Nigerian movie producer and actor, Kenny Odugbemi, lives in the US, but not only as a movie practitioner, he is also a law-enforcement agent. In this interview with SEGUN ADEBAYO, the scriptwriter speaks on the movie industry in the United States, among other issues.
You are an actor and movie producer. These are two jobs that many don’t combine well in this part of the world. How have you been coping?
I happen to also be a scriptwriter too. So, I always believe that the storyteller has a visual perception of what they want the story to look and feel like. So when I produce a movie, I believe acting the role will be better expressed by me because I am the one who sees what I want. But it is not an easy task combining both roles. I just make sure I outline both responsibilities and plan how to maximise both tasks. So, the key word for me is planning.
Looking back at how the journey started, what would you say has been the greatest achievement for you?
Even though the journey has been a rough one, it brings me great joy when I see the outcome of the efforts that we put in to bring our audience good stuffs. So, I will say that my greatest achievement is proving to people that it can be done and as long as the viewers are happy, that’s a big achievement for me.
Tell us about your career and how you have managed to cope over the years?
I am a law-enforcement officer, and it’s been a great journey so far. Back home, I wasn’t really a fan of law-enforcement, but over here in the United States, it’s a totally different ball game. If you put in the efforts, you will reap the benefits. I love my career and I can tell you that I have excelled in it over the years and I am still going higher.
You are based in the US, but you seem to be very close to happenings in Nigeria. How has it been so far?
Thanks to social media. Those of us that are based here are able to keep ourselves aware of the happenings and trends back home. I used to visit Nigeria frequently, but recently, I took a break because of my busy schedule with both work and movies. Hopefully by next year, my crew and I will visit Nigeria and give our friends and viewers some spices that we have been cooking for months now.
We have seen many of your colleagues relocating to the United States, what do you think is the reason behind this movement?
I don’t think I want to blame anyone for looking for better lives for themselves and their families. Though the colour of the Nigeria flag is green and white, we all know that the land is no longer green. I am not really into politics, but so far, it has not been so good. Our leaders are to blame for the relocation of celebrities to the western world. I believe that if the country had more to offer, they won’t have any reason to leave the country.
You have done quite well for yourself in the movie industry but many people still underrate you, does this bother you?
Every dog they say has its day, so I will wait for my turn to come. One thing I know is that there is always a reward for hard work and that is exactly what I have put in. So am I bothered? Absolutely not. I am doing what I love doing and I don’t need anyone to validate my work, because I do my best and that’s all that matters.
For somebody who is not always around, how do you cope with the rigours of the job and how receptive are the people in the United States to the Yoruba movie industry?
The music industry in Nigeria has done a great job by earning us a seat at the white people’s table with their works. The likes of Davido, Wizkid and Burna Boy have made it possible for the rest of us to win the hearts of the white people. Everywhere you go now, they want to listen to our music and watch our movies. At my work place, it gives me great joy when I see them watching our movies and listening to our music on YouTube. Some of them even pull up in the parking lot and all you hear is their jamming to Nigerian music. So unlike before when they claimed not to understand what we were saying and couldn’t relate to it, they just don’t care what we are saying now, they love the vibes and what they see. So they have accepted our materials regardless of the language difference.
You are also a movie producer, how hard has it been?
I can tell you that the work of a producer is very similar to the work of the president of a country, or even harder. The president will make decisions based on the recommendations of his advisers and he will give the orders to people working under him to carry them out, but a producer does all these duties by himself. He has to be responsible for the cast and crew all through the time of the production and even beyond. Unlike the president who won’t spend his money, the producer will use his money to care for everyone.
Which comes first for you; acting or movie production?
Acting comes first. It’s easy for an actor to become a producer, but it’s not easy for a producer to become an actor. Acting gets you in the mood for production while production actually gets you acting.
How long have you been out of the country and what would you say about the prospect of Nigeria movies in abroad?
I have been here for about 10 years now and I will say and that the prospects of Nigerian movies are extremely high. Like I said earlier, the western world have seen the stuff we are made of and have found us irresistible. That’s why you can see our movies on Netflix and other platforms and our music now plays on the radio every day and night.
You wear dreads, how long you been wearing them?
I have had them for about two years and five months now. I actually started them when I had my first child in 2017. Those who know me well can tell you that I actually was not a fan of dreads while growing up because of the untidy ways people grew them, but I wanted a new look, so i decided to try them with a difference. So I take good care of them to make sure they don’t look like the ones I used to dislike.
Is there anything you would love to change about the movie industry?
That’s going to be people’s attitude to one another towards perfection, towards quality. If we love ourselves truthfully, Nollywood will be like Hollywood. If we also try hard to put in what needs to be put in place and not just manage things, it will get better. Then, if we raise the standard a bit higher and encourage one another, things will get better.
You have appeared in some movies, which of them appealed to you most and why?
The Movie CÀBBÍ is my favourite because it featured all my friends and the storyline is just very captivating. Sometimes I just couldn’t believe I wrote that movie and produced it. It involved a great deal of efforts and team work.
How many movies have you produced over the years?
So far, I have about four now which are yet to be released but by the end of December, they will start coming out and I promise you, they will hit you by surprise and you will love them all because they are not the regular “To God be the glory” stories..
What’s next now in the New Year?
More movies. We have started well. Next year, it’s going to be explosive because we are not going to stop.