CHIOMA AKPOTHA is an actor, director, creative writer and CEO, The Oma World Company. She shares with KEMI AJUMOBI her journey into the creative industry, her flair for the arts, among others. Excerpts.
I was a dreamer as a growing child, I wanted to change the world, I wanted everyone rich and living in peace. I was born into a family of eight (parents included), we were a strike between a poor family and an average one. Things were a bit difficult but my parents struggled to make sure we got the best they could afford.
In doing all they could, they also made sure we grew up with a strong sense of value and independence. My mother made sure she had us hands on. She believes any girl or boy should have at least one thing they can do with their hands so that if they find themselves in difficult situations, they have something to fall back on. In my case, it was a lot of things. I learnt how to braid hair, cook and bake. I went as far as learning the art of makeup on my own which comes in handy today. I have a lot of memories as a growing child and I owe it all to my parents especially my mum because it helped shape the woman I am today.
Love for the screen
Like I said earlier, I have always had a flair for the arts. I actually wanted to sing. I always saw myself speaking or singing to large number of people so I guess acting was lurking in there somewhere which became evident. When I got into secondary school, I found myself in the drama unit and I began dreaming of becoming an actor. Everyone in my set generally knew it because I was just too dramatic back in those days. One day, in school then, a notable actor had come to visit the school (Federal Government Girls College Onitsha) and the whole school turned upside up! Yes it was Sydney Diala who visited and I knew right there and then that I was cut out for that field. The rest they say is history.
Almost two decades of experience in Nollywood, journey so far
It will be 20 years in 2018 officially and I only have God to thank for every step of this journey. My story has been that of a child who was determined and focused on what she wanted. It wasn’t easy at the beginning but a few years on the job, I began to enjoy it and the whole experience till date has been great. I should write a book about it soon.
Projects in view
Phew! I have quite a lot on my plate now. It’s been an extremely busy year for me.
I just concluded two of my projects of which I debuted as a director. They would be released first quarter in 2018.
I also have two films coming out this year in cinemas. Christmas Is Coming, a film produced and directed by my sister and friend Ufuoma McDermott is set for cinema release this November the 24th. A sequel to the box office hit Wives On Strike is also set for release this December the 29th and it is called Wives On Strike The Revolution!
2018 is going to start off on a very good note too. After my films have been released, I also have a block buster from the stables of Biola Alabi Media coming out in cinemas. Shoot started on the 2nd of October and lasted for five weeks. We had the best of the best on that project and it promises to be a bang!
I see this side of the entertainment world flourish far beyond others. Things are of more professional value now and you can tell by the increase of reputable companies willing to throw their weight behind us. Better movies, better stories, better picture, better actors and trained professionals. That is what I see..and then more value for our sweat!
Piracy is a huge scar in the system and it has eaten really deep. I pray a long lasting solution is put in place so that people who have truly worked will enjoy the benefit of their labour. Another challenge I have observed is unprofessionalism. They quality of movie we make is important, we are ranking high globally but quality isn’t totally there yet, we can do more and we will. Also, finance is a major challenge. To make a quality film requires a lot of money. One very crucial way is partnerships and sponsorship. If this can be thoroughly looked into, it will better improve the quality of movies made such that when we hear of our ranking globally, it won’t be in terms of quantity alone but most importantly, quality.
The very first day on set of my first movie as an actor and it was in the year 2000.
Most challenging role so far
My first epic film called Azima.
Looking back at when you started and where you are now, what has changed?
A whole lot! From the stories and to the kind of equipments we use now and of course the way Nollywood has become a force to reckon with worldwide.
The game is tougher now. My advice for them is to stay true and focus on what they want to achieve and to really be sure this is what they really want to do.
I am all for women empowerment. Women supporting one another and you can tell by the kind of movies I generally respond to recently. If a woman is empowered, a nation is empowered.
Nollywood and its contribution to the economy of Nigeria
Nollywood is responsible for a major increase in the labour market. It has employed a lot of youths and is still good at it. I pray the government recognizes the power Nollywood has as a change agent and harness it. They can help fight piracy, sponsor projects that would be highly beneficial to all.
Be good to yourself and your conscience. Do not please others to displease yourself. If you fail or fall, don’t beat yourself up just get up and rise above it. Cheers!