Director Uyoyou Adia alongside Lead Actor Stan Nze Discusses Making New Project Charge and Bail.
If you believe in predestination, then predestination is, in part, what we have to thank for bringing a screenwriter/ director like Uyoyou Adia and Nollywood actor Stan Nze into the Nollywood film industry at a time like this. In 2013, Uyoyou Adia started her career as an actor in the short film “Child Not Bride''. With a directorial haze in her mind, Uyoyou didn’t stop at that; she went on to write some of Nollywood’s biggest blockbusters: Ghost and the Tout too, Nneka the Pretty Serpent, and RattleSnake: The Ahanna’s Story. On the latter, one of her most recent projects, she worked as an assistant director with Stan Nze as the lead actor.
For Stan Nze, acting has always been in his DNA. He is undoubtedly one of the most talented screen actors in Nollywood and over the years, he has built a reputable career for himself, starring in some of Nollywood’s finest projects: “Not just married”, “Colourless” to mention but a few.
So when an industry colleague hit me up to see if I would like an exclusive interview with Uyoyou Adia and Stan Nze to discuss their new project with Inkblots productions, I simply couldn’t pass on it. I’ve been intrigued by their phenomenal growth in the creative industry, and I was eager to speak to them about it. When we got a chance to speak over Zoom, Adia came into the meeting room with a patient, laid-back personality, while Nze filled the space with somewhat infectious bubbling energy as he shared what they had been up to.
In an exclusive Interview with B-side, Adia and Nze share how the evolving nature of cinema audiences are determining the type of films that are made currently in Nollywood. These two creatives aren’t just about work; they also hype up each other’s efforts. Nze reveals how fun it was to be on the set of Inkblot’s latest production and how he was able to get along with his co-star Zainab Balogun to deliver an entrancing performance. While Adia talks about the importance of the director-actor relationship, as well as her favourite aspect of production while working on her latest project “Charge and Bail”
This interview has been slightly edited for context and clarity.
Bside: This is your cinema debut as a film director; what was it about the story that made you take on the role of a director?
ADIA: So first of all, when Inkblot calls you to come and direct a film for them, I don't think you have to think twice about it, right? And then when I saw the script, it was quite different from the Nigerian setting, the Nigeria kind of script that you receive or story you'd get. It was a bit shocking to me that that was the story that was chosen, but I had a conversation with Naz the writer and producer of the film at the time and then he was like, as long as I'd make a good film, he's good. At that point, I was great so I just need to get my characters on point, I need to get my actors on point, and make a good film delivered to Inkblot. So the story is different from the norm that we know in Nigeria. It's a very different law story from what you know. What kind of relationship did you have with the producers of the project, Inkblot production, and Film-one? ADIA: So the deal with working with Inkblot and Film One is when you're doing a project with them, they basically let you be. They throw in suggestions here and there to help but I think at the end of the day, you realize that whatever it is that they are saying is for the greater good of the project. And then one thing I learned about being a director is collaboration, I don't know it all, I can't know it all. So it's the little suggestion that they give, the one I give and then they like. I literally did not see Naz ー the writer and producer of the film ー on set all the time. His thing was: “you're going on set, I don't need to be there, I don't need to monitor you to do anything. If I was going to monitor you, I could have just directed it by myself right?” How were you able to still maintain your creative vision for the film, knowing that the writer is also one of the producers?
NZE: To be honest, there was a lot of creative freedom. Whatever I had issues with, I spoke to him [Naz] about it. We discussed it then we changed whatever we needed to change.
Stan, can please give us an insight into what your character is for this project, Charge and Bail? NZE: I played Dotun Adebutu a.k.a D.A. He is very egocentric, he is the senior partner at his brother's firm. He runs a law firm with his brother who is played by Femi Adebayo who is a no-nonsense person. So people know him to be this tough guy that gets anything he wants, whichever way he wants, so they're not your regular charge and bail lawyers, but that's actually what they do, charge and bail, albeit in a very unique way. This for me is what’s most interesting about this film. Getting the script and reading it, I thought it was going to be quite interesting.
How were you able to create good on-screen chemistry while working with Zainab Balogun? NZE: Right to this time, I have never worked with Zainab. So to be honest, I had a bit of a reservation. But I know that she's an amazing actor, so I knew I didn't have anything to fear. But my biggest fear with Zainab is that it's hard to study people like Zainab, she's not an open book. There are people you meet and you can tell that this is how the person is but there wasn't so much I could say, I could work with. I'd seen her previously on 'Royal Hibiscus Hotel' and 'Wedding Party' so I knew she was a fantastic actor but I wasn't sure how the energy would be. Thankfully, we got along well and now we’re best of pals.
Tell me about your relationship with the director. What was it like working with Uyoyou Adia as a director for this project?
