The Punch

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Unsung world of Nollywood writers

Jayne Augoye

In their various 'unsung sheds' JAYNE AUGOYE speaks with three Nigerian script writers - Bola Aduwo, Emma Uduma and Kayode Peters.


In Nigeria, attention is usually on actors and actresses, while producers and marketers only get a little share of celebration. The screenwriters, who are supposed to constitute the engine room of filmmaking, based on the importance of good scripts, are often left in the background. Bola Aduwo is one of them.

A graduate of the University of Ibadan, Aduwo co-wrote the scripts for Bursting Out, Reloaded and Guilty Pleasures. Having been bitten by the writing bug from her school days, she wrote her first script immediately after graduation. Unsure of how to go about a career in screenwriting, she sold the script for N15, 000 to a TV station in Ibadan. A chance meeting with a producer friend many years after served as a spring board to her success.

Adeuwo says, "I really started writing for Nollywood when I met my friend, Emem Isong, a producer. She had just finished producing her first movie then, and was about to produce the second. She invited me to co-write for her. So, we wrote A Minute to Midnight in 1996. It starred Stella Damasus and Kese Jabari and it was a hit back then."

As a screenwriter, still honing her craft, Aduwo says the producer's desire to churn out a movie over a short period of time poses a big challenge to her. "Sometimes you - the writer - is not given enough time to work on a script. Nigerians want things in a 'now-now' manner. Often, we need more time to work on the story and the script."

With a number of screenwriters constantly being compelled to write a script to suit the producer's taste, Aduwo says it has been a smooth sail for her. She notes, "I am lucky to have worked with producers that allow me to be professional most times. At times, when they insist on a particular aspect that does not go down well with me, we argue it out. They have also been pretty loyal when executing my scripts."

According to her, the poor quality of a movie at the end of the day is not as a result of a screenwriter's flaw but a function of poor judgement on the part of the director. She says, "A lot depends on casting. If the casting is wrong, 50 per cent of the film has already failed. The rest now depends on the actors and director who should bring the rest of the script to life."

While the soft-spoken writer chooses not to disclose how much she currently charges for a movie script, Emma Uduma, a trained director and screenwriter, who is primarily a commissioned writer, says his ranges between N250000 and N350000.

Although Uduma majored in Directing at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, his first love lies in churning out screenplays and drama scripts. He has undergone training with the BBC World Service Trust, Abuja, Amaka Igwe Studios and the Centre of Excellence for Film and Media Studies.

He says he strives hard to ensure that his scripts appeal to a large audience and will never take them for granted. He said, "The Nigerian viewer is intellectually sound. So, you cannot afford to take them for a ride. A major problem is lack of training and the fact that some directors are either too lazy or lack the competence to interpret the story.'' Recently, Uduma has been pre-occupied with writing and producing stage plays.

His most recent work, Last Molue, features comedian Koffi and radio personality Yaw. Some of his past works include writing 26 episodes of a TV series for RMD Promotions, being a part of the story telling team of 'Wetin Dey', a BBC series on HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Decrying the incompetence of a number of practitioners, Uduma identifies the major shortcomings in the profession, saying, "The biggest problem is lack of training. We tell stories, but we need to tell them better. Another issue is that we have a lot of directors who are too lazy or lack the competence to interpret a story."

After a fair bargain has been reached between a script writer and a producer, the greatest thrill for a screenwriter is seeing his story brilliantly interpreted by the producer or director. According to Uduma, this is not the case in many instances, because "the major challenge for screenwriters is how to tell a good story. The producer and screenwriters have a clash of interest when a good script is handed over to a bad director. He will only twist the story to cover up for his directorial inadequacies. So, you see that he will twist the story to suit his level."

For many years, Kayode Peters scripted and produced the campus situation comedy series, Twilight Zone. The drama series shot the likes of Denrele Edun, Princess, Koffi, Steve Onu (aka Yaw) to limelight.

The writer, who has gone ahead to berth series that include Flat Mates, Half Sisters and In-Laws, is an English graduate who says he began writing by accident.

"Growing up, I had always had a special love for acting but not writing," he says. "Having directed and written several stage plays for my theatre club back then in school at the University of Lagos, I decided to produce - Twilight Zone - after a stint with Wale Adenuga Productions and Wole Oguntokun. I took the pilot of Twilight Zone to a TV station and its management liked it. I was given the nod to start airing the week after. My writer was suddenly at large and so I had to conscript myself to writing weekly episodes of the programme and that was how it all started."

Peters is of the opinion that in spite of the challenges facing the industry, talented writers abound. He says, "In actual fact, we have very good script writers in Nigeria. I have watched many Nollywood movies that I feel were not well executed. I often find the scripts very interesting but there is what we call directorial prerogative. So, if a bad director handles a good script the script becomes bad anyhow."

When writing his scripts, Peters says he ensures that his work contains the major ingredients that make up a standard script. "Firstly I ensure that my script has a good plot. It is the major ingredient that determines everything in a script. Suspense is another essential one for me. I love playing with the characters. So, I give them good characterisation that will help the roles they play. I give my characters names that stick."