Piracy can’t be stopped—Iyke Olisa

6 years ago

Iyke Olisa is a movie producer, actor and director. In this interview, he talks about his career and the entertainment industry

How did the journey to Nollywood start?

My journey started in 1994 as a script writer. Along the line, I got into producing and directing. I got into acting by accident when an actor that was to play a particular role in my movie did not turn up and I had to act in his stead. I’m currently studying law at the National Open University, Lagos.

You are also a lawyer…

The law profession is important to me and I believe that no knowledge is a waste. Being a lawyer helps me in the entertainment business. I am more enlightened about the protection of my intellectual property. Moreover, it is a profession my father always wanted me to go into.

How was your growing up like?

I am a native of Nnewi, Anambra State. I grew up like any other person and I learned to survive at a very early age. I have six brothers and I am the first child. There was not enough to go round and I had to fight for what I wanted and also teach my brothers to work hard. In my culture, the first child has almost everything and it is his discretion to distribute to his siblings. I grew up with a very old man who taught me to do things in a less flashy way than the way young men of these days do things.

Did your training prepare you for your career?

Drama has always been my passion right from when I was in school. When I started producing movies, I realised I needed to develop myself more. I did two years online study in script writing and directing at Walden University, United States of America.

Kindly shed light on some of the movies you have produced

I have produced over 30 movies among which are ‘Facebook Babes’; ‘Obama Babes’; ‘Royal vampire’; ‘Reverend Sister Ibu’; ‘Margaret Thatcher’ and a lot more.

But how are you coping in an industry that has been ravaged by pirates?

Being a marketer makes it easy for me. I established Prime World Productions, a movie company which also has a marketing outlet at Alaba, Lagos and Onitsha markets. This does not mean that we do not lose money once in a while.

Alaba market is reputed to be the centre of piracy. What are you doing to stop the practice?

Piracy is a global problem. It cannot be abolished but it can be controlled. We are doing what we can about piracy but the biggest fighter of piracy is the government, not individuals. Imagine somebody mass dubbing 20 movies that sell for N100 each into one DVD that sells for N150. I think the Nigerian Copyright Commission should do more than just thinking of fighting piracy. There should be sensitisation campaigns to let people know that some features in a film make them pirated. After the sensitisation, we can talk about enforcement.

You are one of the producers of horror movies in Nigeria, are you reviving the genre?

In Nollywood, once a movie is successful, a lot of people try to produce something close to it. Personally, I don’t do movies because they are trending. Buyers want to be thrilled; they want something they are not used to. The fastest way to make money is to satisfy these needs. A lot of stories have been told but you can tell your own in a different way and bring in one or two elements to thrill your audience. That’s why my films tow that trend.

Are producers still relying on known faces to sell movies?

Film making is a business and filmmakers know that viewers have attachment to some actors. As a businessman, what he does is to use those actors to arrest viewers’ attention. He just selects the star actors and pairs them with the up-and-coming ones. The known face will become a hook to attract viewers while the new ones are groomed.

Are the star actors still charging high fees?

Yes. Some artistes charge high but there are some who also charge low. I don’t have problem with the pricing. Putting your price at N10 million doesn’t make sense to me; what makes sense to me is who is paying. Nobody forces a producer to pay any artiste. If your price is N100 million today and I find out that if I can cough out that amount I am going to make gain of N300 million, I can go for it. If it’s not, then, I drop the idea.

Can you make double the amount when you put N100 million on an artiste?

That is what I am explaining to you. If I am convinced that an actress who collects N100 million can guarantee N300 million in sales, I will pay that artiste.

Which artiste in Nigeria can give you N300 million in movie sales?

There is none. Movies don’t even sell up to one tenth of that amount. I am just giving instances. I cannot get crazy about an artiste’s fee. It is left for me to employ the person or not. The artistes will reduce their fees by force when they discover that nobody is willing to patronise them. The nature of the market is such that nobody can invest such a huge amount on an artiste and get it back. He or she has to come down or they fizzle out of the market.

Do they bring their prices down?

Yes. Some do and some don’t because of pride.

What is your assessment of the movie market in recent times?

Movie business is different from other businesses. The business needs strong branding since it is about intellectual property. Film is the best export of a people’s culture and tradition but unfortunately, it is not well packaged. America has sold herself to the whole world as the most powerful nation through movies. We have an increasing number of people going into movie production. At a point, supply will be more than demand. There should be a check on how many movies are released and how they are distributed. If you have a budget for 10 movies in a year and you see 100, it means the remaining 90 will suffer.

Are you fashion-conscious?

What you should understand is that being in this industry also has its own challenges. I am not just a producer, I am also an actor. I know that I am a role model. I have to look good because of the people who want to emulate me. Some people don’t believe that entertainers are normal people. Even if we have challenges, we are still expected to smile and dress as if there is no problem. I love dressing in a pair of jeans, a polo shirt and jacket to match. I am not a shoe freak; I wear whatever shoes that are comfortable because I am behind the camera most times.

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