NZE: I have worked with her before as an assistant director on one of my biggest films. And of course, I was feeding off her energy. So, I wasn't expecting anything less because I knew that she has amazing energy. I also knew that she was someone I could trust because as an actor, you always need a director who you can trust that always got your back. That you know that we are in this together. Not a director that will lord over you but one that will guide you and make you look the best, you know, which was what my director did for me. She's the director that looks out for you, the project, and the entire look of the project. And that's amazing. I enjoyed working with her, and I look forward to doing it again. Did you have doubts directing a project as huge as this, giving the line-up of cast and team? ADIA: So I had doubts, I still have doubts. I don't think I've had a very good night's sleep because I am constantly thinking in my head of what I should have done better, what to do or what to do better, and all of this stuff. So yes, this doubt thing, I don't know if it's natural for other people. But yes, I was scared. Because again, this is a bigger platform, this is a new space for me and with the way the Nigerian film industry is structured, with the way Nollywood and the Box Office is structured, if you miss it your first time, e go be like say your career don die. I had all that doubt but I had people constantly in my corner cheering me up and reminding me that I can do this. What was it like for you in building a director-actor relationship with the cast? ADIA: The truth is, and I keep saying this, for whoever cares to listen, this is one of the best actors that I’ve worked with. I'm watching your film and I'm seeing, nobody is trying to outshine anybody. Nobody is trying to say this is my scene or that. Everybody understood the assignments, and then they delivered on the assignments. Also, working with them was so easy. They made it so easy. Like, literally, this is my first time working with each and every one of them. And it didn't seem like it was my first time. You have the likes of Zainab, Stan, Craze Clown, Chigurl, these guys came through, it was effortless. I know that there are directors that when they are doing this for the first time, there are always these trust issues that they have. Before the project, I had called Stan up, same with Zainab, I had a meeting with Folu like I needed to know who they are, personally, before I even went on set. We spoke about the character, we told ourselves we need to make this film work, it's not just my film, It's our film. It's a collaboration. That's just the truth about it. But I can tell you for a fact even to the extras, everyone played their part well. This is the first set I have worked on in Nollywood that an actor was not the cause of a delay on sets. Their professionalism was out of this world.
The theme of the film revolves around the haves and the have nots, the legal system of the country, how does this relate to the current situation of Nigeria or the society we are currently in? NZE: So it's no secret that Nigeria is a jungle. Even though we hate to admit it sometimes, we have serious issues with corruption, godfatherism and the likes. Even in careers that seem to be very prim and proper, you still have serious issues of godfatherism and nepotism. You have to talk to this person or that person to get bookings. There is a scene where Boma had to kneel down for the registrar to get some of our cases booked, you know, so that's the regular situation in Nigeria and that's the amazing thing about the film. It's a film for Nigerians, it's our story, it's our situation. People are going to be watching this film feeling like, Oh, that's my uncle, or that's my aunt. That's what you see in Charge and Bail. That's true-life stories, true-life issues. That's what we have for a project with a very little budget I must say. ADIA: So for me, I feel like Charge and Bail is a carbon copy of what's happening in Nigeria. Stan has talked about some aspects, I will focus on the Youth Service part. Anybody that has gone for Youth Service, anybody that has served this country can relate. In fact, you don't need to serve, if you have done industrial attachment(IT), you will relate so well. We know how we do these things now when you want to go and serve in Lagos but they post you to Kaduna or when you've paid money to serve in Lagos but you've been posted to Abeokuta. We know these are the things that happen. That is what the charge and bail film is about. I mean if you cannot relate, maybe you're not a Nigerian, I don't understand. What was the most interesting aspect for you? Was it the pre-production itself or post-production? ADIA: Production itself and then Post Production. But nothing beats being on set ever. Principal photography was the best part of the project. What are you currently excited about in Nollywood? NZE: For me, I think people are becoming more daring. It's no longer “oh, let's do it small, we would make our money back. People go there to say, you know what, let's throw it all in. Let's put it all in. The general public too is opening their arms towards us. Previously, you hear a lot of people say, Oh no, I don't watch Nigerian films. Well now, there are still people that say that but there are more people that are receptive to what we have to offer and that for me, it's a step in the right direction, I am excited for where Nollywood is going. And this is just the beginning.
ADIA: So, I would answer this question as a director and a writer. For me, when I write the story, now, I am weighing it and I'm being like, Ah, this thing is too small-minded, you need to do it big. Because you can't be small-minded anymore. The audience is now aware, the audience now knows, if you like to pack all the stars in the world in your film if it doesn’t have a solid storyline, the audience won’t really buy into it. People are being very intentional about your story right now. And then as a director, I watch some films and I wonder how did this person get these shots? How did this person do this? Especially the boundaries, pushing the boundaries, making sure we're making sure that we're not doing the regular anymore. I mean, there is still the budget limitation in Nigeria which we are fighting seriously, but even with the budget that we have, we have stepped up. So imagine we now have the budget that Hollywood has, we will bring the wall down. I'm really excited.