’t have money, I was so fulfilled to I know that my life was in making more impact than money.
WM: What was your parent’s reaction when you started?
Obasi: My father always told me to study hard, get good grades and all that. I have uncles, who worked in NNPC and Shell. He may have wanted to see me move to one of those places. But he knows that I don’t take steps for no reason. He understood that before I made that decision, there were things I would have considered. Somehow both my parents were very supportive. At no point did they tell me ‘this is what you must do.’ They always encouraged me.
What really triggered this passion was that the first script I wrote and produced on stage, in 2003. My father typed it on a typewriter. He did a lot of secretarial work. On a couple of nights, he would come to my room and watch me. Sometimes he would tell me “go and sit down you are tired; let me help you.” When I saw my father typing, that was the inspiration I needed to birth this dream. I brought him to see that project. For the first time, he really saw what I was doing and for me that was the beginning.
DT: Why do you need the support of Daily Trust?
Obasi: Daily Trust is a very reputable media house and there are lots of stuff we’ve seen Daily Trust do. There is something about impact for us; we want to get this publicized everywhere. We may not get the desired output we want but we are driven by passion. It’s true everybody wants money, nobody wants to starve, but when profit is the bottom line, purpose is likely to be sacrificed. A lot of people in our industry today may not want to make this kind of film because they feel this one is not money driven. So, we are doing this because it is in the heart of the vision of the company.
WM: Why the title ‘If I am President’ and why the choice of the lead character, Ayo Ayoola?
Obasi: The question is actually for everybody; if you were a president, what would you do? The film cuts across many issues in Nigeria such as gender inequality, child abuse, offering of women, it cuts across a lot of things. I don’t want a star as the lead character of the film because I don’t want the audience to be distracted by that person. I want a character driven. I actually did an online call for that particular character stated that I don’t want a movie star but a new actor to play the rule.
For the other characters I was also conscious of the fact that I have a wide audience which I want to cut across. So picking actors is part of it we picked the lead character from the west. Majorly we chose actors who could drive the story and be an eye-opening experience to Nigerians on the state of politics. It was a blend of the old and young stars.
WM: What project are you working on?
Obasi: The project we are working on currently is an off shoot of the reality show we did in March this year – Script2Screen Africa. It’s a filmmaking reality TV show billed to train a generation of filmmakers who are committed to creating social impact using film. We had training from March to April in Lagos for sixty people. For this particular edition, we had about 10 persons from outside Nigeria. People from Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa came for the project. Being done with that, we have some trainees whom we are giving support to create impact driven films. While working with them, we created this film ‘If am President.’ It’s a political trailer set in the present day discussing Nigeria and the film basically aims at inspiring patriotism. We realized that every Nigerian talks about the problem but no one takes any action to better the situation. We want to use the young people as the driving force.
For the academy, which is a film school, we have the kid’s academy where kids are trained in acting and filmmaking. We also have for teens and adults.
For this particular project, Script2screen, we are looking at just greenhorns though in the next edition we intend to stretch the time. We had only four weeks which were not enough to create the kind of impact we wanted to achieve at the end of the day. Regardless, it still went well.
We also observed from this training that there are lots of Nigerians who want to impact the society but feel there is no platform. Nigerians are patriotic; they just need a lead.