Why I cried on stage day I won Africa’s best director award, top Nollywood filmmaker, Dickson Iroegbu  –  By AZUH AMATUS

Dickson Iroegbu

For diminutive Dickson Iroegbu, the best movie director awardee at the

maiden edition of African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA),

the sojourn to stardom in Nollywood did not come on a

platter of gold, neither was it achieved through half

measures and cutting corners.

 

His came through hardwork, perseverance, resilience, doggedness and a never-giving-up spirit even in the face of

insurmountable difficulties.

 

He started in ’97, as a production assistant,

assisting producers and directors to carry generating

sets and other props from one location to another, and

also running errands on the other hand for movie stars

on set amid tips here and there from the few generous

ones.

 

He later delved into script writing and churned out

some successful scripts that turned blockbusters.

 

However, the turning point in his career came in 2001

when despite much opposition, he went ahead to direct

“Days of Glory”, his first attempt behind the cameras,

and that opened the floodgate of more works, accolades

and awards for the father of two.

 

Dickson’s name was finally printed in gold and

registered on world map when he defeated his “senior”

colleagues and mentors at the elitist Directors Guild

of Nigeria (DGN), in Bayelsa to clinch the keenly

contested prize for the Best Director at the maiden

edition of AMAA Awards.

 

In this interview with AZUH AMATUS, he spoke on several germane issues, especially those affecting Nollywood.

Enjoy the interaction!

How did you feel winning the best director award at the maiden edition of AMAA, in 2005?

Most importantly now, the whole world and the whole

Of Africa should know that Dickson Iroegbu has come to

stay in Nollywood. If I did it last year and did it

again this year even though not as best director, at

least, my movie carted away three awards this year, in

the best actress, best supporting actress and best

sound, it’s not easy.

First of all, the secret of it all is from the most

High and then perseverance led me to where I got to

and then after I got to where I got to as a director I

started being conscious of the fact that people who

are intelligent are watching and I’m not taking my

viewers for a ride. At least, I’m happy that first I

am a pioneer member on anything that has to do with

AMAA. Any day you talk of AMAA you make reference to

Dickson Iroegbu and I sat on that sit as the maiden

edition’s best director that means AMAA is part of me

from inception. All things being equal there were

areas that I questioned at the last award, but in

summary even biblically your righteousness can

supersede your evil, since they were able to go beyond

their weaknesses I give them eighty over hundred.

 

What new projects are you currently working on?

 

After winning AMAA best director award at the maiden

Edition, we now realized that people are watching and

we are now careful on what to shoot and what not to

shoot. After the awards, I shot a flick that has never

been shot in the history of Nollywood titled Women’s

Cot, which also got three awards at the last AMAA. The

movie had a large cast of 80 women, directing women on

set is not usually an easy task. I had super stars

like Joke Silva, Bukky Ajayi, Onyeka Onwenu, Gloria

Anozie Young and many others on set. In fact, people

are still wondering till date how I was able to cope

with all of them. But basically the movie talked about

women liberation in another way, but we picked it from

the negative angle. The whole thing was my concept but

written by Tai Emeka Obasi. I spent three months

shooting this movie and before going on to set. I went

to my pastor and told him I was going to hell to shoot

a movie that he should pray for me. It was not easy

handling Onyeka Onwenu on set, we clashed severally.

But give it to her; she is a mega star among stars.

Working with her was an honour despite the clashes.

The film gulped over ten million naira but my producer

cum executive producer John Nwatu refused to budge. He

believed in the project. He paid me very well, but the

money was not the issue. And it will remain my biggest

movie in a long while to come.

 

What does the award mean to you, has it also changed you in any way?

 

I now have a burden and a cross to carry. I now know

that a lot of people are watching me and it is now

more challenging for me to become a director after

AMAA. But truly I deserve the award; AMAA has exposed

me a lot, and also made my face popular unlike before

that people knew only about the name without the face.

The award also made me meet a lot of people that I

never dreamt of meeting. Because of AMAA, I was called

to shoot a movie on James Ibori. But despite all

these, the award is a burden; a cross that I’m

carrying and I hope that God strengthens me. Truth is

that I can’t afford to disappoint the people who gave

me this award.

Truth is that Oscar is on the way for me. I also see

myself picking another AMAA because I don’t know who

will challenge me. My Oscar is very soon, just by the

corner, it’s been beckoning.

 

There seems to be so many crisis surrounding the Ibori movie, we would like to hear your own side of the whole story?

 

I read on the papers that I was given N37million to

shoot a movie, that’s balderdash. If I have that kind

of money, I will go straight to Hollywood and shoot

their kind of movies. With N37million, I will embark

on a project that would bring down Hollywood to

Nollywood. Having pronounced it, I’m sure the money is

coming to me soon since some people said I was given

that kind of money. Besides, I didn’t work with Gov.

Ibori, I only worked on story line that had to do with

Gov. Ibori. I was called to produce and direct the

movie, but on getting to Warri, the guy started

singing another tune. We started the project but had

to stop when money was no longer coming, I only

collected N1.3million and the movie was to be titled

“Big Heart Treasure”. While all these were going on, I

was in constant touch with the SSG of the Delta State

Government and some of the Commissioners and other top

government officials.

