Nollywood Movies don’t meet Cinema Standard says “Ivie Okujaye”

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ivie2 ivie4  Ivie Okujaye mostly called Little Genevieve by fans because of her striking resemblance with star actress Genevieve Nnaji  is the past winner of popular reality show Amstel Malta Box Office (AMBO). These fresh face is not only young but also very hot, pretty, sexy and talented. In an interview she granted recently, this is what she has to say about the movie industry:

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Ivie Okujaye, winner of the Amstel Malta Box Office [AMBO] 5, the African Movie Academy Award winner for Best Young Actor, 2012 and Africa Magic Viewers Choice Award winner for Trail Blazer of the Year, 2013. I’m an actor, writer and now, first-time producer, praying to continue on this platform.

Did your childhood influence who you are today in the entertainment industry?

Completely, it’s the things I love as a child that I still love now, which is a little weird considering the fact that people should outgrow certain things, because I love to watch cartoons, I love to run around with my hands stretched out like I was superman and all, I have always been interested in playing other characters. Although at the beginning, it was cartoons character but that is what I do now for a living so obviously it has influenced it.

How did it feel wining the Trail Blazer Award at the AMVCA?ivie5

The category was not out for voting. It was the panel and — people, especially the panel, coming together to pick a person who they recognize as having the potentials to do great things, basically that’s what a Trail Blazer means. It’s a growth, winning Trail Blazer to being nominated for Best Actress alongside Nse Ikpe-Etim and Nkiru Sylvanus, I’m really proud of it too.

How has the fame changed your life?

Any publicity I have had affects only my career and not my life because almost nothing else has changed in my life. The things I used to wear before are the things I still wear now, the way I dressed before the fame is the same now, although every now and then, I buy a fine dress for a premiere or an award ceremony but other than that everything is still the same. As for my career, it has made people notice what I can do, it has made both the film makers and audience appreciate me a bit more and I hope to continue in that path where they will continue to respect me even better with the work I do, rather than how I am off camera.

Who do you look up to in the movie industry?

There are certain people I admire for certain reasons, but there isn’t any one in particular that I look up to, or to be like. I admire Kate Henshaw’s smile, and her bubbly down to earth approach to everything and everybody. I admire O.C Ukeje’s discipline and commitment to his work, Lydia Forson, because she is a fantastic, real African actress, completely. I also admire Wole Ojo. I admire these people but I know that I am on my own path, and I’m eager to see where my own path would lead me to and maybe someday, someone will look up to me or admire me for something, but for now, I just want to focus on the fact that I am a completely different individual and I will take lessons from everybody to make me better but I would not necessary try and be like any particular person.

How would you describe your experience while producing ‘Make A Move’?

Producing ‘Make A Move’ was a beautiful experience, although it had its own challenges because it was my first time. And as a slightly petite female, sometimes you don’t know whether to take me seriously or not, and I’m a very animated character, in the sense that, I’m going to look for sponsorship and I’m wearing snickers and jeans instead of wearing a skirt suit and what not. So, people were not exactly sure as to how to perceive me, at first but that’s the beauty about having a strong product, with a strong product, you would not lack confidence wherever you go. So, I knew I had a good story, cast and crew, so it was easy for me to try to get resources to work for our benefit. But obviously I faced challenges as a first-time producer and as a producer in general, because you cannot control your environment sometimes. For instance if children are coming back from school, you can’t say they shouldn’t pass the street because their noise is affecting your shoot, so I faced more challenges than I faced from the personal ones as a first-time producer.

Who wrote the script for the movie?

Well, I had the story for a very long time, like I tell people, I’m very passionate about any topic concerning women and children, however, it doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about equality with men and justice, but I’m a little more partial towards women and children, so this is a story I had always subconsciously harbored in my mind, I had always nurtured it, so as soon as I got enough resources of mine, that is my savings as well, I put pen to paper and fingers to laptop keypads and I started to type but because it is a story that I was very fond of, I knew I needed a second pair of eyes to make sure I wasn’t dreaming to big or dreaming too small, so I had Emmanuel Iduma, who is a fantastic writer also, so he came in and helped to edit. So I wrote the script while he edited it, he gave consultations on it.

How would you describe the journey, so far?ivie6

Oh, I’ve loved it, when you’re doing something you enjoy doing, even the challenges look like fun at a point, it’s not like I haven’t had my rough moments, it hasn’t all been rosy, but I’ve enjoyed every bit of it because this is what I’ve always intended to do with my life. It is like a dream come true, I’m not unrealistic, I’m optimistic. I’m not unrealistic to think that I would have everything served out to me all the time, so it has been a little tricky, here and there but I haven’t had any major challenges that would discourage me from pursuing more dreams in the industry.

What challenges did you encounter and how were you able to deal with it?

