Delectable and multi-talented Lilian Amah-Aluko, first swoon the hearts of movie buffs in 96, when she landed the female lead role and dazzled in RMD’s romantic thriller, Out of Bounds.
Ever since, the well-read thespian with honours in English for her first and second degrees, has not looked back. Although, Amah, started first as a banker, but eventually ended up in the klieg lights of Nollywood, when she could no longer resist the allure.
With several hit movies to her credit as a leading female filmmaker in Nollywood, she has also thrilled in uncountable movies and soaps, thus making her a versatile cum creative entrepreneur in Nollywood.
Amah, also a published author, is currently making arrangements for the world premiere of her most recent movie, Jungle Ride, which holds on February 28, 2010, at the upscale Silverbird Cinemas, Lagos.
In this enthralling encounter with AZUH AMATUS, the incumbent vice president of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP), took us down memory lane on a wide gamut of issues.
She also spoke passionately about Nollywood, her newest project, the coming premiere, what to expect this 2010 and many more.
Your latest and forthcoming movie Jungle Ride is causing a lot of sensations in Nollywood; tell us about it and the coming premiere?
Jungle Ride is a movie that is very, very topical and it deals with the ugly issue of unemployment and the need for people to challenge themselves and become employers of labour, instead of waiting for the white collar jobs that will not come. We equally have very good actors in the movie. It was well shot, produced and directed on several locations here in Lagos.
The world premiere of Jungle Ride has been fixed for February 28, 2010, at the Silverbird Galleria, Victoria Island, Lagos. It’s an evening event that will begin with a red carpet and champagne cocktail, it’s going to be very interesting and memorable.
We will only show just 30 minutes of the movie, because immediately after the premiere, the movie would begin a nationwide showing in all the Silverbird Cinemas. So, we are calling on all quality film loving Nigerians to go out there and watch this lovely movie. It’s a 120-minute movie full of intrigues and suspense. Among the stars that thrilled in the movie are: Ngozi Nwosu, Omoni Oboli, Bimbo Manuel, Femi Brainard, Emma Ayalogu, Joseph Benjamin, Ashionye Ugboh and a host of others. Kingsley Omoefe directed it
Prior to coming out with this movie, you’ve been somehow quiet on the showbiz scene, any special reason(s)?
Well, I’ve never been loud as an actress; I’ve always been quiet. But in terms of my job, in the last two years I’ve actually done quite a number of jobs. And most of these quality jobs have not been released. One of my most recent jobs, The Head of State, which I did with Jimi Odumosu, is currently ruling the airwaves. I’ve been busy working as an actress and producer. Even Jungle Ride was shot in February 2009. We edited for over ten months and finally got what we wanted towards the end of that year.
As one of the leading female film producers, I guess this should be your fourth movie?
Yes, the first movie I did was in 2000, and it was titled: Sweet Revenge with Emem Isong, I later did She Devil, The Triangle and now Jungle Ride.
Even at that your pretty face is still missing in most mainstream Nollywood movies, what’s responsible for that?
I think you should direct that question to the producers,’ maybe, they don’t like my face. But the truth is that I’ve always been selective about the kind of works I feature in. And maybe, the kind of works I want to feature in, they don’t always call me.
Truth is that there are some jobs I just do not want to appear in. I don’t want to do something I will later regret.
Did you play a major role in Jungle Ride?
No, I did a cameo appearance in just two scenes. And the reasons are that we wanted younger actors for most of the roles and again, I wanted to concentrate more as a producer. I did all these because I wanted to make a huge statement with Jungle Ride. I have another big movie to produce this year, in fact, very soon.
In terms of challenges, what was it like on locations?
My brother, the truth is that working in Nigeria is seriously stressful. The major challenge was dealing with traffic and the fact that there was also scarcity of fuel that period, really stressed my crewmembers and I a lot. Mind you, there is never electricity in Nigeria, so we were permanently on a generating set, which gives out so much noise on set and this affects audio a lot. Despite all these challenge, I had a wonderful cast and crew working with me.
But in your own views, do you think the men-folk are doing enough to help the advancement of you female filmmakers in Nollywood?
Maybe, I’m blessed, the men I’ve come in contact with in Nollywood are gentlemen, they always try to make my work easy by lending the necessary support where and when necessary.
We know you used to be a banker, what brought about the passion for Nollywood?
Ever since I watched The Sound of Music at the age of five, my interest and passion for film started growing. I remembered that we were living in Freetown, Sierra Leone then. I saw the movie then in a cinema, a big screen and was blown away immediately; I knew that was what I wanted to do. In my secondary school days at the Federal Government College, Warri, Delta State, we had a very robust drama unit. We staged several interesting plays. And after my graduation from the University of Lagos, where I read English for my first and second degrees, I knew movie was my calling. After I saw Living in Bondage. I became fully convinced that film is truly what I want to do. But because I have heard a lot of unpleasant things about the industry, I did not want to just rush in. I eventually met Amaka Igwe and she really encouraged me.
I later read in the papers that RMD, was auditioning for a movie, I went and got the role of the female lead in Out of Bounds, that was ’96. That movie fetched me two awards. Ever since, I’ve been acting and have done several TV productions. I like working for both movies and soaps, what I look out for is a good script and a good director.
We would like to know how much has been expended on Jungle Ride?
