Young filmmakers must focus on building a fanbase first before chasing money – Olabode Izzy

The Annual Film Mischief Festival has become a platform to celebrate low budget filmmakers who test their filmmaking abilities without a safety net and reward these creatives who dare to assert their creative claim with both instinct and self-exposure, just as the big movies in the Nollywood movie industry get their day of recognition.

Among these creative filmmakers is Olabode ‘Izzy’ Isreal a young film director and producer who won the Audience Cheese Pick for his movie ‘the samaritan which was among the short films screened during the festival.

BusinessDay set out to have an interview session with the filmmaker where he talked about his passion for making movies and the value short films hold within the movie industry.

When did movie-making become your full-time profession?

I started making movies five years ago, I started as a production assistant in a film set called DSTV Africa magic Also, on the same set, I moved to be an assistant director, and ever since then, it feels like where God sent me to learn my craft. So it was basically like a background of learning filmmaking for me
. After I went to film school, I went to Ebonylife creative Academy, St Greg film school, and Delyork international film school. So basically to just get knowledge about filmmaking and do amazingly well.

How did you get into Ebonylife film school, what was the experience like as a learning filmmaker?

The whole experience from the Ebonylife fil Academy was really amazing. My film during my training got like six awards for Best Film. My film the samaritan, was the second best-awarded film for my section at the academy it was a platform I needed to up my game, and ever since I finished the program it has been a soaring career. Thanks to my mentors, Walter Banger, and Mo Abudu, and to Lagos State I’m grateful for the opportunity to live my dream.

Did you get to meet Mo Adudu during the course of the program?

Yes, I got to meet her on the graduation day and was really encouraging to everyone that participated not just me.

You took home the award for Audience Cheese Pick at the Filmrat festival for your movie The Samaritan, what was it like making this movie?

Directing the samaritan was not that easy, but it was a beautiful experience because it challenged me. We were over 30 people on set both cast and crew alike. But the joy of every movie is that after facing all these challenges on set, and your films are going to festivals around the world, and getting awards and getting positive remarks, that is the beauty of filmmaking. Sometimes, during making the movie, I got emotional and prayed to make the project work. But seeing the movie get awards made me feel very proud.

How did you come about the cast of your movie, how did you get those sets of amazing people?

For the samaritan we did an audition for actors at ebony life creative academy, I remember when we cast the lead actor Promise Agbo, immediately he finished his audition, I just knew he was my guy. His performance was so outstanding he almost brought me to tears. That’s how good he was. So we did auditions for all the roles and selected the best ones out of all of them.

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So let’s talk about the business of making short films

Sincerely speaking, making a short film is not so much about the money. As a young director, you’re more interested in trying to put out your work out there for people to see your work and probably hoping investors would also love your work enough to invest up to 10 or 20 million to make a feature film. For young filmmakers that is the first place to build your career and your fan base and get people to love you for what you do.

Going to feature film you need to have a lot of money, you need to have at least 10 million to make a feature film. you don’t just jump into feature films. You need to make sure you start from the bottom of making short films getting people to appreciate your work and when you’ve gathered your fanbase and you have investors backing your work then you can venture into feature films. Feature films are more capital intensive than short films, making short films can take N500,000 to N3 million. While feature films budget starts from N10 million above because you have more cast, crew, and bigger set.

90 percent of short films don’t make it to the silver screens. Knowing that fact, who is your target audience when making short films?

Depending on it depends on the story. So for a short story that speaks more to older people in their 50s, you could be telling a story to any demographic of people. There are people who create a career making short films and earning a living out of it because they just like their movies short, straight to the point, and cinematic.

How do short movie filmmakers benefit financially?

Filmmakers who make short films get paid for festivals, sometimes they sell their films to tv stations, and satellite tv stations like African Magic. I hear streaming services like Amazon and Netflix are buying short films now. Still, for young filmmakers, it should not be about making money but putting your film out there and seeing what it’s like to be a filmmaker and getting an audience response or critic to your films and it shouldn’t be about making money at that stage. With time the world will look for your work and pay a big buck to get your work out there. The most significant challenge young filmmakers face most times is the funding and getting people to put out money for your work but definitely in time you be able to conquer that.

What other challenges do filmmakers face?

Other challenges we face as filmmakers are meeting wth street thugs and area boys when we go out to film movies. Even with government and police approval these guys still make filming on location difficult for us. These guys would come to you just when you are about to shoot to give them a tip before you start filming which doesn’t make sense and it gets frustrating.

Speaking on the issue of area boys harassing filmmakers shooting on location would you prefer solutions like having film villages where filmmakers can come and shoot movies without external hitches such as the one you mentioned?

I think the government can assist with that. We can have with us evidence of payment from the government to show these guys whenever we are filming that we’re filmmakers and we are there to tell the story of our people and environment. It would also be nice if we have a couple of film villages where we can use our own imagination and creativity as well.

Who has influenced you over the years?

There are a lot of people I look up to and their movies have influenced me personally and during the course of filmmaking. Starting with Hollywood I have, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese who I learned so much, Barry J. King, and Tyler Perry because of his conscious flow. Kunle Afolayan, Tade Ogidan, Tunde Kilani, and also personal mentors like Osmosis from African Magic, Walter Banger, and teenage filmmaker Fiyin Gambo are Nollywood filmmakers that have influenced me.

What are the funniest or crazy moments you’ve experienced while making a movie?

I think there was a time when I was filming, I won’t call it a funny moment it was more of an emotional moment. When I was filming this particular actor played this role so well that I started to cry a little. My crew members were already looking at me and saying “hey Director don dey cry o (hey director is crying )” ( laughs). But sometimes I have fun moments with my crew, we joke a lot and enjoy the process instead of getting too choked up with the work.

What are your upcoming projects?

Right now, I have two projects coming soon. Destiny has gone to the Cameroon film festival and the festival in India. Then I have ‘Osa, the power of a woman’ and ‘She’. there is a feature movie coming out soon, ic ant say the name of the project yet but it’s going to come out this year. I and my producer are looking to gather enough funding for the feature film. We would love investors and streamers like Netflix and Amazon to invest in this project as this is an amazing story about our culture.

The final question I love to ask experts in the industry is ‘cinemas or streamers’ which do you prefer for your movies?

Streaming platform. I prefer streaming platforms because I want to get a larger audience, majorly. I don’t want to be restricted to just Nollywood I want to get to a large audience and have my film seen globally in countries such as India, Cameroon, Tanzania, America, and the UK. these platforms allow for these achievements So definitely I prefer the streaming platform.

One last word to our audience

Watch out for Olabode Izzy, we are going global with our project to tell excellent stories that will impact the lives of so many people. So watch out for me. And to my fans, thank you for the support so far.

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