Popular actress, Hilda Dokubo, is a veteran in the movie industry with her acting career spanning close to three decades. She discusses how the industry has evolved through the years, her adaptation struggles, among other issues, in this interview by ADEOLA OTEMADE.
You remain relevant and still command respect from peers despite being away for some time. How have you managed to do so?
Once an artiste, always an artiste. I am not just one of the talented ones; I am also one of the skilled ones, having attended series of training while I have also garnered experience. It is easy to get back to what you have always loved. I guess that’s why and when people know that you have the capacity to do your work and do it well, you don’t have to ask for respect. Respect would find you.
There are those who are of the view that the movie industry has not grown. What is your opinion about this and what changes would you like to see?
If people say they are not seeing any growth, I don’t know where they are looking, because we have really grown over time and in different areas. We have grown better in the way we tell our stories and in technical aspects, among others. Our technical work right now is way better than what it obtained when we started. I might agree with them in terms of acting. They have opened up doors and windows to a lot of mediocrity and I would put the blame on the fact that the world thinks that anybody can act. But the truth is not everyone knows how to act. If they say that we haven’t grown, then I don’t know what they are looking for. We have really grown; we are not where we used to be. We are on the journey and this journey has its peculiarities.
In what other ways can you point at that you are currently seeing growth?
We have grown better in the ways that we tell our stories; we have grown better in the use of technology, in the use of other media. The only exception, maybe, like I said, is our acting. We have not exactly grown as people had expected and that is because we have encouraged mediocrity and allow it to flourish. You need to be talented. It is not just that anybody can face the camera and act.
They say acting is about talent and nothing more. As you have been around for a while, what can you say about talent and training in the industry?
It is not enough to say I have the passion and the talent. It’s not even enough to say I have been trained. It takes much more than these to be a grounded actor. And people need to stop some of the things they do, especially when at the end of one reality programme, every participant automatically becomes part of Nollywood. Values such as excellence seem not to matter anymore with awards and recognitions being handed out to just anybody. If we would take care of such things and reward excellence instead of mediocrity, then people would come around to say that we have grown. On the average, I really think we have grown.
How have you been able to evolve, especially with the change of trends in the movie industry?
When we started, there was no social media. So, most of us just did our work the way we knew how to. But we did good jobs, amazing jobs; jobs that people still go back to now, even when it’s difficult to watch tapes. People have managed to get them into compact discs. The changes I had personally was the usage of social media. Because there was no social media when we started out in the industry, I had to learn how to use social media in order to keep up with happenings around. Another way I have had to adapt is learning to work with people who don’t even understand the job at all. There are people who don’t know the ethics of the profession. Such people are like butchers performing surgeries and you meet them on the job.
How have you been able to cope with the ‘butchers’?
One has to just learn to cope with people. When we started, nearly everyone on set had some kind of training. So, they were basically professionals at work. If they didn’t have it from the university, they would have worked on production set for many years. They had learnt on the job and that itself is good education. But right now, you just have people come in from anywhere and they just dump themselves in the industry. But you have to learn to cope with some of these things and see how you can bring the best out of the ugly situation.
Would you agree that there has been foreign influence on our manner of story-telling?
We have always told our own stories our way. In 1990, a time not so long ago, we told our stories our way. In 2002, we told some stories alien to us but still incorporated our art into it. We have not exactly told any of those cypher stories though, we have been telling human angle stories and human angle stories are as old as civilization itself. We have been telling human angle stories and we still tell human angle stories.
These days, you don’t appear in movies like before. Yet, your name rings aloud in the movie industry, what have you been up to? How have you sustained your influence?
My influence will never wane because I studied theatre. I studied filming. Apart from just the study, I have been practising them. So, I never really left completely. I went into another space within entertainment; I went into training. And if you are into training, it’s virtually the same as training yourself because when you are giving people knowledge, you are giving it to yourself. This is why my influence will always be there. People still come to me to be privately coached, to help them take a look at their scripts and all. Also, I work with children in entertainment; I work with them on understanding and realising their potential.
I have done a lot of regular movies and I still shoot. I presently have a movie in the offing. But I have always, from day one, insisted on a particular kind of narrative. I cannot reinforce nonsense. So, if you give me a script and I don’t see any lesson there after examining it, I will refuse it. That’s me. I try to reinforce values. People would want you to come and do a job, but they wouldn’t want to pay for your experience. I want to be able to be who I am. As an actor, my responsibility is to show the humanity of humans, who we truly are. I am a mirror; I must be able to reflect properly.
The Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) recently made Senator Elisha Abbo the patron of the association. With the reputation that trails the senator, what is your take on the development?
The man abused a woman. I am a woman. Even if it was a child, I would still shout. As we speak, his apology, what he is reportedly claiming to be an apology, is in written form and that amounts to nothing. I would want people to tell me if that is an apology. To add, the case is still in court. He is a beleaguered person. If the case is ruled against him, does that mean that we will be parading a convict as a patron or what? I am still trying to imagine how we would go about with an abuser of women as a patron. It just does not add up. There are a lot of honourables and senators from the North-East who can be patron if we insist on people from that region being represented in that capacity. The North-East can give us names and we run a background check and be sure they are honourable enough to be patrons of our guild. Our guild has an image and we should not just pick anybody to represent us as a patron.
Are you satisfied with the current state of the industry?
If I say I am satisfied, it means we should not do anything more. If I say I am not satisfied, it will look as if I am greedy. I don’t know where to stand but I think we can do better than we are doing right now. I think we need to discipline ourselves. It’s about commitment. We need to be more committed to serving the people we represent and serving the people who stick with us. I think we need to do more.
You have managed to stay scandal-free unlike some of your peers. How have you been able to steer clear?
Well, I am a very open person. My private life is my private life; it is what it is. Outside of that, I am not a scandalous person. I don’t like scandals. It’s not by luck, it’s about how I carry myself and how I do the things I do. If you respect yourself, others would respect you. I don’t know any other way that it’s done. I am the same way with everybody. I have too much love inside of me and I have enough to share.