Jungle Ride is a large cast movie, at the last count, we used over a 100 cast. I wouldn’t want to give a particular amount, because we are still spending. So far, I’ve spent over N8 million and still spending, all is my personal money. I’m waiting for sponsors to come quickly and take this financial burden off me.
Among the movies you’ve produced, which do you hold very dear to your heart?
I was and still passionate about She Devil, it was my first solo production and it was one of the movies that made Dakore Egbuson, the star that she is today. She was awesome in that movie.
Jungle Ride is my second passion and a lot has gone into it, including energy, manpower and emotions.
Why the title, Jungle Ride?
I saw the story five years ago, but decided to put it on hold because there was no enough money to shoot it then. It’s actually about the challenges of job hunting in Nigeria, which is something else. I want a lot of young people to go and see this movie, it will make you realize that you can start something great on your own, without pounding the streets with your CV. Look inward for the talents you have and create something for yourself. I think it’s a movie that is going to touch and affect people positively.
Is your husband in support of your showbiz career?
I’ve said it several times that my husband is my biggest fan. Anytime I’m on TV, he calls his entire friends to watch his wife. He’s actually a great fan of what we do in Nollywood. He watches and equally criticizes by telling me the ones that did well and those that didn’t. I have never had any problems with my career as far as my husband is concerned. He married me as an actress in 2004.
What is it like being married to one of the sons of the famous TM Aluko?
I’m very proud to bear the Aluko name, my father in law is a wonderful father and immensely talented. Almost 92, his sense of hunour and warmth are unrivalled. He’s one of my biggest fans and when I published my first book, Echoes of the Heart Beat, a couple of years ago, he gave me a fat cheque. He was very happy that I was taking after him as a budding writer. It’s a very lovely family and we have all sorts of talents in the family and they’re all arts inclined. My husband, Seye, like his father read Engineering, but more into the arts and plays classical music. He also writes for some newspapers. Even the famous Tayo Aluko, an architect turned actor, is currently in Nigeria, promoting his latest work. The Aluko family are loving and lovely people, for me, it’s been a very good experience marrying one of them.
Where did you grow up and what was it like growing up?
I was born in Lagos and spent my growing up years in Freetown, Sierra Leone, because my father was in the Navy then and fought on the Biafran side. He was outside the country when the war ended and was advised not to come back. So he went on self-exile with us. My parents are still alive. I come from a very lovely family. We have two boys and three girls and all of us are doing well for ourselves. We are from Ojoto, in Anambra State and I’m happily married to an Ilesa man, from Osun State.
Because I went where I found happiness and my family is very cosmopolitan. We don’t look at tribe, but the heart of the individual.
As an ex banker, how many years did you spend there and how and where did you begin your banking career?
I started banking in 93/94, I started with the defunct Nigerian Merchant Bank and later joined New World Merchant Bank, also defunct now and eventually landed at Fidelity Bank and spent over five years before quitting. Even while in the bank, I was also acting. At least, I started acting in 96. But I never allowed both to clash; I remembered doing Doctors Quarters as a banker.
What would you proudly say stands you out in the comity of other Nollywood female filmmakers?
Well, I wouldn’t know what makes me unique, I will leave that do the public, especially my fans to judge. But for me, I’m always myself and only do that for which I’m convinced is the best. I also try at all times to treat the other person, the way I would want to be treated.
We would like you to share some of your low moments in Nollywood, with us?
Okay! In my acting career, I‘ve not had any low moments, but as a producer, plenty of low moments. Money! Money!! Money!!! You do a job and give to a marketer, at the end of the day he makes all the money and you’re left with nothing.
Again, you pay some people to work for you they either don’t show up or show up very late, at odd hours and end up giving you substandard jobs. Above-all, raising money to do great movies is not easy in Nigeria. It’s an uphill task, they always enjoy our works, but they don’t like supporting us financially, people should put their money where their mouth is. We need support. While shooting Jungle Ride, there were days I would cry my eyes out because of challenges, especially money. I thank God for my lovely parents; their support has been awesome. They are always calling and praying for me.
Would you like to compare 2009 and 2010, although, the year is still new?
No comparisons at all. 2009 was a nightmare. This is going to be a great year. Already, the year is new and we are starting on a big note. 2010 is the year for Nollywood. It’s also the year for my outfit, New Dawn Productions and I to shine.
In your own views again, do you think the government has done enough for Nollywood and its practitioners in terms of support?
In answering your question, I will take you back to Hollywood that industry made US the invincible force that it is today. All the ideas people have about US being a perfect country, where nothing can go wrong, began from us watching their movies, Hollywood helped US to brainwash the world for 50 years. US is all powerful and invincible today, because of Hollywood. If the Nigerian government gives Nollywood the kind of support we have been asking for all these years, not necessarily fund, but structures and creating an enabling environment, we would have over taken US. They should help us curb piracy too.
We came this far on our own. Nollywood has helped put Nigeria on the global map. Our stars are now heroes and are respected globally. We have helped to reposition Nigeria; it is now left for the government to leverage on that. It was painful when Prof. Akunyili openly accused Nollywood of creating bad image for Nigeria. In a nutshell, the government has not done enough alongside the organized private sector.
As the Vice President of the Association of Movie Producers (AMP), how has it been running the office?
I thank God that things are getting better in all the guilds, especially AMP. Our people have finally come to realize that the current excos led by Paul Obazele is doing great for the body and Nollywood in general. We are gradually repositioning the guild by opening up and doing great things. It’s not been easy, but thank God that we have been able to work together as a family.
First published, 2010