Nollywood Is Full Of Untrained Actors, That Is Why They Produce Movies Of Low Quality- Sola Fosudo
Veteran Nigerian actor cum Associate Professor of Theatre Arts at LASU in Ojo Lagos, Sola Fosudo in this chat goes down the memory lane on issues concerning Nollywood, theatre and many more.
You are one of the pioneer staffers of the Drama department of LASU. How are the students responding to theatre now?
Certainly, they have no choice; they have to learn. And so, we are also there to impact knowledge, as God is using us to start theatre education in that school. As you know, I started from the English department and then we started theatrical activities through convocation plays until the university thought, oh, these things these guys are doing should be expanded; should go beyond drama productions during convocation.
So that was what led us to the desire to write proposals for the university to give us a Theatre department. The Theatre Arts department has indeed been contributing to the growth of the profession in terms of academics.
Most of our students who graduated from LASU find themselves in important institutions in the world. Most of them are practicing in radio, others are in private theatrical outfits, managing some small theatre groups in Lekki, Ikeja, everywhere. Anywhere they are, they prove themselves. Our efforts are yielding the kind of results we hoped for.
What Is Your Take On Nollywood Today?
Well, you know, as a matter of fact, we have to give credit to those working in that sector, even all other sectors in the entertainment industry. Both in terms of policy and all that the government has not been of immense help. So let’s commend them. You can use the words, personally, individually; they have been making things work almost from the void.
You know, you really have to see it from that point of view. For those of us who were part of Nollywood from the beginnings, as you know, today things have become a little bit of more commercial than being creative, artistic and all that. When we started out, we just wanted to create an industry. The industry was not in existence then.
There was a gap; therefore there was a need to make Nigerian people know almost theatre and films in such a way that patronage would be something to write home about. So, we started, based on that passion. And we were trained; at learnt a handful of us. The quality of what we were doing would be naturally very strong, of good standards.
But as time went on, a number of people came into the profession, untrained. This was so, because the profession has become popular now. Somebody would wake up one day, and say, eh, I want to be an actor. And because you are related to one producer or actor, that’s it. As time went on also, it became too commercial; commercially-oriented.
That’s why you see all kinds of things being produced as film. That time, if a film came out, at least, the film would be the talk of town for a year or two. I remember Glamour Girls, True Confession, Living in Bondage; those films for a year or two you would be feeling the nostalgia of the film in town. But now if a film comes out today within two or three weeks another one is out. After that, you’ll not hear about the film anymore, because, more new ones have replaced them.
Several others come out. I think it’s every week now that films come out. So these are some of the reasons why quality has been a problem. But for the fact that a lot of people are getting employment from that sector, even for the fact that the country is getting a lot of PR through Nollywood, it is being talked about all over the world. You know then it has thrown up a lot of people who are stars and megastars…
This is good for us. So, it is a welcome development. The only thing that needs to be done is to improve on the quality and then come up with training opportunities. That’s one thing I’ve always talked about. There is no institution in Nigeria, either a polytechnic or a university with a programme solely in film production. Film studies has to be given its pride of place. There’ve been attempts in the past to do so, but they didn’t work out.
In most cases films were joined with media as a course of studies in some universities. This did not work. But how much of film studies can they do in such an arrangement? Film studies is basically set up to train. It is on its own, but because you cannot study Theatre without the media, even when we were in school that was what happened. They taught us some things on radio, television and so on. The reason is that when you say production; production is production. It can happen on radio.
It can happen on Tv or film. So we were taught all those so that we can be relevant to some extent. But in a film school, the way film production will be taught will be miles different from the way they are teaching us in Theatre schools. So, we need film schools, film departments, training in that sector so that that can really become more professionalized in approach.
We can see that live theatre is gradually coming back. What is your take on this?
I will be happy. For some of us, that is what gives us joy. That’s our main love, for those of us who went to Theatre school. There’s no way you can compare live theatre to all these… Well, I don’t know, some people can argue further that it is the real entertainment. It is the hub or spectacle of things that go with stage presentation that you cannot find in film or in other productions.
So we are happy that things are looking up. I don’t know the reason for it. But I know it is partly because people are graduating into the film industry. Much more practitioners are coming into it. Therefore there are pockets of actions here and there generating a lot of interests. And then there is something I need to talk about. We are a bit more conscious now about the necessity for marketing. Going out there to look for sponsorship, to look for collaborations, and all that has become more pronounced.
I think theatre cannot be done without source, without funding. This was one of the major reasons why things were on the low side before. But some of these productions happening all over the place, they are getting some funds.
It may not be much, but some funds here and there can help. It is no longer like those days when only Chartered Bank or some other ones sponsored productions.. But these days so many companies and organizations are supporting different groups.
In LASU, we have what you call theatre marketing training for our students. It is in our courses. We teach them, we challenge them not to think of only the artistic aspects of theatre. They have to also know that business is part of Theatre.
So when they graduate, we see traits of those training we give them. Our graduates do well. They have brands now. And I think stand-up comedy is also part of live theatre.
It is robbing off on live theatre because most of the things they do are also part of live theatre.
So, it is growing; it is coming back. It is good for us. Most of the people in the stand-up comedy genre are theatre people. They are theatre graduates; people like AY, Julius Agwu