If Mr. Tade Ogidan were a footballer, he would definitely be playing in the premiership, La Liga or Seria A – and that’s just the truth.
Very, very meticulous and finicky about his craft, he was born to Akinola and Rachael Ogidan on July 16, 1960. A proud ‘Surulere, Lagos boy’, he, however, hails from the Sunshine State of Ondo. His primary education was at Government Demonstration School and Surulere Baptist School; his secondary, Ekiti Parapo College, Ido-Ekiti and Maryland Comprehensive Secondary School, Ikeja and his tertiary, Eastern New Mexico University, in Portales, and State University of New York, both in the United States of America.
The MD/CEO of OGD Pictures, producers of critically acclaimed works like Hostages, Owo Blow, Diamond Ring, Raging Storm, Dangerous Twins, Madam Dearest and Gold Statue, he cut his teeth at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), where he equally had his mandatory NYSC programme.
One of the most regarded names in Nollywood, and also television in Nigeria, the soft spoken genius unfolded and unfurled some of his winning strategies during our encounter with him in May 2019, at the Film House Cinemas, inside Adeniran Ogunsanya Shopping Mall, in Surulere, Lagos…
Tell us about your new production…
Okay, it’s called Gold Statue, it’s something I’ve written ages and ages ago. I think early 90s or something. But you see, the scale of this kind of project is huge; it’s not one of those films you rush to do. So, eventually, investors came together and the rest is history. It’s an adventure piece where two young boys, graduates of UNILAG, they walked away to prison to go and look for a statue worth half a billion dollars, $500,000. A lot of people will do almost anything for something like that…
So, what distinguishes this new work from your old works?
The scale! The scale is huge. I mean, we’ve got a massive set, we had to build the prison, we had to build the escape tunnel, there’s so much. So, it’s big. And it’s really star-studded. Like I always say, I don’t look at it as just my project; it’s for all of us. It’s a statement by Nollywood, it’s something where all of us have come together…one can’t afford to pay everybody the value of what they brought into it. But it’s something the audience will say ‘whaaooh!’, where has this been?
We’ve talked about what differentiates the film from others. Now, what differentiates you from the other directors?
Seriously, there must be some things that stand you out?
Well, you know me, Azuh! I’m back on those big things again. The time we spent trying to get this done was so much. I’m never afraid to take on the huge challenge. The set alone, and you see, the moment you don’t get it right, people go oh, what a wonderful story, only if they got it right. But I think we got it right. I don’t stand out, the job stands out. I take crazy chances. Even the time we are using to build the set is what some people use to finish a whole movie and get it done real quick. I mean, the sound works, everything. It’s also very emotion-driven, but look, at the end of the day, it’s one of those projects people are gonna talk about for a long, long time.
What makes a good director?
Sometimes I say almost anybody can be a director. Nowadays, you guys take your phones and you are directing…
We are talking about a professional director…
For me, from the viewpoint of a professional director, look, just interpret your stuff. A time there was when there was a school of thought that said your shot must be steady, your shot must be bla, bla, bla and then you are wondering; so, what’s wrong with these ones? And then as the years go by, you could watch a whole movie where they don’t put anything on a tripod. So, a good director listens, a good director can see a vision and translate it in such a way that everybody can understand it and be immersed in it…because you could have a very good story and a director could mess it up in interpretation. There are times I watch stuff and I’m like bad handling by a director. So, everybody has got a unique style. What makes a good director is – interpret your content right. As long as your audience can tell what you are feeling at that point, no problem.
What makes a good actor, because as a director you’ve interacted with a lot of them and so should know?
A good actor will be one who interpretes that role and really soaks themselves into it. When you see Gold Statue and you watch Gabriel (Afolayan) in it and even everybody else, the intensity of the roles; you watch Sola Sobowale, you watch Richard (Mofe Damijo), there’s no way, after seeing the scenes you must go oh, my God! It’s so soaking, it’s so arresting. The guys inside the prison, you will see Kelvin (Ikeduba) going totally insane in the prison, you will see Ricardo (Agbor) and a lot of others. Those are good actors; sometimes I just let them be themselves and in this one everybody just wanted to ‘kill’ their roles. I let them be, but sometimes too we try to tame them because they are very excited about what they are going to deliver. In this film you’ve got fantastic performances.
