Saturday, June 9, 2012

Dickson Iroegbu

Dickson Iroegbu

At the last Nigerian Music Award (NMA) in Owerri, after the soul flight had landed at the Sam Mbakwe Airport, there was a carnival-like ride of the music and movie stars and other visitors into the city– in a convoy of limousines surrounded by cultural dancers.

Among the stars, one man, Dickson Iroegbu, stood out in the crowd, entertaining in his own unique way as a movie director. Straddled on a moving motorcycle with his back turned to the rider, Iroegbu was doing what he knows best– calling out directions to his cameraman. The cameraman was also seated on a moving bike, but with a camera in hand shooting the scene. The display added glamour to the carnival.

Iroegbu, who is regarded as one of Nigeria’s best directors having shot top rated movies, did not start as a movie director. He told The us recently that he actually started as a script writer in Nollywood after falling in love with poetry writing in his early years. Soon, he found a new passion in directing after understudying other directors such as Andy Amenechi, Ndubisi Okoh, Moses Ebere, Teco Benson.

He didn’t get a good reception when he announced that he was ready to shoot his first movie because no one believed that a “common” scriptwriter can suddenly turn into a good director. But he proved his critics wrong, when he resolved to shoot the movie with his own money. The movie was entiteld Days of Glory and was done in 2002. Iroegbu was lucky because his first job as a director became an instant hit, and since then, he has not looked back. He has since had many awards, including best director in 2006 at the African Movies Academy Awards (AMAA).

Iroegbu is married. He met his wife at the Nigerian Film and Video Censors Board. They have three children, two boys and one girl. He is, as you’ll read in this interview, a man of numerous colours. Apart from directing, he is a musician and a writer. He also calls himself a Rastafarian and quotes the Bible off hand.
We are sure you’ll find this interview quite interesting.

You are known as one of the very good directors in Nigeria. How did you find yourself in this profession?
Well, I found myself here on earth, courtesy of my parents, went through school, got informed. While going through the process, I discovered that there was something about me that got to do with poetry. So, I started writing and developed in the act. I later discovered that I could do other things with writing since the movie industry was just developing. So, I wrote a script in 1996 immediately I left school. It was entitled Just A Mission. Thereafter, it was bought and made into a movie. I was really encouraged by it because I wasn’t an arts student in school. Infact, I studied Business Administration at the Ahmadu Bello University, in Zaria. I continued with the writing
If I understand you very well, you mean you came into Nollywood as a scriptwriter. How then did you find yourself in directing?
It’s passion, my sister. Ever since I was small, I have always known that I have a calling for the arts. As a writer, I found out that I could write a wonderful script and one bad director will mess it up.

Have you had cases like that?
O yes, I have. But that wasn’t what really got me into it anyway. I particularly observed that there was more I could contribute to the content of my films. So, I started understudying some of the directors. I eventually started assisting people, producing movies and all that.

Did you get any formal coaching on directing?
Not really. To me, practical is better than the theoretical part of anything. In film making, you can just sit in the field to observe the what, how, why.

So, who were your field teachers?
I worked with Andy Amenechi, Ndubisi Okoh, Moses Ebere, Chuka Onu, Teco Benson, Fabian Ebere, Chico Ejiro. Chico, I think, shot the first film I wrote
What was the first film you shot?
It was Days of Glory. I sponsored it myself because nobody was ready to believe in me or take me serious as a director. They saw me only as a scriptwriter, producer or even an assistant director. But as a director, no investor was ready to stake his money for me to be at the helm of affairs. But I knew I had something and I was so sure about it. Since no one was willing to come to my aid, I started to gather my funds for the movie.

How much was it?
It was N1.5 million.

In what year was this and how was it received when you were through?
I think it was in 2002. And it was received well. And it’s been wonderful so far.

Can you recount some of the movies you’ve shot till date?
Honestly, I consciously refused to count the movies I’ve shot. I only try to tell myself that ‘O, this is another statement I should make’. I don’t look at the numbers because it’s not how far but how well. For the purpose of this discussion I’ll tell you some that I can remember such as: Women’s Cult, Romantic Attraction, The Mayors, Little Angel, Kill The Bride, and a whole lot of them. My biggest desire is that I hope people who see these movies appreciate them.

