Bside recently sat down with Mo Fakorede, founder of Graziato House, to discuss talent management in Nigeria, they different hurdles she's faced in her six years as a talent manager, the future of the occupation and much more.
When Modupe Fakorede, founder of Graziato House ー a full service agency representing performers in the field of film and television ー reminisces on how she began her career in Nollywood as a talent manager, her words are accompanied by a striking profoundness: “it was hard and I am not even going to lie because there weren’t so many people actively in the film talent management business at the time,”. Her pragmatic perspective speaks to her years as an all-around creative in the film industry
Behind every successful actor or actress, there’s an individual who guides their professional career and oversees their day-to-day affairs. This is the case for Modupe Fakorede popularly referred to as Mo by many. The accomplished talent manager started in the film industry as a scriptwriter before being nudged by a friend who saw her potential as a talent manager while in film school; “I was in film school, I was learning script writing and I was helping students from the acting class go about their imaging and profiling and then a friend then goes and says you have a thing for helping people manage how they go about their thing. How about you find a talent manager to maybe learn from or something, and that sort of resonated with me”. she tells me, speaking on how she found herself on her current career path.
Six years down the line, Fakorede manages some of the biggest names in Nollywood like Timini Egbuson, Chelsea Eze and Kunle Remi. Besides being the go-to talent manager, she is also a film producer and she has worked on a couple of film projects and with several filmmakers across the country.
Mo Fakorede, who credits her growth in the industry as a talent manager to figures like film producer Isioma Osaje and PR executive Nike Fagbule, sat with Bside for an exclusive chat, discussing her journey into the business of talent management, what it has been like for her, her transition into film production, new projects and more.
Bside: When you tell people that you are a talent manager in Nollywood, what do you think their perception of you is?
Fakorede: People outside of Nollywood are always like “oh wow, what is your work like?” We try to downplay the work but it is a lot of work. To Nollywood filmmakers, it’s more like “so you are the one I have to talk to before talking to this person or book this person, oga oooo, that means this person's price has gone up”. And because filmmakers have had some misunderstandings with other managers so they tend to feel like it is expected for talent managers to be difficult. Maybe they have experienced some difficulties talking to other managers and most times the manager is just looking out for their talent while you are looking out for your film.
What was your first experience like as a Talent Manager?
I don’t say this story enough; I was in film school, I was learning script writing and it turns out that the other students that were studying acting, when they want to post stuff on social media, they come to me to put them through. After a while, one of my friends says: “you have a thing for helping people manage how they go about their thing, how about you find a talent manager to maybe learn from or something” and that sort of resonated with me. It took a while but I looked around and there was only one person that I could go to and that was Isioma Osaje.
She was pretty much the only person that was doing it at the time and somehow, I had a relationship with her. I reached out to her and she was very receptive. After film school I took up the role in 2016, it was hard and I am not even going to lie but directly or indirectly, Isioma taught me a lot of things. A little while later, I was learning out of a PR agency called Zebra Stripes Network by Nike Fagbunle.
So, there was also a lot of PR sense to pick from there, how to write a press release, It was hard. I would write stuff sometimes and they would have me redo the entire thing.. And I didn’t know much at the time. I mean I was interning and I only studied English in school. But they were kind enough to put me through and work the ropes and I knew with Isioma and Nike that I honestly wanted to do Talent Management.
Your company Graziato house is a full-service agency representing performance in the field of film and television and your agency is committed to giving the entertainment industry a wide variety of extremely gifted actors of all ages. So how do you operate specifically in the Nigerian film industry?
There are different types of actors, so as an agency we need to have an array of talents so that if you reach out to us and say you need this and this actor, I can tell you we have someone like that or I manage someone like that. It’s a good thing to have an array of talent that way, there is work going around that way and every talent can be reached out to, and that way, the company grows.
When it comes to talent management in film, do you think is it the same thing as talent management in music?
I like to say they are two different worlds. For the longest time, I have had a lot of music people walk up to me and say “would you manage me” and I keep telling them, I’m not familiar with your terrain, I don’t know how a lot of things work so, I have to find out how it works in music but still a lot of people still walk up to me in music and I am like okay let me see what this is like and honestly, they are two different worlds.
Six years down the line, working as a talent manager, how does that make you feel?
It's been an exciting ride. We should be doing an event called ‘Talent meets Media’ to celebrate six years of Graziato House. We would be celebrating with our Past talents, current talents, other actors, producers, and the media.
How has your job in the film industry evolved over the years?
So there were days that you would sleep and wake up and be like I don’t think I want to do this anymore because there are some pretty difficult days. But I always tell people talent management is a lot more than a venture to make money from. It is about genuinely caring about your talent, it's about caring about how they grow, their growth process, what people think about them, and what they think about themselves.
It is a lot of psychological, physical, and mental work and you need to be ready for that. A lot of people don’t get it and sometimes they feel like it is a walk in the park. Some people are like talent managers are making money but then do you want to put the money side by side with the job done?
You are managing some of the biggest artists in Nollywood, the likes of Timini Egbuson, Kunle Remi, and Chelsea Eze. How are you able to manage this?
I mean these guys are amazing. I keep telling people that what makes talent management interesting is having talent that knows where they want to be, so it makes sense because we are going the same way and they are ready to put in the work for where they want to be. So I am giving you ideas, you are giving me ideas. We are bouncing things back and forth with each other and it is working out because we can see and pick the things that look like us and we can make it work. Every actor is different.
How are you able to manage the difference between them? Because they all want different things at different times, how are you able to navigate that?
First off, I have learned to delegate stuff. It took me a while but I finally got an assistant and I also have a business partner now which is making life easier for me and ultimately for us. I have learned to multitask and be the person that each person needs and it is necessary to have conversations before the deal, so I ask you, what are your expectations, what do you want to achieve? What is this journey? So that we are going together and I want us both to be proud of each other.
So it is understanding the vision and the brand of this person, their career trajectory and where we want it to go. Everybody is different. I am doing multiple documents, I am doing multiple things, and sometimes, I cannot keep up with my brain.
What are the challenges that come with managing talents?
I don’t think me and my talent should be best friends but I also think that we are family. So that’s the thing about family, you are not best friends with them, but you love them regardless. Cool if we are close but my major issue with talent management is people think I am just being unnecessarily difficult or picky.
I don’t manage any talent that will yell at me, and if they yell, it is because we are in the middle of a conversation and it is not because they are yelling at me, it is because they are upset about the situation and I get that. I can yell because I am upset at something but then, I am not yelling at you. Then we can have a conversation about it.
But when we have to yell at each other to pass a piece of information across, I am not that kind of human being. If you are complacent about stuff and all, I will drag you and drag you until it no longer works for the two of us because somehow you will think I am not doing my job and, on my end, I will somehow think you are not pulling your weight. So we need to vibe, we need to both know we are in this together. The moment it becomes an “I employed you, I am your boss” all those kinds of conversations, that’s where I check out.
Where do you see the growth of Talent Management in African cinema in the next five years with everything that is happening now?
In all honesty, it is going to be rooted because it is important and I think our actors are also beginning to understand the importance. They’re starting to understand that when it gets to a point, you need an agent and when you get to a particular point in your career you need a manager, so our actors are getting it and even producers are now open to it. It is necessary, they cannot keep track.
I feel like people are now open to talking to managers and agent and opportunities are now coming into the industry as Nollywood is expanding. I mean you want an actor in your film and the problem is that he doesn’t have a manager. Talent Management in the Nollywood film industry is growing and I am very excited about it.
Featured Image Credit: Chukwuka Osakwe