 

How did your journey in Nollywood begin?

 

I came into Nollywood as a production assistant

between 97/98 and was also writing scripts. My first

script was titled “Just A Mission”. But I

started as a production assistant on the set of Narrow

Escape 1. But I was already a graduate while doing all

these. I finished from ABU, Zaria, read Business

Administration. The irony of this whole thing was that

I had a talent I wanted to pursue and there was no

encouragement from anybody, especially my family. I

followed my dream with a passion despite the many ups

and downs. I knew where I was heading and what you

are seeing now is just the beginning.

 

Did you envisage your meteoric rise, this early?

 

Like I told you I started as a production assistant,

carrying generator sets and other props on location,

from there I started writing scripts and later did

continuity and was at a time, a costume assistant,

props and props assistant. I was also a soundman. Deep

down, I knew I was learning and going through a

process. I also knew these were dues one has to pay in

life. It was a price.

 

What was the turning point for you in Nollywood?

 

I cried at AMAA awards when the flashback came. My

first movie as a production assistant was on the set of a

movie directed by Andy Amenechi and incidentally the

two of us were nominated for the same best director

category at AMAA, which I eventually won. The turning

point in my career came with my first movie as a

director “Days of glory”, I financed it myself in

  1. Again, when I was ripe to direct nobody believed

in me or even invested in me. Funny enough, my first

movie didn’t do well in the market, but that didn’t

discourage me. After seeing and agreeing to market my

first movie, Amaco gave me Romantic Attraction to

direct, which I also wrote the script. Ironically,

same Amaco bought the first script I wrote in

Nollywood and also marketed the first movie directed

by me. He was also the first marketer to give me money

to shoot a movie. God used him to bring to light my

hidden talent.

Sincerely speaking, I can’t count number of movies I have directed so far, because I’m not a businessman director.

All my movies are dear to my

heart, but the one that has really challenged and

stressed me so much in recent times is Women’s Cot but

before it was Mayor, which gave me the AMAA award, it

was also challenging, the first car I bought was

crushed while shooting Mayors. I shot the movie with a

swollen leg, so that was my first challenging movie as

a director.

 

As a leading director in Nollywood, what would you say are the major challenges on the job?

 

First, was that nobody really believed I could direct

a movie, a lot were like, lets watch him mess himself

up, the consciousness of the fact that those around me

didn’t believe me, was a major challenge and that was

demoralizing. There was no encouragement, but I

refused to give up. And some directors were like how

can Dickson be directing, in fact, DGN frustrated me

and battled me. Despite all these, I just believed

that my works would convince them. I later didn’t

believe it was happening to me that day when DGN

president, Fidelis Duker, was handing over the Best

Director award to me at AMAA. Truth is that I’ve not

gotten anywhere yet, but I’ve always known that I will

be recognized and appreciated in a big way someday. I

always knew that I have something to offer to planet

earth, which has to do with my talent, it started with

poetry, I got an award in 2000 from Washington and it

was well celebrated in the industry.

 

You are a young man of many parts, What motivates you?

 

Humility and simplicity, they inspire me a lot.

Another is the consciousness of being called and

finally my immediately family, especially my kids they

have brought so many blessings into my life, and they

have really inspired me. They make me work harder.

 

Who are your role models within and outside Nollywood?

 

I admire James Cameroun a great deal just like me, he

is a writer and when he was to direct a movie then

nobody believed in him. Here in Nollywood, I can’t

forget Andy Amenechi, Teco Benson and Lancelot

Imasuen, whom I always tell is the James Cameroon I

see in Nollywood. Teco, Moses and Reginald Ebere,

encouraged and gave me their blessings and support. I

also don’t pretend to recognize and acknowledge some

directors before me, even till date I still respect

and answer them Sir. I’m just beginning.

 

We would like to know more about you and your background?

 

Well, I’m Dickson Nnamdi Iroegbu, from Mbaise, Imo

State, I’m an adult born on Dec. 8, forget the year,

principled to a fault and also very determined and

simple. Happily married with two kids. My wife works

with the Censors Board, met her there and censored her

out of the Censors board to my house. I’m from a

polygamous home, from my mum’s side, we are four boys,

four girls, and I’m second to last child.

 

In your own views, what do you see as the biggest problem facing Nollywood?

 

Our major problem is unity, because a house divided

against itself cannot stand, we should stop fighting

ourselves. And the only way we can excel is by coming

together to understand ourselves better. We should

also inform the world that talents are abound here, we

should put money behind, as practitioners, we should

stop being businessmen directors and act like creative

minds. We should understand our positions and enhance

the class and quality of our movies and believe in

those with the talent and stop patronizing the

businessmen directors. There are professionals who are

conscious of the name and are ready to sacrifice in

order to ensure that quality is given out of

Nollywood.

 

How rich are you as director, in fact, are you a millionaire director?

 

Yes, I am, I must accept it.

 

First published, June 2006.

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