What does it take to be a good director– an accomplished one like you?
No, I am not accomplished, at least not yet. Now, to be a good director, one has to identify God. Look at it this way, a director is like a god who conceives an idea written by someone because he has to execute what someone has put down. A director is that man who understands that script called planet earth and the characters in it and their roles, and guides them in what to do because however the characters turn out is as directed by him. I must say here that what has really helped me so far is being close to the Bible. That’s the best script I have ever read in my life because it is complete. I get inspiration from it. Whenever I get a new job to direct, I always refer to it. I am sorry for saying this, but it’s true. It is one of the major things that has helped me. The Bible. I read other religious books’ point of view too. Whoever is aspiring to be a director must be intelligent because you’ll meet people who are younger, older, more intelligent or even more educated. If you are not intelligent, you’ll find it difficult to cope with these people. The director is saddled with the task of telling them what they should do..
(Cuts in) Are you saying you get intimidated when directing these stars?
No, but have this in mind: if you are not intelligent or sure of yourself, you can get intimidated. If you are god, man can’t intimidate you. I remember when I did Women’s Cult, for instance I had 80 women, including some superstars. I’m not trying to brag about this, but I have done two movies that the major cast I had no other director has had it till date. When I did The Mayors, having RMD, Sam Dede, and Segun Arinze at a time wasn’t an easy task. In Women’s Cult, I had Joke Silver, Onyeka Onwenu, et cetera. I am saying that it takes a lot, its not ordinary. It takes the grace of God.

All of a sudden, you became a “holy man”, quoting Bible passages and even on dreadlocks from your normal look. What informed this sudden transformation?
(Laughs). I don’t know how you see the Bible. I have always believed in God. It was one man who nursed the idea one day that if your hair grows try to kill (cut) it. So people are having low cut today. The hair as God made it grows. If I don’t have to cut my neck as God made it, it’s the way I don’t have to cut my hair as God made it. Then I will wear it the way it is now. I am just being natural. If someone claims that being natural is going against the word of God, that means that person does not know the word of God. You might say I am a Rasta, but Rastas are those who go against what is not good. A Rastaman can not stay in a place where evil is being committed. Christ was a Rastaman. Before he came, there was religion.

(Cuts in) You mean Jesus Christ, a Rastaman?
Yes, people had ways of reaching God before Christ came. He came in with a new idea and there was a revolution. After he left he is still being discussed. Some of us are even fanatics about it while some are against it fanatically. That is why I love the Bible, because it expresses the fact. Any man who is a Rasta follows the path of Christ.

Correct me if I am wrong here, it seems as if you see yourself as a god. What would you say about this?
(Smiles) Listen, there is always a passion in everyone in wanting to be God. The day I read in the Bible “Don’t ye know that ye are gods”, I started looking for my God in me and the way I think I can believe it is by having passion in what I find myself doing, and that’s film directing. It’s not a job for me because I derive satisfaction and joy from it.

Before I forget, I heard you singing a Reggae song sometime ago on the stage at O’Jez Restaurant and you looked and sounded so much like Bob Marley. Do we expect you to go into music soon?
Music excites God. I told you I am searching for God in me. God relaxes with music. He does not listen to hypocritical things. Raggae music which Bob Marley also represents says it as it is. Marley prophesied: Until the philosophy that holds one race superior against another, until it stops there will be war. He said this years ago and it is still happening. Another reason why I sing is because I saw it in the Bible that we will account for all the talents we have. So, if I have a good voice and have found love in reggae music, I don’t see why I can’t identify with that genre.

And don’t you think you could get distracted from directing by this new found love?
If music was going to disturb my directing, then it would have disturbed the creation of God. Everyday, Lucifer was there worshiping and praising God in music and God still had time to create us. See, I am also a writer and about to publish a book in which I say that Lucifer is still an angel of God. I know a lot of religious fanatics would say no to this. Music is the food of the soul. Inspiring words that are formed lyrically, poetic expression of ones feeling.

Are we to expect an album from you soon?
I am not sure yet because I don’t know if I have convinced anybody. I am not jack of all trade. Currently, I am concentrating on directing and not aspiring to be a musician. If need be, I go up to the stage to sing and express myself musically. I am a very shy person but one thing that has healed my shyness is entertainment.

Tell me, do you have special actors or actresses you like working with?
I particularly do not have because all I need is a person or people who can interpret a role, a person who is creative. I have made stars of people who worked with me. All I need is a person who is willing to work and listen to instructions so that we can achieve a common goal.

How much do you charge to direct a movie?
(Laughs shyly) All I can say is that what I get is enough for me to take care of my family.

Movies Directed includes Womens Cot, Romantic Attraction, Little Angel, The Mayors, Kill The Bride, Burning Desire, The Big Heart Treasure, The Last Order, Days Of Glory, Enemies In Love, Mission To Africa

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