Upcoming actress, Amaka Anioji, has spent more than three active years in Nollywood, as a writer and producer. In this interview with SAMUEL ABULUDE, the Tinsel actress who was awarded the Outstanding Actress Award at the 2012 edition of the Abuja Film Festival,recounted her joy as a double-award winner and reminisces about her journey through Nollywood.
Besides your award as the Best Upcoming Actress, have you won any other?
I won the Outstanding Female Act 2012 for the film Till Death Do Us Part, at the Abuja Film Festival held on September 27, 2012. Besides that, I also won the Best Actress Award at the 2012 edition of the Inshort International Film Festival held recently in Lagos.
Can you gauge your feelings for both awards?
I must confess that I was shocked, because at the Abuja Film Festival, the nominees included well known actresses Ini Edo, Nse-Ikpe Etim, Uche Jombo and an American actress, whose name I can't remember at the moment. At first it felt normal being a part of the film festival but I suddenly had to scream out loud, when my name was mentioned. I screamed so much that I almost tripped.
It was a fascinating experience, because it is my first award as an actress, considering that I am a greenhorn of some sorts in the industry. We all desire to be appreciated for what we do, moreso, if it is audience-based. I don't know how to let you on to my feelings, but right now, I feel great.
Do you consider yourself an upcoming actress?
The award was to that effect. That is the only name you can give to someone whois just beginning.
Prior to the Inshort International Film Festival in Lagos last month, my director, Tope Ogun, kept reminding me about the event. Three days to the film festival, I was still busy with audition for a movie production, but she never failed to remind me about the event. I attended the event just to honour my director's request. I was stunned and could not talk when I was announced as the winner.
I will get to where the other accomplished actresses presently are, but until then, you can call me an upcoming actress.
Right now, I get invitation for production in different places. There is competition for roles and as an award-winner, everyone will expect me to justify the awards I have won.
Describe your Nollywood experience
It is been awesome but not easy. However, for me doing the things I enjoy, writing and acting could be fun. It could be difficult as well but all in all, we are still here. But since it is work, I cannot complain as we are expected to thank God for all things.
I have a line-up of productions which I am working on.
Besides working on set for other producers, I have a few of my own. This has kept me busy. Married, my drama series presently a weekly running on TV Continental. Nollywod has been a mixture of feelings for me, but the innovation I am bringing into Nollywood is me.
You already have your own production?
Yes, I returned early in 2009, but I began extensive production in 2010. I did the first season of my drama series Married in 2011. The second season is currently airing. I have always loved the industry, I love acting and producing. As a child, I loved writing short stories.
During my secondary school days in Enugu, I had a project, which comedian Mr. Klint. There was another project in which we partnred with the United Nations Children Educational Fund (UNICEF). I was on top of that too. That was the genesis of my involvement in film-making. That was sometime in 2006, but I never gave up. I followed my aspiration - writing and producing plays without any format - by keeping at it, just for the love of it.
Can you remember your first Nollywood movie?
That was Spice Girls, a movie directed by Elvis Chuks in 2004. I played the role of a young girl being forced into prostitution. I have gone back and forth in the entertainment industry. After that movie, I went back to my work, did a professional course and returned in 2006 to feature in another film, Evil Altar.
After keeping tabs on the trend, I produced my first movie, Young Erika in 2006. Close Friends, produced in 2010, is my second attempt.
How have you been coping with competition from the bigger stars?
There is so much pressure, because the ratio of available jobs to artistes is not proportionate. If we have plenty productions, the competition would have been healthier. Since my return in 2009, I have noticed that the roles are few compared to the number of artistes waiting to compete for them. But I have my drive, talent and professionalism working for me.
Does this mean artistes resort to doing anything to land roles?
Yes, they do.
That means there is some truth to the sex-for-roles rumour?
Have you been sexually harassed in Nollywood?
No, but I had a near experience. I am not going to give you the details, because it was a long time ago. I have friends who have been sexually harassed in Nollywood. There was a very serious case, which caused a particular actress to leave the industry. She is married now and doing something else. Of course, sexual harassment does exist in Nollywood.
How did it feel to star in the soap Tinsel?
The experience is good because Tinsel is big. It has a big budget sponsored by M-Net, you know that already. The production is very professional, so it is a big one for a lot of us who are part of it. It is a good experience for any actor or actress. You work with very warm professionals.
Can it be compared to other soap operas in Nigeria?
Really, there is no comparison because the budget for Tinsel is huge and it was evident in the production. Everything is spelt out and scheduled - you play your part and get well paid. I played the role of a doctor in Tinsel and it is now in its fifth season. I joined the crew in 2011 and this is my second season. Funny enough, when I was given the role, I never knew that I would last the whole mile.
How have you been able to combine writing, producing and acting?
It keeps me balanced. It gives me joy to watch an actor play a role the way I wrote it. I know a lot of things about movie-making and it helps me interpret my roles properly as an actress.
In the next five years, I would have done a lot of fantastic movies that would not only shake AMAA but bring the OSCAR and the Golden Globe awards home.
Have you got any role models in Nollywood?
I do not really have a role model, but I love Genevieve and would like to work with her. She is a good actress. I do not see her as a role model but an inspiration. In writing and film production in Nigeria, I have a lot of respect for Emem Isong, Liz Benson and Joke Silva. In directing, I have a lot of respect for Kunle Afolayan because he is experimental. Outside Nigeria, l love Meryl Streeps and Angelina Jolie.