If not a director what else would you have become?
What do you like most about being a director?
I express myself. You are not working in a bank where everything is regimented. In a creative process what you did yesterday is not necessarily what you are gonna do next week. That, for me, is it. That bit where you are able to express yourself, that’s what I like.
What don’t you like about being a director?
The passion! When you are very passionate about what you do; I’m not one who would let that little things pass. For example, my emotions, and because I write, I will be so soaked into it that I’m shedding tears as I am typing and all that. I can guarantee you, by the time we get on the set, you will see how the crew will be shedding tears also. It’s the passion that comes with this. It can also be very time-consuming, especially when you are doing a project of this magnitude. When you eventually see Gold Statue, you will see the scale of what we’ve done and then you will see that oh, this is not one of those seven days or ten project.
What is the commonest mistake that most directors or any director can make?
Everybody has got their style. I mean, what may be a mistake to this person may not be a mistake to another person. Sometimes people do comedy and the audience is going crazy. The commonest mistake that directors may make would be when you are not really soaked into what you are doing. Look, in the struggle of survival, there are times when some directors will have like six scripts at the same time, they are shooting like four of them at the same time. You are even not gonna be able to concentrate. So, that’s a mistake. But, in Nollywood, it’s survival. We really don’t do those kind of things. Not because we are arrogating anything to ourself, but because we’ve built a brand over the years, even since while one was at NTA and people now expect a standard from you.
So, some of these things you have tagged as ‘errors’ or mistakes…in fact, they bring some of those kind of things to us and we say no or you will kill that brand, because people expect a standard. We don’t come out all the time; but when you see the scale of what we’ve done, you will understand very clearly that this is not the kind of thing that people do every year. It takes a lot!
There’s no arguing the fact that Nollywood, where you are one of the leading directors, has done a lot for you. What has it not done for you?
To own an oil well, so that I can have funds and have money to express myself; you can live your fantasy exactly the way you want it. Yes, to have the right kind of budget. That would really be very welcoming; it’s not easy all over the world, not just here. For this, for example, we still struggled through it. As huge as that budget was, and don’t ask me how much…it’s a big budget, it’s a budget some people will use to do three, four movies…
What is the nicest thing that being a director has done for you?
Your name is in places. For example, the moment you are at the airport and they see your passport, they go whaaooh, you are the Tade Ogidan, you just thrill us, you thrill us…Almost anywhere you go, even though you are not in front of the camera, it opens doors.
In your sector, some people attain success, but they are not able to manage and sustain it. Where do you think they normally get it wrong?
When you are coming from near nothing, then suddenly everybody is celebrating you, it’s not everybody that can handle it. People misbehave easily; it just gets into their heads. There are times I see the way some of the ‘actors’ behave to their audience and I go no, no…But again, when you also look at the guys, they’ve turned them to something else because of money. So, being a star and being in the glare of the public is big challenge. What every day people will get away with, you can’t; you can’t go into the store without everything almost stopping; you can’t do the everyday things that everyday people do. So, it does get into the head of some people, but some people know how to manage it while some people just can’t.
In the course of your career, you have interfaced and interacted with dozens of actors. Of all of them, who has impressed you the most?
Many! We won’t call names, but truly you’ve got fantastic ones. But you see, I also have that eye – I can spot a talent from afar, I can walk on a road and listen to people talking…and we used to do that when I was in NTA. I will just go and meet somebody and say do you know that you can act? And they will look at me like…is this one smoking something? And then we eventually cajole them onto it and they do that. A Richard; before Richard (Mofe Damijo) became a star; we’ve known each other like forever. I used to say to those set of guys that his talent goes beyond what he was doing then. I mean what they were doing at NTA and on stage then. You could see depth. Like Sola Sobowale, who used to be very naughty when she was younger. I mean, when you look at Gabriel (Afolayan), when he was being auditioned, you knew that this guy got something and the rest, like we say, is now history. They blew from there. When you look at Femi Adebayo, look at where they are today. And a lot of others. I used to say to Uncle Justus Esiri then, when I was producing and directing Village Headmaster, his depth, his depth…I used to say men, it’s just to put you outside this Village Headmaster and in a role that can befit you and then Nollywood came and he exploded. So, there are quite a number of people like that. It’s just the right opportunity and the right project they need to get into and that would be it.