We shot in Abuja, so there were not as many challenges because the crowd control was much easier, the weather was a little too sunny for some of our scenes which we had to cut down lights on our camera but what was a bit challenging for me was managing everybody at the same time because I was working as a producer with my fellow actors, suddenly I wasn’t an actor to them, I had to be the person calming the situation down, the person running around to get them food. So it was challenging attending to everybody at the same time. Managing people is obviously something I love to do but on that magnitude it was a little over whelming at some point but I got the hang over of it eventually.

As an actress, what are your weaknesses?

To be completely honest with you, I just realized a weakness which is a good thing because every actor should watch their films and criticize themselves. I took a few of my movies and sat, one day with a pen and paper because I like to write instead of tap, and as I was watching, I was writing comment on what could have been done better or what I shouldn’t have bothered trying and I noticed there was a particular trait I had in all of them.

The thing is even if you are playing a different character, you are still who you are, playing that character, so I studied myself and realized there is a particular thing I do and that’s not too good, so I’m trying to break it, which for me doesn’t show weakness, it shows that I’m trying to get better at what I do.

Let’s talk about the combination of cast. Why that combination of cast? And why did you choose musical cast?

The cast was carefully selected we did not rush that process, we had an open audition and that’s where we picked the supporting male lead, Chuma the character, his real name is Eno Ekpeyong and the little girl… So we did give new people an opportunity to try their hand at it and two of them were exceptional and those are the two we used but for the already known faces we choose those people because we knew what it would take to bring those characters to life. Like the character Beverly played, I keep going on about Beverly because I thought she did so well. The character Beverly Naya played is a character that could easily be overlooked in the movie but she brought uniqueness and versatility to it that made the character become one of the characters to remember and then for the musical cast, Omawunmi and Tuface played themselves in the film; now these are people that when I approached them with the story, they loved the idea, they loved the content and wanted to be part of something like this. They wanted to encourage and help. I remember Tuface’s manager saying, look, this is your first time producing and it’s a good story, how can we help? You know they were very open to it and I’m so, so grateful for that. Even Omawunmi and her manager, Denrele of course, exceptionally supportive, they played themselves. It’s not choosing a musical cast, its more or less choosing people who are known to help push the movie forward because they command attention when you see them but Majid plays a different character entirely, he doesn’t play himself.

Why in particular did you cast Tuface Idibia, Omawumi Magbele and Denrele Edun as judges in ‘Make A Move’?

For the casting of the film, I have to give credits to Niyi Akinmolayan and Chris Odey, who was my Executive Producer. The casting took a long while, we had an open call audition in Abuja, and that’s where we found our supporting lead for both male and female, including a girl who was 11years old last year and 12years old this year. For both of them, it was the first time acting and they were fantastic, but for Beverly Naya, Tina Mba, Wale Adebayo, Majid Michel, who acted as other characters, it was decided by all of us, because these are people that we know bring these characters to life everytime and we knew they were fantastic actors, we knew that each of them was very disciplined. It was my first time producing, so I needed people who would be loyal to the task, and not come and be a ‘diva’ or something, so they were fantastic to work with and it was pretty easy choosing them to be a part of it.

Tuface, Omawumi and Denrele played themselves in the film, I could have been intimidated while approaching them but I was confident with the story I had and as soon as they read the synopsis, they were happy to help and be a part of it and that is how the cast came about.

Would you have been a dancer if you were not an actor?

I think before being a dancer, if I wasn’t an actor, I would have been studying to be a DOP first.

Why?

Because I’ve always loved film making, and I knew I would have been a part of it. I’m very confident. A lot of people want to be in front of the camera, I am so comfortable being behind it also, which is why producing for me is not an alien idea, because I’m comfortable just staying back, and producing forth, in the future.

There have been a number of challenges facing the movie industry in Nigeria, today, one of them being that cinemas don’t give much recognition to Nollywood movies, what’s your take on this?

I would not be completely unfair to them by saying they don’t give recognition to Nollywood movies. If I movie meets their standard, or the standard they hope to maintain, they take it. Now, the matter is whether the agreement is fair or not, but I won’t say there completely unsupportive of Nollywood, they support but I feel there’s still a lot they can do to support, because at the end of the day, they’re in Nigeria and we make films in Nigeria, so they should be looking forward to even helping us more because they are a part of our industry.

Are you single or in a relationship?ivie

I have been in the same relationship I have been in before all this started, a long time before AMBO, and one of the best ways to keep yourself grounded, is to keep surrounding yourself with people that used to be around you from time. He was my best friend then, and he is my best friend now, and my close friends are still my close friends.

Pay tributes to Amaka Igwe.

My God, I met Amaka Igwe once at an audition she held and it was the most organized audition I had ever gone for, and that was when I realized she respected the work she did. It was not a market type audition, everybody was treated accordingly, no matter who are, whether you’re a star or a nobody, she treated everyone equally and the audition process was extremely brilliant. I’m sad I didn’t get to work with her because from that audition I could tell that Amaka Igwe knew her craft.

May her soul rest in peace, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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