What is your general assessment of Nollywood?
Look, Nollywood is still a growing industry, it’s very young and don’t forget that there’s not a lot of money here. People; the finance sector does not, and the banking sector, they don’t understand this. If it’s sugar, ehen, the guy knows that if you sell that sugar, it becomes bla, bla, bla. If it’s not selling, they can hold the sugar, they can hold the cement. This is intellectual property; they look at it like, so, how do you guys make money and then suddenly they will say whaaooh, Big Daddy made this, Big Daddy made that, then that one made that. Ah-ah! In that your thing, and bla, bla, bla. So, I believe strongly that it’s a growth process. Hollywood also went through that. It’s a process. Same thing with Bollywood. We are not doing badly; let’s get real for the kind of budgets that we operate. Let people be patient. The audience will always determine what’s going to happen; a time there was, it was all the horror films that people wanted to see, then the love films and it’s not peculiar to here. So, let everybody just calm down. The audience will keep determining where Nollywood will go. It’s for us to just get better and better at our game and believe me honestly, the quality of our projects now, you can’t compare them with before.
The fascination for moving pictures, what ignited it?
As a kid, I think my parents took us to watch the Ten Commandments. That would be the very first film I watched and I loved the film and thereafter I would sneak with an uncle to go and watch Indian movies and then it just started to get whaaooh, whaaooh. Not that I could do it. We never knew we could do it then. It was just that it fascinated one; the stunts, the music. So, by the time one was a teenager, one was already writing. Like in my form 2 or something; especially when one was in form 3; the people couldn’t understand it. They were like are you sure you wrote this? I will write things that will be very adult in nature…So, in school, they will be passing the exercise book around, let me read, let me read; they will start to discuss it and you know, this fires up something in you and getting into production; my father used to have one uncle called David Orere. Those were the early days’ producers. A colleague of Uncle Tunde Oloyede. So, he used to be my dad’s tenant, and when he’s got small things to do for kids, he will take myself and my brother; read this before we get there o! And you know that time you can’t record and cut, record and cut. It’s at a stretch. And I think my bit of directing came or comes from watching the man in control of so many activities at the same time. I mean, multi cameras in the studio; there seemed to be so many screens and this big gadget that we eventually got to know was the vision mixer and he’s the one controlling everybody! It just fascinated me beyond words. You know, he even put me in the very first stage they ever put me on – one play of the week then, with Ihria Enakimio, Femi Jarret, all those very troublesome egbons (laughing). I was meant to be selling groundnut, so when it was my cue, he pushed me on to the set. And we had rehearsed this quite a few times. Anyway, we were done and then I came out and the floor manager was like you didn’t say anything. I said I did. But when those egbons came, they went what’s wrong with you, you didn’t say your lines. They were meant to have asked me how much is your groundnut? So, they were saying even when I didn’t answer, we will be taking the thing o! They were prompting me, but I blanked out! For me, that must have taken me away from the front of the camera for life. But I enjoyed it.
So, what would you say has kept you going ever since that unforgettable experience?
What has kept me going? The passion for this. You know there are so many stories waiting to be told and sometimes the scale is so huge; you say alright, let’s keep it for a while. It’s the passion and then people are so impressed with what you do. So, you want to do more.
When some people want to relax, they watch your movies. When you want to relax, what do you do?
I sleep! I don’t know how to socialize, I don’t know how to chase babes…What I enjoy to do, I like to go to a beach; sometimes alone, sometimes in the company of friends. Those are my usual kind of things. And you know you are not able to do such all the time. So, my quiet moments; I’m an indoor person and if I go outdoors, I go to theatres abroad. I’m one that can just jump onto a flight, and I wanna go and watch a show in New York or something because one learns from some of those things, especially the technicalities. And it’s not just movies now. I’m also talking about life projects. That’s basically how I relax.
You’ve done a couple of works. Of all your works, which one gives you the greatest joy and why?
All of them…
No, we need just one…
I would want to believe this one (Gold Statue) gives me a lot of joy – the way everybody has come together to make a statement with this. And for the older ones, the scale of some of those things we did then, when you even look at them now, you will be like whaaooh, you mean you did this even when there was nothing? When there wasn’t even the right technology to tell these kind of stories, so it’s difficult to pinpoint. But I think Gold Statue is going to be it.